$28 million-plus in salaries and another $12 million-plus in pensions and benefits – why does our town look like SHIT?

5 Mar

The Enterprise Record, a propaganda rag that masquerades as a newspaper, ran the following op-ed the other day, as though it was a news story.

Caper Acres needs you

Renovation project a public, private partnership

By Dan Efseaff and Shane Romain

Humpty has not quite fallen, but Caper Acres needs to be put back together again. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be enough, but the citizens of Chico will be able to, and we need your help.

About 60 years ago, members of the now Chico Women’s Club started hatching ideas for a children’s playground w ithin Bidwell Park. After 13 years of fundraising and construction, the efforts of the club with the support and generosity of the Chico community resulted in the official opening of Caper Acres.

Children walked through the castle-like entrance for the first time, the iconic fairy- tale themed playground transformed the world into a magical place where imaginations blossom. Generations of children have had that same experience over the years.

Caper Acres has lost some of the sparkle since its last remodel in the mid-’90s. Recent storms provided dramatic images of the destruction of the Crooked House, yet there’s been a steady crescendo as decayed and unsafe play structures are removed.

Now is the time to recapture that same community support and dedication to bring Caper Acres back to a place where children and their families can create lifetime memories. Your help is needed to make repairs and move forward with the renovation.

The city’s recent financial crisis and the loss of park staffing added to the challenges of the maintenance and critical upkeep of Bidwell Park. We must confront our aging infrastructure. The list is long: Roads, restrooms, trails, fencing and playground equipment that are either decades old or engineered for a smaller population are failing. While deferring maintenance can save money in the short term, the costs mount over time.

For example, our daily safety inspections and repairs of Caper Acres sometimes take hours each day, just to open the gates.

Updates to the park’s facilities will make them safer, more enjoyable, and more cost effective to maintain. The renewal also allows people of all abilities to enjoy this jewel. The new features will help capture the next generation’s imagination and prove to be practical from a cost and maintenance standpoint.

In 2013, the city Parks Division, Chico State University students, and local landscape architecture consultant Melton Design Group collected citizen input to improve Caper Acres, increase safety, and reduce maintenance costs. Public meetings with community members, interviews with teachers and students, moms and dads, citizens and staff, and most importantly, the children that enjoy Caper Acres, produced great ideas.

Multiple generations of Chicoans remember moments in the park presided by Humpty Dumpty and wanting to keep the dream of Caper Acres alive. The effort yielded a beautiful rendering of ideas in the Master Renovation Plan that the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission and City Council approved in 2014.

The renovation plan provides the broad concepts to improve drainage and landscaping, replaced damaged and impractical materials with low maintenance ones, add new features such as a zip line and a Monkey Face climbing structure, and much more.

While the city will provide some funding and staff to oversee the work, in reality the Caper Acres renovation is a community venture with broad support. The phase plan will help us match implementation needs with community resources that have been generously offered.

To make the plan a reality, we will rely on community donations. We have already begun some work. Over the last two years the Parks Division has been able to apply received donations toward the Caper Acres renovation. Those funds have been and are being utilized for a variety of items such as the repaired footings of the Bird Cage, added needed fall material, and removed the aged and hazardous Bunker Hill Mine.

How can you help with Caper Acres?

You can attend the Caper Acres Fantasy Fun Run on May 13. Join us for a volunteer day. Donate to the Parks Division. Buy a Caper Acres brick. Greet other park visitors and garner support. All of these types of efforts help us move forward.

As we embark on this journey, we will share milestones and provide opportunities for public input so that we can continue improving our efforts. We also report our progress to the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission. Interested citizens can get on our mailing list.

For more information and ideas on how you can get involved please email parkinfo@ chicoca. gov or call the parks office at 8967800. Dan Efseaff is the city’s parks and natural resource manager. Shane Romain is parks services coordinator.

I had to answer, so sent the following to the ER letters sections – the appropriate page for opinions such as the above.

According to publicpay.ca.gov, City of Chico Park and Natural Resources Director and Park Services Coordinator make  a combined $236,000 in total compensation.   That’s $118/hour, based on a 40 hour week, for two employees to tell us they don’t have enough money to maintain the park. (“Caper Acres Needs You”, 3/3/17) 

According to city Public Works Director Erik Gustafson, the Butte County “Alternative Custody Service” is available for $100 a day and has been used to clean restrooms, perform vegetation removal, and clear illegal encampments. I wonder why this program is not employed for clean-up and repair at Caper Acres. 

The Park Commission has discussed more citations for illegal camping and other violations, “which could add to the park revenue…” while deterring illegal activities.  In 2016, 444 “warnings” were issued to illegal campers, while only 76 were cited. City manager Mark Orme explained to me that “one of the reasons for the high number of warnings is that, in many cases, the occupant moves on and removes items…”  Gustafson told me the city believes these campers are protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which pertain to a person’s rights within their home.  

 Welcome to Sanctuary City. 

Juanita Sumner, Chico? CA

I had a little trouble finding these positions on the public pay website because the titles were mis-spelled in the story – the database is spelling sensitive, you have to spell it exactly  right. Whoever was responsible for this story added an ‘s’ to “Park”, I had to drop the ‘s’ before the database would spit it out. Look for yourself, it’s a shocking read. Then look  at our town – does it look like a town that pays out $28 million plus in salaries, with another $12.5 in pensions and benefits?

With a payroll like that, we should be able to eat off the streets, instead, we can hardly drive on them! 

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2 Responses to “$28 million-plus in salaries and another $12 million-plus in pensions and benefits – why does our town look like SHIT?”

  1. Jim March 7, 2017 at 7:45 am #

    I enjoy doing volunteer work for various charities around Chico. However the City is a different story. I’m not going to work for free when the public employees are so over paid. I’d feel like a fool if I did so.

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