Ordinarily, public hearings are a tool to answer vexing questions of public policy.

But hearings on the possibility of building a new downtown arena and convention center will certainly create more questions than they answer for a task force assigned to study the issue.The hearings began Tuesday before an options committee working under the task force to solicit and report public comment, and continued Wednesday with a second day of testimony from parties with a direct interest in the arena issue.

During a third day of meetings on Thursday, there will be an open microphone public hearing from 6 to 9 p.m., at which time anyone may comment.

But the options committee, whose responsibility is to pass along ideas and comments on the arena issue to three other committees for consideration, already has plenty of material.

Questions that have come up so far in the sessions include:

- What should be done to protect downtown neighborhoods and residents who fear a new arena could displace them from homes, churches or businesses, or perhaps leave them living, working or worshiping surrounded by an asphalt jungle?

- How can the Salt Lake Arts Center be placated when one preliminary proposal suggests the arts center swap buildings with the Hansen Planetarium? The planetarium staff loves that idea; the arts center people are appalled.

- What facilities should be encompassed in a proposed science center/science museum, and how should it be managed?

- Should a new arena complex include a heliport to link downtown with the airport and perhaps eventually with Park City and Wasatch canyon ski areas?

"We understand that all this is in the concept-forming stage, but we are not even on your maps," said Carl Inoway, of the Japanese Church of Christ, 268 W. First South, told the committee. "People not familiar with the area who see the maps wouldn't even know church activities are taking place there."

When asked by committee member Wayne Evans if the church would prefer to relocate or to have a new arena complex built around it, should the project come to fruition, Inoway said the church would consider its options when such a decision is necessary.

Jim Mitsunaga of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, pointed out that a grocery store his father owned was razed to make way for construction of the Salt Palace 20 years ago, as were many residences and businesses of Salt Lake's then-concentrated Japanese community.