Do your research on CARD budget, come to some meetings – we need to shut down their tax grab before it gets out of the gate

26 Apr

Chico Area Rec District (CARD) is going to be mounting a phone campaign, I’d say within the next couple of months, maybe sooner, to get the public to support a tax measure. They say the money will go toward a new aquatic center, but we’ll have to wait for the details. If they put the money in the General Fund it can be used for anything, including their pensions.

At the last board meeting I attended, the board approved the hiring of a consultant to conduct the phone campaign, we’ll see how long that takes. I will try to keep an eye on these meetings – regular board meetings are held once a month, on a Thursday around the 15th of the month. Board agendas are posted  on the website, in advance, so it’s easy to keep an eye on them.

They are supposed to notice me if they have an Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meeting, but there’s all kinds of ways to get around the notice list, as I’ve seen over the last couple of years. Who cares about me anyway – the entire community needs to be in on this conversation, and  they need to do a little research to avoid being hood-winked. Here’s a letter I wrote about it to the Enterprise Record:

Last year Chico Area Recreation District announced that Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools had fallen so badly into disrepair they would be closed in 2016.

They’ve talked for over a decade about a new aquatic facility but excessive management salaries and fully paid benefits and pension have caused financial problems. In 2013 they cut staff hours to make a $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS for management pensions.   At an “emergency” meeting April 2, interim director Steve Visconti told the board, “with day-to-day operations, and all these projects, it’s really hard for staff…they are spread so thin…”  

CARD spent $25,000 surveying property owners in 2013 but the bond consultant reported “no support” in the community for an aquatic center, suggesting they mount a campaign to change public sentiment. CARD formed a committee that met without public scrutiny for over a year, contacting designers and other consultants. At the April 16 board meeting, former CARD director Jerry Hughes and Aqua Jets president Brad Geise recommended  a $30,000 phone campaign to convince taxpayers they need to pay for this project. The board approved. 

I’d like to caution the public – do some research on your own before you answer any questions.  CARD budgets, reports, and minutes of their past meetings are available on their website, under “Resources”. The State Controller website shows the salaries and compensation packages:

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I don’t know if that link for the State Controller worked, here’s a regular link to that website:

CARD management pay nothing toward their benefits or pensions.

When I talk to my friends who have grown up in Chico they are floored to find out CARD is closing Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools.  I took my kids to those pools for five or six years, and they were packed full for both the CARD swimming lessons and the “rec swim” every afternoon. I remember when people had to line up at 7am on Saturday mornings to sign their kids up for swim lessons, and they would, bringing drive-thru coffee and lawn chairs, staking out the line at 6:30 am three or four Saturdays every  summer.

The pools declined before our eyes. They  had needed to enlarge and update the restrooms at both pools for years, but nothing was done. I watched the same maintenance man lumber between both pools, cursing the equipment as he mended this and monkey-rigged that, trying to keep things running. I remember him admonishing the pool staff – “if you hear  that pump making that noise again, you shut it down!”

One day I listened to a contractor tell the manager at PV pool that the  pool had a crack, that’s why it wouldn’t heat, it was leaking too fast. He said it could be fixed for $2500. The manager responded he didn’t think CARD would pay for it, they wanted to build a new pool. I thought he meant, a new pool at that site, I didn’t know about the proposed aquatic center. Aqua Jets ended up leaving over that crack, taking their business to In Motion Fitness. I believe that loss of revenue really hurt CARD.

Sure, CARD management wants a new pool, but they know it won’t happen for years. Kids whose parents support this thing will not use it. They know most of the revenue will be eaten by administrative costs – their salaries, benefits and pensions. They also know the cost will climb steadily, probably double or triple the $10 – 18 million estimate range  consultant Greg Melton put on it. They know, it may never even happen.

I’ll keep you posted on the phone campaign.



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