Tag Archives: CARD aquatic center

Why CARD isn’t going to fix Shapiro Pool

11 Nov

Two weeks ago CARD had a “public meeting” to start discussion on their proposed aquatic center. They didn’t notice the meeting ahead, so only about 25 people showed up. They were given a short presentation by a couple of consultants and then asked to break into groups and write down their own wants for such a project. They were encouraged to dream big – water slides, 50 foot competitive pool, therapy pool – you name it!

I had attended the committee meeting earlier that day, and had a different kind of report from the consultants. At the committee meeting they made it clear the public would have to agree to a tax, not only to build this thing, but to maintain it in perpetuity. The consultants both made it clear this facility would be used by a very small portion of the public but would have to be supported by every home owner, renter, business owner and citizen of Butte County.

Consultant Lauren Livingston made it clear – if you  try to charge “users” based on the true cost of this thing, they couldn’t pay. But make it too cheap, and everybody would want to use it, and then it would be too small. “These things are not the cash cow people believe they are…” she said.

David Little, who did not attend the committee meeting, wrote an editorial blaming the consultants for pitching this big dream. I wasn’t at the public meeting, I don’t know what went on there. But at the committee meeting, both of those consultants told the committee they needed to plan something the community would use and could afford. But, committee members, especially Haley Cope and Jackie Santos, kept demanding all the bells and whistles. Cope was really insulting, saying in so many words the community doesn’t know anything and shouldn’t be taken very seriously in the decision making process.  She reminded us she was an Olympic medalist, but I don’t know what kind of grasp she has on the constitution.

Cope kept saying this thing would drag in people for “therapy”. The consultant told them no, there are already therapy pools in town, including a new pool at Enloe. And, he added, insurance companies won’t pay for therapy unless it’s done in a “dedicated therapy pool,” meaning they’d have to build a separate facility up to medical code.

Tom Lando, champing at the bit, declared such a facility would bring in hundreds and hundreds of people from our surrounding areas.  Redding has a pool. Durham has a pool. Willows has a pool. Exactly who does he think is going to drive to Chico to pay a membership at our aquatic center?

The entire time, the consultants kept shooting them down, telling them these facilities never pay for themselves, and they’d have to get some sort of commitment out of the taxpayers before they made any real plans. Certain committee members just wouldn’t understand – they want to bait the public with flashy drawings, without telling them about the cost. They kept demanding that the consultant come up with some sort of plans to show the public, and he kept telling them that’s not what he was hired for.  He was hired to find out what kind of center the public is willing to pay for, and like Little also noted – that’s not coming into the public conversation.

So, reading Little’s editorial, I had to write the following letter:

I attended an Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meeting held before the public meeting October 28 to hear their consultant’s suggestions. 


Dennis Berkshire of Aquatic Design Group and Lauren Livingston of The Sports Management Group made it clear that CARD will need to put a tax measure on the ballot to fund the kind of project AFAC is encouraging. “You can find a bazillion partners who want to use it,” said Livingston, “but none of them bring anything of value.”  Berkshire added we could expect, at best,  “40 – 45 percent annual operating cost recovery” from user fees, the rest would have to be “subsidized” by the taxpayers.  

The cheapest plan I have seen presented so far is $10 million, and the rainbow visions go as high as $28 million.  


Former CARD director and board member Ed Seagle reminded the committee that in 2012 they ran a survey which indicated the public is not willing to be taxed for this project. Since 2012 CARD has spent almost $100,000 on out-of-town consultants, trying to convince the public to pay for an aquatic center which might be used by a projected 15 percent of our population. 


Meanwhile, a local consultant recently reported we can remodel Shapiro Pool for about $550,000. 

Yes, we could have Shapiro better than it was before, for less than $600,000. But we have to remind ourselves what this is really about – it’s about the pension liability CARD has piled up – over $1.7 million –  and how they will pay it.

If you attended the dog and pony show without attending the AFAC meeting, you are being misled

29 Oct

Ann Willmann dropped a little bomb yesterday as she started the Aquatic Facility committee meeting – she announced there would be a public meeting at 7pm last night!   She had noticed me of the AFAC meeting, yesterday, 4pm, but didn’t think I’d be interested in the public meeting held later that evening? Apparently she advertised it somewhere, I’m guessing, about a 4 x 4 ad buried in the back pages of the ER. She announced she’d had 12 e-mail responses – I’m going to throw out another guess here – those were from the people she personally noticed, none of which was me.

Willmann is doing everything she can to shove this aquatic center past the voter’s nose and down our throats. Of course, in the mindless chatter that accompanies all these meetings, she said her son is on a swim team that hopes to use the facility. That’s what this is all about – a pack of dogs making demands for a bigger share of meat for themselves.

If you were not at yesterday’s AFAC meeting, you are being misled. The consultants are here to try and make us believe we need to build a pool for Chico Swim Association.  But, I notice, they are also trying to reel this committee into a more reasonable project – I believe Dennis from Aquatics Design Group was trying to tell them it would be more reasonable and rational to repair the two existing pools. Of course, he is all about getting the taxpayers to float some sort of bond or sales tax increase, but at least he’s trying to calm these people into accepting a more rational end figure.

He told a story about a group he worked with in Walnut Grove. When they handed him a Christmas list of goodies, he handed them back a $29 million price tag. They were shocked. He told them, like he was trying  to tell this group of dummies yesterday, “why don’t you find out what you can afford and give me a call…” They came up with $12 million. 

This group wants all the bells and whistles. At one point, members were discussing the different pool temperatures required for different activities – toddler swim lessons and therapy activities need about 10 degrees warmer water than competition practice. Tom Lando asked, exasperated, “is there no innovative technology to heat water?!”  The sky is the limit for Lando, who makes almost $150,000/year IN PENSION. Both the consultant and committee member Haley Cope rolled their eyes and said “yes, but it’s reeeeeaaaaallllly expensive.”  

Lando is really pushing this project, but I don’t believe he is sincere when he says it’s for the good of the community. He has to keep the money rolling into CalPERS to pay his own pension, I think that’s his biggest motivator. $150,000/year – that’s more than $10,000/month! Where does it all go Tom? Care to throw down $100,000 to pay for the consultants we’ve had in on this thing?

Former CARD directors, past board members, and current pension obligations Ed Seagle and Jerry Hughes both reminded us that CARD ran a survey a couple of years ago that came back negative – Jerry said  it – Chico taxpayers are not willing to pay for this project. Seagle also reminded everybody, these projects never pay for themselves, ever. The consultants told them again and again – at best, they could hope for a “35 – 45% return” from users of this facility, they kept repeating – this pig will have to be subsidized by the voters.

Loren from “Sports Management Group” said the taxpayers have to pay for it – “the community has to make a decision about things worth having…” She said, “you can find a bazillion partners who want to use it, but they don’t bring anything of material value…” Meaning, they don’t want to raise money for funding, and then they don’t want to pay fees based on actual cost. She reminded the group – it’s about “price sensitivity…if you make it cheap enough, everybody will want to use it, and then it’s not big enough…” 

So, let’s face it, this project is a money pit, and here she’s admitting, the users will never pay for it. At one point, citing a job they did in the city of El Paso, Texas, Dennis reported, it was determined that only about 15 percent of the total population would even use the facility. 

Yes, we need swimming pools here. We have two that have been steadily used for years, while meeting the needs of the community, that have been neglected into dysfunction. I used those pools for about 10 years when my kids were small, they were always well attended, but never so crowded that we had to wait in line for anything. Sometimes Shapiro would get kind of hoppin’, and the diving board would get backed up.

In the beginning the pools were clean, the staff was nice and eager to please, they knew the kids by name, played games, mandated “Time Outs”. But, by the time my younger son was in lessons, snot hung in the pool (now we find out the filter at Shapiro has not functioned properly for years), the decks were littered with trash from forbidden food, and the staff would stand around in a circle with their backs to the swimmers and chatter gossip. If you asked them for something they acted like you were standing on their junk. 

When I read the report given by a local pool company, I was shocked to see that CARD, who has been responsible for the pools and their finances for years, had not even kept the pools up to code. Nevermind the ADA – that’s the Americans With Disabilities Act – I’m talking about the health and safety code.


There are trip hazards on the deck at Shapiro, for example – some created by the improper removal of the popular diving board.  

Chico is a city of over 80,000. I can’t believe CARD would so badly mismanage our pools. In the meantime, they’ve continued to pay 100 percent of their management pensions, with a $1.7 million pension liability hanging like a wrecking ball. As I sat in that room yesterday, I looked around at four pension liabilities sitting right in front of me – Seagle, Hughes, Lando and Willman – none of whom pay or paid a penny toward their own retirement.

Just imagine getting a check for $10,000/month, for nothing.  Wow, wouldn’t you think a guy like Tom Lando, who is so quick to put a sales tax increase to the rest of us, would yank out his checkbook and cut a quick one for $10,000? Hey, how about $100,000 Tom? 

The whole meeting yesterday was insulting and outrageous. Yes, Aqua Jets was the only organization represented – none of the other “users”, as Loren speculated, are bringing anything to the table. Aqua Jets has done no fundraising for this project. Yes, they expect all the bells and whistles and the public to pay for it. 

When I get a chance, I’ll sit down and work off my notes, but right now I’m afraid having to hash it all over again would ruin my day. Committee members Haley Cope and Jackie Santos made some really insulting remarks – they wouldn’t have made those remarks in a public meeting, I’ll tell you that right now. 

UPDATE: Here’s the “public notice” Willmann ran with help from her pet news reporter Laura Urseny – notice the date and time this article was posted – 11am, the day of. No wonder only 25 participants – Willmann needs to go. 

CARD seeking pool-related comments at Oct. 28 meeting

Chico >> Chico residents will have a chance to comment about a proposed aquatics facility through the Chico Area Recreation and Park District.

A consultant hired by CARD will be taking input starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Chico Community Center, 545 Vallombrosa Ave.

There is no specific design in mind, but this workshop will help CARD decide what the facility should look like and what activities need to be considered.

CARD’s board has agreed to pay Aquatics Design Group of Carlsbad $50,000, plus $10,000 contingent for the feasibility study.

Willmann says there will be a short program, and then people will be asked to offer their ideas and desires.

CARD hopes to have preliminary information and a broad — not defined — design before Christmas. It will take from five to six months for a finished product to come from the consultants, Willmann said.

During the two-day visit this month, the consultants will also be sitting down one-on-one with stakeholders like competitive and recreational swim groups to get a feel for the swim and water communities, as well as CARD’s aquatics subcommittee.

But the open house is especially designed for the general public.

“It would be nice to have people like parents or grandparents, and to hear what the community wants,” Willmann said.

Willmann said she would ask the community “If there was a different type of pool, what would encourage me to use it?”

Information gathered from previous meetings will be shared with the consultant as well, she said.

The consultants will also be weighing-in on the existing pools CARD uses, which are the ones by Bidwell and Chico junior highs.

At its last board meeting, CARD directors agreed to keep Chico Junior’s Shapiro Pool open through March. Because of its age and amount of maintenance it takes, CARD was going to discontinue its lease of the pool. Both public pools are owned by the Chico Unified School District, which has not been interested in taking over their operation from CARD.

Willmann said one benefit the consultant will bring is the ability to see how much revenue will be brought to CARD depending on the design and size of the proposed facility.

There is no designated budget for the project yet, other than what the consultant will be getting.

Those who can’t make the meeting can write emails or letters to Willmann through annw@chicorec.com or CARD, 545 Vallombrosa Ave., Chico 95926.

Contact reporter Laura Urseny at 896-7756.

CARD aquatic center consultant discusses future of Shapiro Pool, aquatic center feasibility study – CARD Center, Oct. 28, 4pm

17 Oct
Here’s a letter I just sent off to the ER:
CARD Aquatic Facility committee  meets October 28, 4 pm, at the CARD Center on Vallombrosa to hear from the Aquatics Design company  currently conducting a $60,000 feasibility study for the proposed multi-million dollar aquatic center. 

CARD has discussed putting a bond before the voters to pay for a $10 million-plus facility that will be largely devoted to the use of the Chico Swim Association. They are also discussing the futures of Shapiro and Pleasant Valley Pools. Now that both have been badly neglected for years and a consultant is recommending roughly $500,000 in repairs just  for Shapiro, CARD wants to dump responsibility for these pools back on Chico Unified. Meanwhile, they’ve spent nearly $100,000 on studies for this multi-million dollar aquatic center. 
Senior CARD management, with salaries over $100,000 a year, pay nothing toward their own retirement. The most recent figure available on their pension liability – that’s the difference between what retired CARD employees will collect in pension and what they’ve paid into the system – was for June, 2014 – $1,700,721.     
Do you want a bond on your home to pay the outrageous expenses of an agency that doesn’t maintain it’s facilities? For employees who don’t pay anything toward their 70% pension out of their six figure salaries? What is the future for Shapiro and Pleasant Valley Pools? If you care, try to put aside an hour or two for Wednesday, October 28, 4pm, and tell this taxing entity what you think. 

If you don’t attend another meeting all year, here are a couple that would be worth your time

26 Jul

Two meetings I will attend this week are the Airport Commission meeting on Tuesday (July 28) at city chambers, 6pm, and a CARD budget meeting Thursday (July 30) at 3pm at Lakeside Pavilion out at Cal Park.

The Airport Commission will be discussing the airport budget, with a report from consultants AFCO AvPORTS (sic). AFCO is working under a $190,000 contract. They will report on their efforts to get commercial air service back to Chico Airport.

I’m curious to see what they could possibly add to the conversation that Chico Chamber director Katy Simmons has not already told us. Here’s my guess  – they want about $300,000 allocated from the city’s general fund to pay a new airport manager. Then they want hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money, spent over the next five or so years, with no guarantee that commercial air service will be restored.

First there’s the matter of a $60,000 study as to “who flies out of the airport and where they go“. This seems to have been answered in a recent survey done by the Chamber, in which only about 60 individuals indicated they used the airport on anything resembling a regular basis. Why the city continues to pursue this avenue is anybody’s guess.

CARD will discuss their budget, looking for public comment, and I hope they get it. But, I’m not expecting many attendees at a 3 pm weekday meeting in Cal Park. CARD staff and the board seem to be bending over backwards to keep the public out of their meetings.

One budget issue that screams for public comment is the study they want to fund for the aquatic center – the price has jumped from about $30,000 to about $75,000. Yeah, for a study.

I would hope to see some other members of the public at these meetings.

At last, somebody is paying attention to CARD aquatic center discussion

23 Jul

At last somebody is paying attention to the CARD aquatic center discussion. Enterprise Record letter writer Sam Goepp raises the reality that CARD’s proposed aquatic center will never pay for itself – out going CARD board member Ed Seagle made that statement repeatedly in early discussions of this project, but the rest of the board didn’t listen.

Mr. Goepp hasn’t seen the proposals, because CARD hasn’t been public with this discussion. They are planning the amenities he’s listed below, with cost estimates up to about $20 million dollars. I think their estimates are low, this project will go millions in overrun. They’ve already more than  doubled the price on the feasibility study, from around $30,000 to $75,000. Tom Lando wants the city of Chico to take money out of the park fund to pay for it. 

Thanks to Sam Goepp for paying attention and taking the time to write a letter to the paper.

from Chico Enterprise Record:

CARD needs to admit to aquatic center realities

I cannot bite my tongue any longer after reading about CARD allocating more than $30,000 to pay for an aquatic consultant to tell them what they can learn through professionals for free. Simple facts about public pools: 90 percent of people want to be in water 3 feet or less while 10 percent of swimmers are competitive or lap swimmers.

So who do you build a pool for? The general public or a special-interest group that will be vocal about the economic benefits and their willingness to contribute? Then once the costs to operate exceed $750,000 annually, everyone will be in shock as to the expense to operate without any true revenue generated by the aquatic facility.

The comment that the city of Chico has $3.6 million in the park fund gives the impression they think city money belongs to CARD. Keep in mind that they will need triple that figure. No community can afford a true competitive 50-meter pool. Just ask the city of Long Beach. For the Olympic trials they built two temporary pools and once trials were over they sold them. Why? Too expensive to maintain.

Bottom line: If you are committed to build an aquatic facility, you need to realize 50-meter pools are expensive and cannot be used for the recreational swimmer as they are too large and deep to accommodate families. The general public will need splash pads, water slides, a lazy river, a zero-depth entry feature, children play structures and deck space for tables, chairs, umbrellas and concessions.

— Sam Goepp, Durham

Aquatic Center stand-off: nobody wants to take this dog to the taxpayers

4 Apr

Sorry I have not had a chance to finish my post about the CARD meeting. In fact, I was unable to attend the entire meeting. But I did hear an interesting conversation in the hallway between aquatic center proponent Jerry Hughes and design consultant Greg Melton.

Melton has done a lot of work for both the city of Chico and CARD over the past few years. He designed the traffic circles on Manzanita. He did design work at DeGarmo Park, although I don’t know if he’s responsible for the gaff they made that caused flooding and thousands of dollars in repair work within six months of the opening of that park. Melton has also been running “charettes” for the city and CARD, for the skate board park, Caper Acres remodel, etc. He takes in the community’s comments and turns them into money, most of which goes into his pocket.

Melton is the one who turned a $125,000 gift from Marilyn Warrens into a $475,000 bridal bower. When the board balked at that price and asked him to come back with something for $250,000, he balked, saying he couldn’t do anything for that price. He finally came up with a design for $306,000 that the board gushed all over, because it’s not their money paying for it. Melton even talked the donor into giving another $25,000. Oh gee, Greg Melton can make it rain money!

Melton is the only local designer who’s given a proposal for the aquatic center. 


The cheapest design he’s got there is over $10 million, with almost $2 million going into “design and management soft costs” – that’s Melton. Of course he puts up the $18 million design first – wow, $550,000 “design contingency”. 

But he knows how to play it – you should have seen him schmoozing Mrs Warrens – I kept hearing Debbie Harry shrieking “Call Me!” as I watched, it was sickening.   Melton has got himself a sweet hayride, and he knows how to milk a cow, that’s for sure. My milkshake tastes better than yours…

So when he took his moneymaker out into the hallway, I went along for a listen. Jerry Hughes is very frustrated with the board, and it sounds like he’s not getting a lot of cooperation out of Aquajets, either. In previous meetings, Aquajets has been told, they need to get out and engage the public, start drumming up support for this aquatic center. They haven’t done anything – look, it’s not even mentioned on their website:


Hughes had addressed the board at the beginning of the meeting, asking them why the aquatic center wasn’t on the agenda (they explained it was on the list that was not made available to the attendees) and asked if the board had received a communication he’d sent. They acted confused. He told them he’d been meeting with Brad Geiss of Aquajets, and they were working on getting proposals from various contractors and consultants. He said he wanted to schedule an aquatic center committee meeting before the next regular board meeting, and the board thought that would be great. Jan Sneed added that such a meeting needed to be noticed to the public, how big of her.

Hughes sat down and Sneed started the meeting. Visconti got up and provided what might be the “emergency” excuse – he said CARD’s “line of revolving credit” was about to expire, an emergency fund that is tapped into for emergencies, he said, using that word again. Visconti needed the boards’ approval to reapply. This was an emergency?  Visconti couldn’t bring this up at the last regular board meeting less than two weeks ago? 

I don’t know the Brown Act, I wish somebody with legal expertise would look into these meetings. I’m hoping to get Rose’s take on it.

As the board ran down the list, Melton made his presentation, then Hughes motioned for him to come out in the hall. Hughes wanted to assure Melton that his design was the only real proposal submitted, the most complete anyway, and that he was still in the running.  They both agreed, the board needs to make more of a commitment before any of the consultants will submit a serious proposal. Melton seemed to be fine with working with other agencies, there’s a lot of money in this project for lots of hogs. 

Melton asked  Hughes if they’d done any kind of public survey – Hughes said No. I don’t know why he didn’t mention the survey run a couple of years ago that came back negative, unless it’s because he’s in denial of the community’s rejection of this project. The consultant who ran the survey told the board they needed to get out and sell this project to the public, convince the taxpayers of the absolute need for this Taj Majal swim center when there are already two decrepit and neglected public pools under CARD’s lack of attention. There has been no such attempt. Nobody wants to take this pig out in traffic.  Jerry Hughes can’t even write a letter to the editor. There is no public support for this pool. Hughes was expressing his frustration that the project is not moving fast enough – well, look at this guy, he doesn’t have that much time left to wait. He’s desperate to do this project, and nobody really wants it as badly as he does, unless it’s Brad Geiss. Melton also mentioned, and Hughes agreed – they have to find some way to fund it.  They were sensitive to my presence, and wouldn’t say “tax” right in front of me, but Melton remarked that they needed to “get everybody involved.” I went back into the meeting, and Hughes came back in about a minute later.  Melton followed.

They board and staff were discussing other projects – unbelievable. One project they didn’t have on the list is the Americans with Disabilities Act. I don’t care how you feel about this law, it’s the law. If you were in a wheelchair I think you’d have some things to say about the number of CARD buildings and facilities that are NOT ADA compliant. At the board meeting last month they talked about spending $40,000 on a STUDY to find out how noncompliant they are! But here they were Thursday morning making an “emergency” out of deciding which Pollyanna projects they want to spend millions of dollars adding to their inventory of neglected facilities. 

I had to leave at 10am, I don’t get paid to sit in these meetings. I had to rely on Urseny’s story – which is bullshit. She says the subject of the aquatic center was “tabled” – no it wasn’t, they’re going to have a committee meeting and a report at the next regular board meeting, that’s not “tabling.” Urseny is embedded – how else would CARD have got a story in the ER with 24 hours notice of a meeting? You wouldn’t believe what the ER put me through trying to notice my CTA meetings – send the notice in 4 weeks in advance, and then they didn’t run it – this happened several times. I still have the e-mail apologies from David Little.

When I got a chance I looked at the Aquajets website for any mention, any pleas for money for this center, and all I find is cannibalism. That’s what I call it when an organization does not do any external fund raising, no public events, just expects it’s members to continually come up with money out of their own pockets. They do a yearly fundraiser, for which they sell the tickets to each other and their relatives (wouldn’t you hate to be the co-worker of one of these parents?). Then they do “Pizza Night” at Woodstocks. Woodstocks offers a program that is good for their own bottom line – they give your organization vouchers to turn in when they buy a pizza, and then Woodstocks makes a donation to your organization for every voucher. They allow your organization to have meetings, as long as pizza is being eaten. So, Aquajets turns all their meetings into Pizza Night. When I looked at their “news” page this was the only timely event listed. 

March PIZZA NIGHT is TOMORROW – Tuesday, March 31, at Woodstock’s starting at 6:00 pm. Please give a Woodstock’s coupon when ordering. Polar Bear prizes will be awarded, as well as Swimmer of the Month, and upcoming team info.

I think the biggest “fundraiser” is the fees these families pay to have their kids in this program. On most levels it’s just babysitting. There are coaches for the more motivated competitors. I don’t know if the coaches are paid but from what I’ve seen at tournaments they act like they are coaching Olympic hopefuls.   Geiss hits these people for money around every corner.  I can understand why they would scream for the taxpayers to pay if they were put to the wall, but I’m not sure how many of them actually feel any need for a new center. I’m guessing most of these families are in and out of the club in a few years, they use it for babysitting while they do their work-out at In Motion, there’s no reason for them to want to put up a wad for some new center that won’t be built before their kid goes off to college.

As a hockey mom I know how these fees pile up – most of it goes to pay for the facilities at which the tournaments are held.  Unlike Aquajets, our hockey league floated their own boat, and still does.  Our manager Jeff Novak is a volunteer and does a darned good job of rounding up big sponsors for our facility in Hamilton City (Chico wouldn’t permit it, so the league went to Glenn County, long story short). Our bookkeeper is a volunteer, there’s only one paid coach, most of the coaches are dads.  My husband and I managed our kid’s team, and that involved spending a few hours a month online, dealing with other clubs, filling out applications for tournaments and sending or handing over the check to the other league for their facilities. Sponsors keep the fees affordable, that’s for sure, my family couldn’t have done it if the players had to come up with all the money. 


See sponsors here, compare this to Aquajets sponsors:


Like I said, NVHSC manager Jeff Novak gets no salary, but puts hours and hours into raising money for the league. I’m pretty sure Aquajets General Manager Brad Geiss gets a salary, anybody’s guess, because this group does not have to answer questions like that. I don’t know how many hours he spends on fundraising.  I’m guessing Geiss is hoping to become a public worker, as manager of the new center. 

But right now, Hughes, Geiss, and the CARD board seem to be throwing that hot potato of public funding back and forth. Nobody wants to identify themselves with a tax measure. 

Rose was the only other member of the public I saw at this meeting. Everybody else at that meeting had a vested interest in being there. No city councilors, no county supervisor, the only member of the press Urseny, who as I’ve said, knocks herself out to shine a favorable light on CARD. 



CARD calls “special meeting” to prioritize projects – including aquatic center – tomorrow (Thursday), 9am, at the CARD center on Vallombrosa

1 Apr
Something I learned at the Brown Bag the Brown Act workshop I attended was that “special meetings” can be held to get around the notice requirements. They only need to notice them 24 hours in advance, and by “notice” I mean, they just have to post an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper on a door at the CARD center. In this case, for whatever reason, Laura Urseny picked it up and it was reported in the Enterprise Record. 
This is the story Urseny should have been doing months ago, but here it is. You’ll note, everything I’ve said is true, and then some. Chico Area Recreation District is strapped for money, can hardly meet obligations (like the $900,000 something owed on the Lakeside Pavilion) and, as Visconti himself admits, they have too many projects dangling in front of them, but the board  entertains anybody who wants to do anything. For example, they  really led the bocce ball club on,  they acted  as thought the bocce court was really going to happen.  In recent discussions they’ve agreed they can’t afford to keep the skateboard park open, it’s a crime problem, they want to turn it over to the city, but oh yeah, sure, let’s put a million or so into a bocce ball court, that sounds feasible folks.
I’m beginning to see why Haynes left – the board is out to lunch. Sometimes I think Tom Lando is trying to bring the rest of the board members around to sense, trying to tell them they are stretching the agency too thin with all these projects, but they ignore him.
And I also see a tug of war over who will pay for the studies regarding this aquatic center – in the beginning, the Aquajets, represented by Brad Geiss and a dozen or so unidentified “supporters,” said they would pay for this stuff. Now all the sudden CARD is paying for it, with money they get from our property taxes.  They’re still not being honest about the tax measure – you have to go to these meetings folks, and listen, you can’t get your news from the newspaper.
Proposed aquatic center, spending plan on CARD agenda

Chico >> Prioritizing a basketful of projects that are all on the front burner, plus an expenditure and a possible tax measure, are the reasons for a special meeting Thursday of the Chico Area Recreation and Park District board of directors.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the Chico Community Center, 545 Vallombrosa Ave. It will be followed by the board’s annual tour of the facilities.

Acting General Manager Steve Visconti noted the board has accumulated a number of active projects, and coupled with the staff’s daily responsibilities, has become “a strain.” He’d like to find out what projects the board feels are most important.

Several of the projects include financial obligations, expenditures or amounts already budgeted by the board.

For example, CARD has been involved in a discussion about a proposed community aquatics center that has been part of its master plan. In its current budget, $30,000 has been set aside by the board for consulting services.

CARD has been asked by center supporters to pay for a feasibility study regarding the center. The study would “help the board decide the direction it would like to go,” according to a report by Visconti. The study would help the board clarify its involvement and how the center would be funded. Previously, the board has mentioned a possible a tax measure that CARD would put before the voters, among other options.

The staff is also working on an Americans With Disabilities Act transition plan that would identify needed improvements throughout the district to meet the legal requirements. About $40,000 has been budgeted for a consultant to finish the plan.

Recently, CARD has been working on a proposed rose garden and event center utilizing a citizen’s donation of more than $100,000. A previous plan proposed at $482,000 has been scaled back, but the current staff is asking for a little more. The board asked for the project to stay in the $250,000 range, but staff has suggested an increase to $307,000 in belief the revised project could recover the extra costs more quickly.

Also on the board’s to-do list are a bicycle pump track, the Humboldt skate park, a second dog park, the update of the master plan, and new software that would replace current software for registration.

The bicycle pump track has $9,000 budgeted, which was reallocated from a security camera project at the skate park. The registration software “will no longer be supported” in 2016 and needs to be replace at a cost of $40,000 to $50,000, Visconti noted.

Contact reporter Laura Urseny at 896-7756.

CARD moves meetings to Cal Park, moves ahead hiring consultant for proposed aquatic center

22 Mar

Thursday night I attended the regular Chico Area Recreation District Board meeting to see what I could find out about plans to build an aquatic center. What I saw and heard made me feel even more strongly that there’s a back room effort to get this project past the voters. The board voted unanimously to hire a consultant to come up with a proposal to sell to the taxpayers.

Jerry Haynes is out as CARD general manager and Steve Visconti has stepped back in to fill the interim while the board has (you guessed it!) hired a consultant to get a new director. They have had one director after another, Visconti “retiring’ last year only to be tapped to fill in again. One woman left citing “differences with the board” and the paper insinuated there was hostility. Now Haynes has left, citing same.  I don’t frankly know how anybody can get along with Board member Jan Sneed, who attacked me verbally and physically one night after a meeting. She’s hostile, I’ll tell you what, and I’m guessing you either do what she wants or you’re out of a job. CARD has an interesting staff history.

The General Manager of Chico swim team Aquajets was asked for a progress report on that committee that hasn’t been having any meetings. He said he was speaking on behalf of longtime CARD manager and board member Jerry Hughes, who has been the spokesperson for this effort from the beginning. I realize, they’ve taken everything into an “ad hoc” committee of Hughes and Brad, and therefore do not have to notice the meetings or include me in any way. But, Brad had a proposal for the board, they said they’d all received it. Despite Brown Act rules saying any document presented to the board must be available to the public, there were no copies. 

Brad told the board they needed to hire a consultant to design the new center, and the board voted to do so. End of conversation! 

I had to leave at that point, so I emailed the next morning asking for that proposal. CARD staffer Jennifer Marciales sent me a version that won’t cut and paste, but here’s the link:

3-9-15 Jerry Hughes Document

I noticed a little strain between the board and Brad. When he was done making his demand, Brad left with my husband and I, got into a very expensive little sports car, and zipped out. I really get a kick out of these people who come with their hand out for public money – same for the Cannons and their Bocce Ball request – they never come to these meetings, they don’t know ANYTHING about the CARD budget or the other programs, but they come in and demand money for something that serves less  than one percent of the city population.   But never any talk about how they will pay for it when they’re laying off workers to avoid paying Obamacare.

I noticed in this report that there have been three design proposals already submitted, but the only one I’ve seen is from local consultant Greg Melton, I posted that on this blog previously. So, I asked Marciales to send me the other two proposals,  but I haven’t heard back from her yet. 

Since I sat in on the Brown Act workshop with League of Women Voters, I’ve realized how little respect these  agencies have for the public.

I also asked Marciales why the meeting location was suddenly moved from the central CARD center on Vallombrosa to the very distant and removed Lakeside Pavillion. She answered, “the Board has requested that the Regular Board Meetings be held at Lakeside Pavilion”  That’s it, no explanation, just “let them eat cake…”

CARD Aquatic Center Design Cost Estimates

14 Feb

CARD Aquatic Center Cost Estimates (1)

CARD responds! with updates

12 Feb

Hi Juanita,


I just wanted to let you know that based upon your conversation with our General Manager last week, you have already been placed on the notification list for upcoming Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meetings.  At this time, there are no meetings scheduled.


If you have any questions, please let me know.


Thank you,


Jennifer Marciales
Executive Assistant
(530) 895-4711
Chico Area Recreation and Park District
545 Vallombrosa Avenue
Chico, CA 95926

Well, that’s funny, I hadn’t given Mr. Haynes my e-mail, I’d told him I’d send it. I sent it that day, in the automatic form they give you on the CARD website, because Mr. Haynes had not given me his e-mail either. It took this gal almost two weeks to get back to me – funny thing, after my letter had run in the paper, and on the very day I’d posted it on the blog. But oh well, at least she responded.

I did have a couple of questions, so sent her the following response:

Thank You,

I didn’t give Mr. Haynes my e-mail, thanks for the follow-up.  I’ve been asking to be on this committee notification list since it was formed, and reports have been given of meetings but I never received notices of those meetings. Now you’re saying, despite designs having been made for this proposed center and talk of an assessment on property owners, there are no more meetings scheduled? I’ll be looking forward to notification of any future meetings, but I’ll be watching the board agenda too.

One question I have right now is, I would like to ask you for an exact figure on the designs presented for the aquatic center by Melton Design Group – the newspaper gave a ballpark figure of “$30,000 to $60,000”, but I’m sure you can give me a more specific figure. 

I had originally called to ask Mr. Haynes about the assessment process, which he refused to discuss with me. Since that call I have found a copy of the engineers report dated fiscal year 2013-14, in which SCI Consultant Group give a detailed report regarding assessment of property owners. If I have any questions about that I’ll be sure to get back to you. 

I’ve cc-d the news editors because I have either spoken to them about this issue or sent letters to the papers about it.

Thanks again for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner

UPDATE 2/14/15

Did I not make myself clear in my request? “I would like to ask you for an exact figure on the designs presented for the aquatic center by Melton Design Group – the newspaper gave a ballpark figure of ‘$30,000 to $60,000’, but I’m sure you can give me a more specific figure…”

She sent me the actual design proposals, with price tags, but did not answer my question about the cost of the proposal. I had to write back to her. I try to be nice, but sometimes I feel like these people are just messing with me. 

UPDATE 2/18/15

Well, sometimes people aren’t messing with me! Although it took her several business days to respond, Jennifer Marciales finally got back to explain to me the figures I had seen in an article in the Enterprise Record. The $30-60,000 figure I saw was an estimate for the full designs, not the price for the proposals. She says the proposals were simply submitted by Melton Design Group, with prices tags for each proposal ranging from $30 – 60,000. I’m sorry, that makes sense now, but it didn’t make sense when the folks at CARD were acting so weird about sharing public  information.

Thanks Jennifer! 

 There is a CARD meeting tomorrow night, with some interesting items on the agenda:


You find these agendas at the CARD website, under “CARD resources”, “board of directors”.  I will not be able to attend tomorrow night, I have another meeting that is a one-shot, so I’m attending that. These CARD meetings are easy to attend, held at the CARD center on Vallombrosa, they start and  end very promptly, I’d say, over by 8:30, tops. Everybody who pays taxes in the greater Chico area should attend these meetings once in a while.