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CARD fiddles our money – why would we support more money for this agency?

5 May

That rain sure dried up fast, eh? Thinking about watering your garden, huh? 

Well, don’t forget – according to my latest Cal Water bill, dated 4/4/17, “The State has extended the emergency drought regulation, so we ask that you continue to conserve.”  They still give me a “conservation  target.”  My extended family – including myself and my husband, Sometimes our college student son, plus our household of four tenants –  has consistently come in under our “target” for months,  but I notice, my “water bank balance” has disappeared.

Cal Water has suspended “drought surcharges,” which amounted to about $3 off the 5/8″ service charge. Instead of “water budget,” they now call it “water target”. I assume I wasn’t the only person giving the middle finger to any and all Cal Water employees I encountered around town, they finally realized – they are hated, they need to do something to clean up their image.

So, they raised rates – since April of last year the “Tier 1” price has gone from $1.55 to $1.58.  But, perversely, they continue to charge “WRAM” – Water Rate Adjustment Mechanism. When we don’t use enough water to meet “costs” (pensions and benefits), they recover the difference through a WRAM charge. So, since our usage went down from last year by 3 CCF’s, our WRAM charge went from 8 cents to $1.37. 

Way to stick it to us, Cal Water! Way to lay there and take it, Chico!

Sure my usage went down – my summertime water bills were over $100/month. I have two houses here, with two families, two yards, many trees. We lost two huge trees last year, we were just lucky they were under PG&E lines or we would have had to pay thousands to have them removed ourselves. Cal Water offers nothing to homeowners who lose trees by following their ridiculous – and still in effect! – watering rules. Repeat after me – odd numbered addresses, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, even numbered addresses, Tuesday and Thursday. Or wait a minute, is it odd numbered, Tuesday? What the helllllll!?!

So you must wonder, how has this affected public agencies?  Well, Chico Area Recreation  District seems to be unaware we are still under conservation targets.

These sprinklers run off into the parking lot at 5 Mile every morning at about 6:30 am.

I looked into the beds above – full of drought tolerant rosemary – and the ground  was hardly wet, most of the water was fanning out across the parking lot. Nearby we walked through sprinklers spraying the sidewalk. 

Our shoes got wet, but again, the ground within the planters was dry.

These plants are all drought resistant, many of them native, but every day between 6 and 7 am, you will see them being showered as though they were rain forest natives.  Except, I looked, most of the water is going onto pavement. 

I use drip in my yard, I know it has to be checked all the time. When it really gets hot the water gets hot enough to blow sprinklers off our lines, split lines, pop the nozzle off the spigot, etc. We know we shouldn’t run our sprinklers without supervision ever since we came out one evening to find our garden looking like the canals of Venice. 

This is the kind of waste that passes for “service” at the Chico Area Recreation District. It’s not their money, so they don’t give a shit, excuse my French.

You see the same kind of thing with City of Chico – a few years ago I had to report sprinklers that had been running across Forest Avenue for weeks. I had not reported those because I get sick and tired of being the haranguing hag, but when I finally told city staffer Linda Herman about it, she was very surprised and grateful. I like Herman, her kid played hockey with my kid, but I get disgusted with city waste too. 

I should send it to “Hotshots” at the Enterprise Record. They ran the pictures I sent of the city bobcat sunk into an asphalt path in the park and the damage suffered by the brand new $250,000 CARD center rose garden by Chico Creek. I’ll try to send these in too. There needs to be some kind of accountability for this kind of malfeasance and incompetence, even if it’s just one day in the public stocks. 

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Stop the presses! CARD finally posting board meeting minutes on their website!

16 Apr

I sent a note to Chico Area Recreation District manager Ann Willmann because for years now I’ve turned to their website to look at reports of meetings and found them as much as a year behind in posting minutes. 

Hi,

I wonder why there are not minutes posted for a board meeting since Nov 2016? I know the minutes have to be approved by the board, but I’ve been present when minutes have been approved, and they still haven’t been posted on the website.

 Thanks for your response, at your convenience, Juanita Sumner 

I’ve asked before, and been ignored, I was surprised by Willmann’s response:

Hi Juanita, the website has been updated. Thank you for your email. I have established a new process to ensure our minutes are posted in a more timely manner after approval. Ann

I couldn’t resist telling her it was about time.  At least three consultants have been paid so far – make that six, including the informational meeting she presented for the board – to tell Willmann and her staff to get the public engaged in CARD’s business. Instead she seems to make every effort to keep people from knowing what’s happening – another question I’ve had to ask is, why so many “special” meetings – which only have to be noticed 24 hours ahead with a piece of paper on the front door of the CARD center. 

Next time I see an 8-and-a-half by 11 piece of paper flapping on that door I’ll have to make a screeching turn into the parking lot and vault up there to see what’s happening!

CARD has already started a campaign to subtly make us believe we want to tax ourselves to pay down their $1.75 million pension deficit. Pay attention Folks, there’s pick-pockets about!

CARD cut employee hours in 2013 to avoid paying for their healthcare

21 Mar

I’ve been cleaning through my drafts file, and here’s an article from 2013 that reports CARD cut a number of employees’ hours so they won’t have to pay Obamacare for those people.  Urseny is so embedded – she didn’t even ask how many people would be cut to 28 hours. She didn’t even bother to talk to those employees about how they would manage. She has never done a follow-up to this story.

Meanwhile, management pays between 2 and 6 percent for benefits packages which range from $25,000 to  $30,000/year.   CARD spends about $500,000/year on management benefits for employees who make as much as $120,000/year in salary. 

Chico Area Recreation and Park District hears about impact of Obamacare

By LAURA URSENY-Staff Writer

POSTED:   07/30/2013 12:01:24 AM PDT
 
 

CHICO — Like many getting acquainted with the federal Affordable Care Act, there are a lot of question marks for the Chico Area Recreation and Park District board and staff.Some of those were answered by Rose Krepelka of CARD’s insurance provider, InterWest Insurance Inc. of Chico.

“I can go for 15 minutes or for four days,” Krepelka told the board last week when she asked how deeply they wanted to delve into the Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare.

She acknowledged there’s a lot of confusion about the new regulations, especially since some affecting businesses have been delayed to 2015.

CARD already provides medical coverage to full-time employees, but more employees will be eligible for medical insurance in 2015 with the new definition of full time.

Obamacare’s definition of full time is working 30 or more hours weekly on a regular basis.

At CARD there are 32 full-time employees, and part-timers vary from 120 to 180, depending on the time of the year and recreational offerings. The full-time-equivalent is 85, according to General Manager Steve Visconti.

Medical care coverage per full-time employee currently costs CARD about $10,000 yearly. With the new definition, CARD was forced to adjust schedules of some employees to keep them part time. Visconti said CARD’s budget couldn’t afford to provide coverage to more employees.

Individuals without medical coverage can start shopping in October, with the coverage launching in January. Individuals without insurance are subject to tax penalties at $95 per adult $47.50 per child. That jumps to $325 adult, $165.50 child penalties in 2015.

CARD’s part-time employees can find insurance from California’s health exchange, called Covered California, or from Medi-Cal, she noted.

Employees will be getting information on obtaining insurance through letters from companies like hers. In addition to that, Krepelka noted there will be “navigators and enrollers” who are trained and certified to help Californians understand Obamacare. Residents might run into them outside a big-box store or at a mall.

Krepelka said the jury’s out on how successful Obamacare will be. People who have been unable to get medical coverage because of their conditions will now be part of the system — and an expense.

Krepelka said the balance built into Obamacare is that young people, who don’t need much in the way of health care, will pay for the older people who are greater users of services.

Likely, existing insurance rates will increase for those already covered as well, she said.

“There’s information coming out weekly,” she noted, including a Californian’s ability to sign up for insurance that starts in October.

Covered California’s website address is www.coveredca.com. The exchange is also on Facebook and Twitter.

In other news, the CARD board approved the 2013-14 budget unanimously and with no discussion, but directors Jan Sneed and Herman Ellis were not at the meeting.

Time to stand up – contact CARD and ask for a copy of the survey

21 Mar

I have been too busy in my personal life to keep up much chatter here, but I’m hoping to post more about the CARD survey next week.

I am also hoping that people will call the CARD office (895-4711) or e-mail director Ann Willmann and ask for a copy of the survey presented to the board on March 16.  The public is entitled to a copy of anything given to the board, so don’t pay for it. 

Once you’ve read it over, be sure to call back and ask questions. I was relieved to see the League of Women Voter’s observer at the meeting last week, she asked pertinent questions  about the survey. One thing she got out of  the consultant was that respondents were chosen on the basis of where they lived.  

Random eh?

We need more people like Margaret Bomberg in our community. Stand up people, or be had.

CARD survey heavily led, questions close ended – when did 28 percent become “overwhelming support”?

17 Mar

I was surprised to find the CARD board meeting well-attended last night, but I think more people, including city staffers and commission members, were there to hear the discussion  about CARD taking park impact fees from developers. I went to hear the consultant’s report regarding the assessment survey.

Survey? 400 people in a town of over 80,000? I know – but let’s look  at it anyway.

The consultant also spoke of significantly leading respondents, even asking them to choose between pitches at one point.

DSC00215

Can you believe that? The callers actually read these to the respondents and asked them, which one of these pitches would make you want to tax yourself and your neighbors?

Of course, respondents were chosen by demographics – they called people who lived close to various parks, for example, and found those people would certainly support a tax!   

They also reported a very real confusion between CARD parks (ball  fields, playgrounds and neighborhood parks) and Bidwell Park, owned and maintained by the city of Chico.  I think they will try to play that confusion to their advantage. 

I will post more of the survey later.

CARD meeting next week chock full o nuts

12 Mar

Chico Area Recreation District board will hear from their consultant Thursday. EMC ran a phone survey last month regarding a bond or assessment for CARD.  I would like to ask them for a copy of the results, we’ll see what they say.

CARD board will also be discussing taking over the city’s park impact fees on development. 

That’s Thursday March 16, 7pm, at the CARD center on Vallombrosa. 

Call CARD and ask if you can participate in their survey

23 Feb

I got a question from a reader about CARD (Chico Area Recreation District) and their plans to put a revenue measure before property owners, so I gave them the link to the district budget:

http://www.chicorec.com/About-Card/CARD-Resources/Public-Resources/index.html

I wish more people would pay attention to what CARD is doing. I’ve heard the excuses – sure, we’re all busy.  I been busy this week, up to my neck, I’m turning over a rental, so pardon me if I don’t have time for your whining.  I get up at 5 am to do this kind of stuff, try that sometime!  The stars are bright, the sunrise is brilliant, the morning air is fresh and the quiet will astound you. 

At least don’t stand there like a stooge while these bureaucrats pick you clean. Get off your duff, turn off the  tv, and stand up for yourself and your family. Write a letter to the CARD board and tell them to save their money – YOUR money! Tell them you won’t support another revenue measure, you want to see management pay their own benefits. Write a letter to one of the papers, but don’t just sit there waiting to be had.

Call the CARD office at 895-4711 and ask them how you can participate in the survey, see what they say, get back to me.

I sent this letter to the Enteprise Record yesterday. 

Chico Area Recreation District board approved $28,000 for consultant EMC to conduct a phone survey in late February, to vet the voters regarding a proposed revenue measure.

Complaining they are not able to maintain their facilities with a $5.5 million payroll, CARD wants to put a bond or assessment on property owners and take over the city’s developer impact fees.

The real problem is that non-management staff have been restricted to 27 hours or less per week in response to the Affordable Care Act. This has led to cuts in some programs and deferred maintenance for facilities like Humboldt Skate Park and Shapiro Pool. 

Meanwhile, management staffers continue to receive generous benefits, paying only 2 to 6.25 percent of their benefits package, out of salaries exceeding $100,000/year. An auditor reported their $1,758,200 pension deficit will grow by about $55,000 annually. The 2016-17 salary/benefits total of $5.5 million is $287,590 more than 2015-16, even after non-management staffers were restricted to 27 hours per week. 

Of a $7.8 million budget, over $4 million comes from property taxes, park impact fees on development, and homeowner assessments.  The agency spends less than $2 million on “services and supplies,” including maintenance of facilities.  “Capital Funding” is shown as a negative figure. 

Management over-compensation and deferred maintenance of facilities have led CARD to their current situation.    If you receive a call from EMC,  tell them you are not willing to further fund this agency.