CARD finally announces plans to pursue a tax measure to pay for Aqua Jets’ swim center

22 Dec

Here we are, days ahead of Christmas  – I really don’t feel like  talking about CARD – but that’s what they want, isn’t it? That’s why they waited until December 17, when so many people are busy, even out of town, to start talking publicly about their plans to put an assessment on our homes to build  an aquatic center for “a swim association”.

I didn’t make the meeting because I had to go out of town. We had already postponed that trip, and time is getting tight – I hate to be a lemming, but people, especially the very young and the very old, need tradition.  They need routine, they need to be able to depend on something. Traditions build family. Sometimes I have to turn my back on this stuff so I can  be sure I have something to go home to when the meetings are over.

I had to depend on ER reporter Laura Urseny to tell me what went on at the meeting – that’s okay, because I’ve been to these meetings before, and I know what she’s not saying. But she is leaving details out, which doesn’t surprise me. “a swim association”? You mean Aqua Jets, Laura Honey.

 
I feel Urseny has done her best to float this aquatic center in a positive light, while leaving out a lot of pertinent details, like how they want to fund it. She’s been at the same meetings I’ve been at, heard their plans about waiting until legislative changes were made in the assessment process, waiting until the voter threshold was lowered from 2/3’s to 51 percent. Jerry Hughes gave a presentation about that at one meeting, saying they needed to wait until all that legislation had passed  before they tried to pass a tax here. Laura Urseny was at that meeting, but not one word of Hughes speech was in her following write-up.
 
She also fails to report that about 99.9 percent of the CARD subcommittee is made up of parents and friends of Aqua Jets, including their general manager.
 

What shocked me was Lando’s questioning of the whole thing – asking, “is this more important than other projects?” How about, paying your employees and giving them  decent benefits?  At a meeting earlier this year, the board was told they needed to dump staff and cut the remaining workers to 28 hours or less, to avoid paying Obamacare.  Manager Monica Jameson complained she didn’t have enough staff to run popular programs, and was going to have to cut hundreds of kids from programs like “Junior Giants.” She only had a couple of people to supervise 300 or more kids.

But, like the city of Chico, CARD continues to spend – they laid out somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000 – Urseny doesn’t give an exact figure – to Melton Design Group for three designs for this center, and are now going to hire another consultant(s) to tell them how to get the public to pay for it. A couple of years ago they spent $40,000 on a survey that came back negative – the majority of respondents said NO, we do not want to pay for your Taj Majal swim club – but now  they will try again.
 
Laura Urseny never discusses the CARD budget, how much of the money goes into the salaries of the top three managers and their benefits and pension. She never told the public how they bottomed out their budget one year making a $400,000 payment on their pensions.
 
After Christmas I’ll go after the newest information – they’ve had a management turnover with the retirement of director Steve Visconti, who was making about $112,000/year plus benies. Finance director Scott Dowell has left to go  to the city of Chico. He was making $96,000 a year with CARD. So, I’m guessing the new hirees have gotten raises over those employees, we’ll see what the new budget looks like after Christmas.
 
What I don’t have time to discuss right now is the rose garden issue, which I find  hilarious. Read that yourself, below.  I will say, at the meeting I attended on this subject, the fence wasn’t about deer, it was about homeless people and vandals. 
Swim center, rose garden looking different

Chico >> The Chico Area Recreation and Park District board is moving ahead on two projects, but not quite in the same direction as before.

On Thursday, suggestions about a proposed aquatic center and community rose garden veered off their previous courses, pushed along by financial concerns and the CARD board’s objections.

A proposed aquatic center is part of CARD’s master plan and has been discussed for more than a year. For this meeting, several plans with different attributes were going to be discussed, with costs ranging from $10.8 million to $18 million.

A CARD subcommittee of board members and the public hoped to trigger large contributions from the community, but it looks like CARD will have to take the issue to the voters for a tax measure to pay for the facility.

The board happily accepted an offer from members of the subcommittee, including a swim association, to pay for a feasibility study on the center.

General Manager Jerry Haynes suggested and the board agreed to bring in consultants to talk to the board about ways to proceed financially with a center’s development. As far as mounting a successful public education campaign, that should be up to the swim group and its supporters, the board agreed.

The board did not take a position on the three center designs included in the agenda.

Director Tom Lando noted CARD’s master plan was done in the “golden age” when development and revenue were easier to come by, and that the master plan priorities should be reviewed.

While he said he supported the aquatic center, he asked, “Is this more important than other projects” mentioned in the plan.

Later, in a separate discussion, the board agreed to review the master plan next year, to see if priorities were appropriate.

In regarding to the rose garden, a design that came in with preliminary construction estimates beyond earlier discussions hit the wall. Estimates ranged from $403,227.72 to $473,267.57.

“I won’t vote for this,” Lando said.

Lando and other directors noted the project was to be phased in construction, and liked early estimates of under $200,000.

The board agreed to match long-time resident Marilyn Warrens contribution of $125,000, making the first phase a $250,000 project. The board asked Haynes to come back with a first-phase design that met that budget. Likely CARD will face prevailing wage costs in the construction.

Warrens herself voiced surprise over the higher price.

“I can’t bring any more money to this.”

Warrens has tried for more than a decade to create a public rose garden, committing time and money, and getting involved in the project’s design. The Butte Rose Society has agreed to help as well.

Directors were shown a design that would replace the grassy area between the Chico Community Center — CARD’s home — and Big Chico Creek. It had a main stage for weddings and other events, rows of roses and seating. In adopting the project, CARD noted that the project could help bring in more revenue and better use the area.

The plan also included a 7-foot-high wrought iron fence surrounding the area and attaching to CARD buildings to protect the rose garden from deer, Haynes said.

The design addressed concerns voiced by the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission. CARD leases the property from the city, which is actually part of Bidwell Park.

Warrens agreed with board members who thought that once the first phase was under construction, other contributions to finish the project would surface.

The garden’s new design will come back to the board for discussion. Director Michael Worley noted that there should be some presentation of the design to make sure that the public is not surprised by the design as was the case in the City Plaza redesign.

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5 Responses to “CARD finally announces plans to pursue a tax measure to pay for Aqua Jets’ swim center”

  1. Michael Jones December 22, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    The amounts are absurd, why should things cost so much? It’s like the Caper Acres redo plan that is for 30 TIMES the cost about 15 years ago. My understanding is that the Caper Acres plan will not likely ever be funded. And that the plan is just to mollify the citizen proponents–well that is dishonest to the citizens. Tell them the truth that the grandiose plan will never happen, so that they can work on something that could be done before their kids grow up.

    I would guess that Lando wouldn’t want a CARD tax increase on the ballot, since he probably wants a police sales tax increase on the ballot. And they would compete with each other in inducing voter tax fatigue. Chico has been moving on up the list of top-paying California cities—from around 53rd in 2009, to 23rd in 2012. It all makes sense to the professional elite, but we live in the Central Valley and our area has the worst poverty in the country, even more than Appalachia. The police want to be part of the professional elite, and join Lando & Co in overlording the people in poverty.

    I’m channeling my inner Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul in opposing Lando & Co.

    • Juanita Sumner December 22, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

      thanks Michael, I will also be watching the national efforts of people like Rand and Warren.

  2. bob December 24, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    How is this going to work out?

    CARD wants a tax increase, the cops and firefighters are going to want a tax increase so they can keep getting outrageous compensation, Lando wants a sales tax increase for various things.

    We are going to need a big tax increase to make all these trough feeders happy. If I recall correctly Lando wanted a full 1 percent sales tax increase. (How would you like to pay 8.5% in sales tax?) Will that be enough? Of course not.

    Maybe you should start a Web site called chicotroughfeeders.com

    • Juanita Sumner December 24, 2014 at 8:27 am #

      I’m keeping my powder dry for now Bob, but don’t worry, I got ideas.

      Merry Christmas, and believe me, we’re going to have a Happy New Year!

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