Poor spending decisions just lead to more poor spending decisions at Chico Area Recreation District

2 Feb

As my husband and I got on our bikes to head for a special Chico Area Recreation District board meeting, I noticed big wet dots on the old corn planter that sits alongside my driveway.  We’d  been hustling through chores all day, busting around town on errands, and I was tired. The big rain drops seemed to be  saying, “Oh forget it Juanita, you shouldn’t be out right now, go in the house and pull the covers over your head…”

My husband had already pumped the tires on our bikes, he’d adjusted the old Sturmy Archer on my 1956 Raleigh Superbe – I couldn’t disappoint, so I mounted up and we headed for the sprawling bum camp known as “Bidwell Park.”

I was surprised, my husband showed me what he’d discovered earlier in the day walking Biscuit in the section of Middle Park alongside our neighborhood- the bums were gone.  The leafy overgrowth and dead trees that had sheltered their illegal campsites were gone.  You can actually look right  through it from your car on Vallombrosa. 

This is just what I knew needed to be done, but I thought the city was dragging their feet, and I didn’t believe they would do it. When Mark Orme told me the program that employed jail inmates to clean the overgrowth was losing funding, I lost hope. My husband and I stopped using the park for a few days, taking Biscuit farther from home, which took more time out of our day and used precious fuel.

Wow, turns out, I owe Mark Orme and staff a big thank you.  We’ll see how long this lasts. 

By the time we got to the freeway overpass the rain drops were starting to splash on my eye glasses, and I wondered what kind of storm we were getting ourselves into. I was wearing wool from head to toe, you know how wet wool feels. And smells. We made it to the CARD center and locked up our bikes. We noticed the roof top skylights had been covered with heavy plywood, wondered what was up with that but forgot to ask. 

As we walked into the building I felt a sudden panic – I had forgot to check the location of the meeting, I’ve done that before and ended up at the wrong location. We found the room where meetings are usually held was busy with some sort of meeting or class.  I was really feeling stupid when my husband noticed the open doors at the end of the hall, board members seated around a table in the “big room.”

We sat down with the League of Women Voters observer – I appreciate the league covering these meetings. They pay attention to legalities, like the Brown Act.  She immediately asked if there were copies of the agenda for “the audience”, and yeah, the staffer had to go make copies. They really don’t expect the public to attend, I was shocked they put out chairs.

It was all very nice and chatty.  The meeting started promptly and was well run. Ann Willmann gave her report as to why the roof job  would need an additional $75,000.  Willmann is personable and professional. She said that removal of the roof tiles had exposed a layer of moisture soaked fiberboard. That would need to be removed. The “good  news” is, she said, they would now be able to add a layer of R-14 insulation, which hadn’t been in the plans. 

As an old landlady, I had to wonder – weren’t they planning on taking off the whole roof anyway? Didn’t they know how rotten it was when they purchased this building just four years ago?  Wouldn’t they have been wise to plan the insulation from the get-go? As board member Michael Worley pointed out, this would result in a huge savings for PG&E. 

Ever wonder what it costs to keep a building like Lakeside Pavilion lit and heated/cooled? 

Willmann had more “good news” – the contractor had suggested, since they would be removing the whole roof, how about removing those ugly columns – they look like Stone Henge, he said, and will  no longer match the roof. So that was added to the cost overrun.

And of course that will necessitate repainting.

All this “good  news”! 

They’ve already budgeted and spent $250,000 on this roof job.  So what’s another 75 Grand?

These people talk about $75,000 as if it’s chump change. I’d like to remind them, the median income among people who don’t have their snout in the trough is $43,000/year. They’re talking about almost twice that amount for a budget appropriation for a roof job. 

They paid over a million for the building, and are currently paying interest only. This is paid semi-annually – $38,351 twice a year. CARD still owes $915,000 on Lakeside Pavilion, at 5.75 % interest.  

In 2015 they spent $6,000 on dry rot, that was before they started the roof job. 

I’m guessing they have not begun the updates for Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. They did spend $40,000 on ADA requirements for the CARD center, but I don’t know if that is complete. 

I have to wonder again why they bought Park Pavilion in the first place. They could have put that money into maintaining Shapiro and PV pools, the skate park, and other facilities. They could have used that money to pay for more worker hours and the required benefits, but instead cut most workers to 28 hours or less to avoid paying benefits. 

And if you think Lakeside Pavilion is a money pit, check out the figures for DeGarmo Park – they’re paying 10 percent interest on $700,000, with payments of about $82,000/year. That park was bought in 1996 – they have already spent tens of thousands on repairs. That’s in the budget, look for it yourself. 

This agency’s actions do not warrant more tax dollars. When recently pressured by CalPERS for more money, they only raised employee contributions from zero to 6.25 percent, with “classic” members paying only 2 percent. They expect the taxpayers to foot the rest of the bill, for salaries that could support three families. 

It’s time to be vigilant, these agencies are under more pressure from CalPERS all the time. They would certainly rather pass the buck  along to the taxpayers, it’s time to tell them how you feel about that.


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