'Carouselgate' could mean Centreville carousel won't be leaving, at least for now
Deal to sell 110-year-old carousel could fall through due to political opposition in Carmel, Indiana
Centreville's century-old carousel might be staying put, at least for now, while the debate over whether or not to go through with the sale goes around and around in the U.S. city that made the deal to buy it.
Officials from the city of Carmel, Indiana — located just north of Indianapolis — approached Toronto Island's Centreville Amusement Park with a $3-million offer to buy the 1907 Dentzel carousel, which has been a popular attraction on the island since 1966.
But it turns out the offer was made without the approval of Carmel's city council and those opposed to using part of the proceeds of a bond issued by the city to buy it are now calling the controversy "Carouselgate."
"I have no objection to bringing the carousel, but it's just a matter of using public funds," said Ed Shaughnessy, a resident who is campaigning for more financial accountability.
The city is about to float a $101 million US bond to fund a mega-project to redevelop the city's downtown, which will include the construction of a luxury hotel.
Part of the plan earmarks $5 million US to buy Centreville's carousel, move and refurbish it, buy land for it and construct a building to house it.
Now the project, which is championed by the city's mayor Jim Brainard, is coming under fire from those who are concerned that property taxes will go up if the city doesn't have enough revenue to pay back the bonds.
Shawnda Walker, Centreville's director of marketing, said while they have a purchase and sale agreement with the city of Carmel, it's not finalized.
"It's like when you sell a house. There are conditions you have to meet and there's a deadline for that," she said.
A statement posted on the city of Carmel's Facebook site said media reports that the purchase of the carousel was a "done deal" are not true.
"This offer to purchase has always been contingent on approval of funding by the Carmel City Council," the statement says.
A screencapture of the purchase agreement states the city will "act in good faith to make the appropriation before October 31, 2017."
The city of Carmel declined CBC Toronto's request for an interview, but it's been reported in the The Indianapolis Star that five of seven city council members have come out against using public funds to buy the carousel.
The paper also quoted Mayor Brainard as saying he would like to see a funding scheme for the deal that would meet with council's approval.
As for Walker, she says there's little Centreville can do but wait and see. She said the amusement park needs the money to lessen the impact of $6 million worth of flood damage and another $8 million in lost revenue this summer.
"That's a huge amount of money to recoup for a small, privately-owned business that is seasonal," Walker said, adding the park has had other "nibbles" from potential buyers that they could pursue if the deal does fall through.