Maybe we just ought to call it “Willmann Pavilion”!

10 Feb

Last Saturday (Feb. 2) I attended a “special” meeting of Chico city council. The most “special” thing about this meeting, besides the $3,000 consultant who ran it, was the location – Cal Park Pavilion? Not only is this facility remote and out of the public eye,  the city paid $472 for less than eight hours in a shabby little meeting room when they’ve got newly remodeled rooms available not only at city hall but at the old municipal building just down the street. 

For Pete’s sake – they just poured almost $400,000 of Comcast ratepayer fees into new IT, carpet and furniture for the council chambers. But they decide to convene out at Cal Park, on a stormy Saturday, instead of their centrally located, newly refurbished chambers?

I asked the consultant why the weird location and he said he needed a space to hang his blue display sheet – about 5′ x 7′ – and plenty of room for the attendees – 7 council members, about a half dozen staffers, and maybe a dozen members of the general public. 

I didn’t press him, or ask staff, cause they just lie.  The real reason was they didn’t want the public in there watching, seeing what is done with taxpayer funds, and how stupid and self serving council members are. 

Another question it raised for me was the way CARD uses Cal Park Pavilion. They paid a million bucks for the building, rotten roof and all, but with interest payments totaling almost $100,000 a year, they’ve hardly touched the principal. They poured several hundred thousand dollars more into repairs, including fixtures that serve no functional purpose that were either added or removed at the suggestion of the contractor. The contractor made fun of the outer looks of the building, referring to The Flintstones, and the board approved a $75,000 cost overrun. It’s not their money, and that’s how they spend it.

You don’t spend that kind of money on a facility that has no return value. Park Pavilion was supposed to be a money-maker for CARD, hosting weddings and other private affairs. It’s a  beautiful site, the big room is nicely done with huge windows overlooking a well-kept private lake. You’d think people would be lining up to use it.  When CARD rented it to a “non-profit”group that is looking into building a grandiose new recreation center south of town, I asked CARD staff about the rates.

Staff response: “It is a $500 deposit that is refundable to you. For a Saturday it is $3400 separate from the deposit and for a Friday or a Sunday it is $2800 separate from the deposit. We can do an hourly rate which is the same deposit and has a minimum of 8 hours and that is $225 per hour.

Lakeside is $225 Per hour weekdays and weeknights. There is no discounted rate for this building.”

No discount? But Every Body Healthy Body only paid a total $500 for a 5 hour rental of the big main room – essentially the entire building, tables, chairs, dishes, the Whole Shebang. Just a couple of years later, the side meeting room is almost as much? 

Who decides the rates and who gets a discount? Director Ann Willmann. I asked her about the discount rate for EBHB, knowing one of the members of that board, Brad Geise, is a long time associate of Willmann’s through Aqua Jets. Willmann’s kid was in Aqua Jets, Geise was the director of Aqua Jets, and Aqua Jets has used CARD facilities, so I know she’s pretty chummy with the guy.  She responded as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

“Hi Juanita, I authorized the $100 hr/fee. As CARD’s general manager, I have the discretion to adjust facility rental rates for use by community agencies and organizations particularly when they have objectives and purposes similar to and compatible with those of CARD. If there are no pending inquires for use of a facility or no programming taking place, we would recognize the opportunity for some revenue where otherwise there would have been none.”

So what’s she’s saying, is she gets to give her friends discounts, but the rest of us, who pay the bills by way of our property taxes, get no discount. Hey, why don’t you call up, and ask her, what dates is the Pavilion not being used, and ask for a discount rate for your kid’s wedding on one of those dates? 

You won’t even find rates on the website, you have to ask Staff. Which leads to special people getting special prices, is what I’m hearing.  What I’m also hearing is nobody wants to use the goddam thing unless they know Ann Willmann and expect to get a discount. 

https://www.chicorec.com/lakeside-pavilion

When was the last time you attended or even heard of a private function there – a wedding, company party, a business convention even? The only functions I’ve heard of were the EBHB party (complete with catering and table service) and this recent “special” council meeting. 

CARD offers programs there, like free movies for the residents of Cal Park, exercise classes, stuff like that. But I’ve never known anybody who participates in those programs, so I don’t know how well attended they are. 

Frankly, I think the Pavilion is an expensive train wreck, losing money, losing money, losing money. I don’t know who decided to buy it in the first place, but they spent way too much money on it, especially given the extensive dry rot they found throughout the building. They’re still paying the interest on the loan. 

I looked at the budget available at CARD’s website for reports on the Pavilion but only found one reference to $3,000 spent on “maintenance”. I assumed CARD staff is responsible for keeping track of these figures in some form of “Income statement, Statement of income, Financial results statement, Earnings statement, Operations statement,” or what my loan officer at Wells Fargo referred to as a “profit/loss report.”

https://www.cardfellow.com/blog/guide-to-profit-and-loss-statements-pls/

My husband and I are landlords, we’ve done profit/loss statements every year for our taxes, on each separate rental. We have to keep track of all the expenses, and all the rent – we even have to report any money we withhold from deposits, and account for every dime. We also have done PL statements anytime we’ve wanted to get or refinance a loan.

I’ll tell you a little secret – my husband and I went through the whole refinance obstacle course a couple of years ago, turning over document after document, answering many snoopy questions. We were finally turned down because our rents aren’t high enough. They said our debt/income ratio was out of whack, that we should raise our rents and call them back in a year. 

But it was a good exercise for us as business owners – we keep our rents low to keep good tenants, so we’ve started keeping a keener eye to expenses. We decided to sell a rental because it was getting old and the expensive repairs we’d made when we bought it were starting to need to be made again.  For example, at the rents we were charging, we never would have recouped the expense of another new roof. We’d also been replacing old windows one at a time for years, but were down to the big, pricey windows that would have to be done when the house was vacant, maybe even require permits. We had to make a business decision to suit ourselves and our kids, so we sold to a family that could afford to dump a bunch of money into repairs and remodeling. Losing the rental income was a shock, but we had to realize the repairs would have driven us further into debt. We make these decisions and we suffer the consequences ourselves, that’s the private sector. 

But CARD is a public agency, it’s not their money to spend, and they need to be more accountable to the taxpayers. So I asked Willmann for a PL report on the Pavilion.

She doesn’t have one.

Hi Juanita, we don’t have specific reports for the income at Lakeside Pavilion. Our facility revenue is posted to two accounts. Indoor Facilities or Outdoor Facilities. If you have a specific request regarding Lakeside, I am happy to send you the information. I would just need a date range you are interested in. Thanks, Ann

Oh my god. Really? I realize, public agencies don’t pay taxes. But, 

“Your P&L also tells the tale of how profitable your business is or is not, and the timeframe of your major profits and losses. If you’re in a seasonal business, you know that certain times of the year are lucrative and others slow. Those operating businesses not especially subject to seasonal ebbs and flows can determine a company’s most and least profitable quarters via examining the P&L, and figuring out the circumstances. Regular review of your P&L tells you what areas of your business generate the most profit and which generate the most costs.  It also allows you to look for trends that may not be apparent until you see them in black and white.”

Well, duh!

And the Pavilion isn’t the only facility they own. Given their style of book keeping, how are we supposed to know what they’re doing?

CARD is not held accountable by the taxpayers, that’s the problem. They operate in a pretty slipshod fashion, spending money with no limits because the taxpayers are always there to bail them out. 

And that’s just what they’re looking for in the revenue measure they are trying to put on the 2020 ballot. Or worse, a mailed assessment, in which only property owners vote and the amount of property owned determines the “weight” of each vote. 

How do you find out what they’re up to? You have to attend meetings, held each mid-month on Thursday at the CARD center on Vallombrosa. They don’t keep real minutes, and those aren’t even posted with any regularity, so if you want to know what’s going on – and let the new board know what you think – you must attend a meeting sometime. They’re easy – starting promptly at 7pm and over usually by 8pm. 

https://www.chicorec.com/board-meetings

Or just bend over, put your hands over your eyes and ears, and close your mouth. 

4 Responses to “Maybe we just ought to call it “Willmann Pavilion”!”

  1. bob February 10, 2019 at 4:19 pm #

    Wow! What a rip-off. The taxpayers take it in the shorts again.

    Where is News and Review on things like this? They went soliciting money for investigative reporting. What about the ER? What Action News? Maybe that should be Inaction News.

    Why does it take citizen reporting to uncover these things?

    • Juanita Sumner February 11, 2019 at 6:08 am #

      Our local papers have never been critical toward CARD and will probably endorse their tax measure – it’s all about keeping the kids off drugs!

  2. bob February 10, 2019 at 4:21 pm #

    Chico is the hottest real estate market in the entire country. Pretty good considering it’s in a county that’s got the 10th lowest wages in the entire nation.

    CARD ought to sell that property now while the getting is good. Instead, they are spending tens of thousands of your tax dollars to get a tax increase.

    • Juanita Sumner February 11, 2019 at 6:10 am #

      That’s how I feel – they may have to sell it short but I think they could unload it on somebody else.

      I always wonder why they bought it in the first place, but those records are long gone.

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