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Roanoke College Brings Sports To Salem, But Who Pays The Tab?

There’s been next to nothing in communication from the Salem government, but a large maroon sign on the Salem High School football stadium says “FUTURE HOME of the Roanoke College Football and Cheer!”

The details of what Roanoke College (a private, tax exempt 501(c)(3) institution) will pay for football rental are not out yet. (Supposedly.) But when you examine real estate and property taxes for local jurisdictions, Salem sits at the top with the highest combined tax, $3.48!

Moyer Field is undergoing a $28+ million renovation which will be – according to Roanoke College –  “The ‘New’ home of our Softball program.” This extensive renovation is in a flood zone of the Roanoke River. Who promoted this extravagant make-over at taxpayer expense in the flood plain of a river that frequently floods?
Currently, Roanoke College only pays $18,500 annually for renting Moyer once construction is completed. Projected completion of Moyer is currently delayed a year or beyond. The city manager’s office stated that we will not know the final cost until the project is completed.
In my communications with the City Manager’s office, I observed a $4 million discrepancy in the line item Budget for Moyer renovations: $4 million lower than the quoted amount.
I asked for further clarification and as of this date have received none. I asked who established the arbitrary amount of $18,500 amount that Roanoke College pays for use; no response. This amount is nothing in light of the renovation costs!  Is it necessary to install an elevator in the tiny central building?

Rather than addressing the discrepancy sent from her office, City Manager Administrator Crystal Williams directed me back to the Finance Office, with whom I’d already spoken. As of this date, I still have no explanation for these questions and discrepancies.

During my endeavors to uncover the financial arrangement between Roanoke College and City of Salem, I discovered a consistent pattern. I was frequently shut down and shifted to “someone else” or “another department” for any answers. I had to speak with seven different government offices in order to achieve any semblance of information.  Taxpayers want truth and transparency! Is that too much to ask of the City of Salem?

I made the following remarks to Salem City Council on Jan. 22, 2024:

I have serious concerns as a taxpayer in the City of Salem when I see excessive Public taxpayer money used to upgrade and enhance sports and athletics facilities, for a private institution’s use, Roanoke College, which is well-funded, deeply-endowed and completely tax exempt!

Extensive, expensive renovations are ongoing at Moyer Field.

What else has been, or is projected for renovations of athletic facilities in the City of Salem?

What is the cost to taxpayers for these renovations? $12 million was the original cost estimate to green light the Moyer project in 2021. What will be the final cost to Salem?

What, if any, does Roanoke College pay to use/rent City of Salem facilities? What will they contribute to the ongoing maintenance of our athletic facilities?

Where can I see these amounts listed as line items in the city budget?

Who will provide Security services for Roanoke College events? If they pull Salem Police, we will have fewer officers on our streets.

Who will benefit from ticket and concession sales at Salem Stadium and Moyer Field?

There is no access to information. Citizens are asking: we want answers, particularly as Salem keeps their real estate and car tax, combined, higher than the rest of the field in surrounding jurisdictions.  Evaluations of Real estate and automobiles have risen significantly also.

Over the past three weeks, I have spoken to individuals in the following seven departments:

1 Treasurer’s Office

2. Commissioner of Revenue

3. Mayor’s office

4.City manager’s office

5. Parks and Recreation

6. Salem Civic Center

7. Finance office

I speak to individuals who typically say “I don’t know…I Don’t have access to that” or forward me onto a different department or individual for answers. Why? Most people would not have the tenacity to continue this quest. Is this by design?

Where is the transparency and accountability for our government leaders? I, along with countless other taxpayers, want to see the financials regarding this relationship and the current and future allocation of funds.

Diane Ribble, Salem

* The following linked article contains emailed responses dated Feb. 5, 2024 from the Salem City Manager’s Office in response to questions from Salem resident Diane Ribble about budget and construction issues:

Salem Responds To Questions About Budget / Sports Complex Construction




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