Recreation Center / Senior – What happened?

Sigh…

I am a believer in good government and am just ashamed of how this project has progressed. I frankly am ashamed of the performance of Parks department staff on this project.  The issues here mostly stem from poor decision making coming from the Parks department. The poorest decision was to design a facility addition that was far too big for the budget (without being directed to do so). I would point out the poor decisions predate our current director Paul Widman. As a city council member I am just embarrassed. The fact that we are operating in secrecy (the request is $700k more than I had ever been told about and $1.3 million more than the last public discussion) and manipulating numbers to hide the true costs is shameful. Important information has not even been provided to me. I expect better.

Sigh…

Let me start up with some positives, and there are many.

  1. When this facility is done it will be fantastic. There are a number of existing issues that are being fixed correctly. The new families are being build the right way. The new space will be accessible, welcoming, light, and meet needs for generations. The mixing of young and old will be a positive for both.
  2. The architecture and efficiency on the new facility will be nice and should moderate the operating costs.
  3. Kudos to the Senior Center / 125 Live for stepping up in a big way. I have been critical of a number of things in the past, but they are all in. In addition to the fit up dollars that they have put in they are now contributing an additional $600k. When the costs escalated I wanted them to also contribute the downtown lots, and they are making a contribution very similar. At this point they are tapped out and you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
  4. The deal between the Senior Center and City is pretty good. We have assurances in getting the Podein lot and downtown lots. The understanding has the city taking control of everything should the Senior Center become insolvent. Conversely the Senior Center gets control of the space for their programing when they need and the city gains access for other items.
  5. With some clarification that I will gather (on camera in a public meeting) I am inclined to support the memorandum of understanding.
  6. I am appreciative of the city administrator first using this years contingency to fund the shortfall.
  7. There is a great opportunity to make Elton Hills Drive & Broadway more complimentary to the facility in coming years. There will never be enough parking, but supplanting the need with safe walking, biking, good transit or shuttles is the most cost effective solution to the issue.

So there is some good, but sigh….

There is plenty of bad.

Sigh…

  1. Even though there was no requirement in the state law OR direction given by the city council; staff decided that 60% of the funds should go to the senior center and 40% to the Recreation Center. This was a horrible decision that drove all the problems with the budget. $8 million was not nearly enough to do what needed to be done to the existing Recreation Center. Budgeting $12 million does allow you to build the 54,000 square foot building (about $220 per square foot), however the remaining $8 million is woefully inadequate for what needed to be done including energy retrofits, structural reconstructing, maintenance of dated facilities, site work, HVAC rework, enhanced lobby, concessions, and locker rooms, pool expansion and rework.
  2. City staff, and some council members continue to disregard the real costs of the project. Staff has taken needed improvements and decide that we should not include them in the project costs. In reality the latest proposal has now surpassed $29 million. Here are the real facility costs:
    1. $20 million – Sales Tax.
    2. $2.3 million – Additional Sales Tax.
    3. $1.8 million – Estimated internal funds for addressing energy issues.
    4. $2.3 million – Contribution from Seniors for fit up.
    5. $0.4 million – Contribution from Swimmers for pool.
    6. $0.08 million – Contribution from Hockey for hockey.
    7. $0.6 million – Additional contribution from Seniors for overruns.
    8. $1.7 million – Request for city to contribute general funds to cost overruns.
    9. Total = $29.18 million, which is not the number city staff claims. This is about 45% over budget.
  3. The poor condition of the existing facility. I do not blame Weis or any other contractor for the inability of the city to maintain quality. Sadly those responsible are long since gone, if not dead. The bottom line is that if you are building a facility with tip up concrete, quality was never a consideration. This is probably also why the building is one of the worst in the state in terms of wasted energy.
  4. We budgeted a $50k contingency for asbestos, knowing that we were building on an asbestos filled dump. The costs are closer to $1 million.
  5. The scope of the building is still growing in secrecy. There are some unbudgeted items that really should be done, for example there is a needed glass wall between pools which is needed for HVAC and humidity control. This should have been in the additional project. There is also a gym floor that needs to be resurfaced now or later, so might as well be now. That said there is also consideration of a hockey expansion, acoustical tiles, pool seating, addition vehicle entrances, a driveway separating the facility from the streets it fronts, and other items that are nice but not needed. I support needs or projects with payback at this point; I do not support and addition of amenities because they are wants.
  6. Because the most recent request is from undesignated general funds we are being asked to prioritize this project above other competing needs that come from the same set of funds including public safety, maintenance of infrastructure, affordable housing, and transit. I feel these items are more important.
  7. Of course I do always have to remind people that Rep. Greg Davids and his cronies were guilty of micromanaging our sales tax proposal and took $8 million out of this project and gave $5 million to other communities which is often being used for items like subsidizing luxury suburban housing.
  8. While it may be viewed as being cold, I am unlikely to support the request for additional funds beyond this year’s contingency and would prefer to leave some spaces shelled out for now.
  9. I also would like there to be repercussions for staff member(s) that made the poor assumptions with out council direction that created this financial mess. However since I am the only council member that takes this position it is unlikely to happen and I am not going to push it. The person / people that made the poor decisions here should not be involved in future facility decisions.

Sigh…

Sigh…

Sigh…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.