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Official ready to let Jays take wing

The Toronto Blue Jays might not be worth keeping after all, according to Dunedin City Commissioner Tom Osborne.

"I met many people in this community who told me if the Blue Jays are going to be unreasonable I'd just as soon see them walk," Osborne said at a recent City Commission meeting.

His comments came as a task force is examining $3-million in improvements to the Blue Jays' spring training facilities. The task force met Wednesday and moved forward with the plan.

The Blue Jays have been training in Dunedin since 1977, but recently have talked about moving when their contract with the city expiresin 1999. The team has complained that training facilities are not modern or centralized.

Osborne said the city should look at the Blue Jays from a business point of view, and not "sell the store" to keep the team. He said he wonders just how much revenue baseball brings the city.

Local business owners might not be profiting very much from the Jays' presence either, Osborne said. If they are, he added, they should help foot the cost of improving the team's training facilities.

A task force appointed by Mayor Tom Anderson is looking at ways to meet the Blue Jays' wish list and will issue final recommendations in August.

The task force's job is to gather information and make suggestions.

Osborne criticized task force chairman Cecil Englebert for talking about the economic feasibility of keeping the Blue Jays. "He was not appointed to this committee to sell this project to us," Osborne said.

Englebert said Friday he was "surprised and shocked" that commissioners made any comment before the task force had issued its final recommendations.

"We'd be rather foolish not to look at costs and economic benefits," said Englebert, a former mayor who is credited with bringing the Blue Jays to Dunedin. "We're certainly not going to recommend to the city something we know the city can't afford."

Anderson said the task force he appointed will make observations and recommendations, "but that's all it is, really."

Commissioner John Doglione said the Blue Jays brought intangible benefits to Dunedin, but he said keeping the team would boil down to a business decision. "There are bills to be paid, and who's going to pay them?" he said.