VIRGINIA BEACH -- The task force charged with sorting through two proposals for a new Virginia Beach arena and making a recommendation to City Council is doing their work in secret.
The City of Virginia Beach has received two proposals to build a new arena that could host major sporting events, concerts and other large gatherings. Both proposals would require millions in public money—either in the form of subsidies or tax breaks—from the city.
An arena task force has been assembled to weigh the pros and cons of each proposal and make a recommendation to the City Council on which one to move forward with.
On Monday, a 13News Now staff member asked to attend the next meeting of the arena task force but was told the meetings are not open to the public.
According to city spokeswoman Mary Hancock, the task force meetings are "internal staff meetings" and are not subject to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
The task force is made up of high-ranking city officials, including City Manager Jim Spore, Deputy City Manager Dave Hansen, City Attorney Mark Stiles and Jim Ricketts, the head of the city's convention and visitors' bureau.
According to Hancock, the task force does not keep a regular meeting schedule and does not take minutes of what was discussed during task force meetings.
An agenda for a May 6 meeting provided by the city shows the task force discussed a hotel, parking, transit and environmental issues, among other things.
READ THE MAY 6TH AGENDA
Although the task force is made up of city employees and meets in secret, Hancock pointed out the city also held one public meeting to discuss the proposals on March 24. At that meeting, Hancock said, citizens heard presentations from both companies that have made pitches to build an arena. Afterwards, residents were also able to ask questions, answers to which are posted online.
READ THE Q&A FROM THE CITIZENS GROUP ARENA MEETING
Hancock called the all-staff arena task force more of an "information-gathering staff group" assembled to answer citizens questions.
The arena task force is scheduled to make their recommendations to the full council in a closed session on May 13.