Tag Archives: CARD swimming pool tax

CARD Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee discusses feasibility study – consultant to “re-interpret” old survey, run public workshops

14 May

Chico Area Recreation District is moving forward with plans to build an “aquatic center”, looking for a consulting firm to conduct the required feasibility study. Their Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee (AFAC) is currently working on the “Request for Proposal”, first step in the bidding process . The proposals should include plans for “a public process, market analysis, facility programming, a business plan, as well as exploring funding mechanisms and potential partnerships. Services may also include a site analysis, schematic design alternatives and associated construction estimates.”

Reading over the “Anticipated Scope of Work,” I get frustrated. Most of this stuff study could be conducted by CARD staff, especially “Research and document existing aquatic facilities in the region …” A college intern could get that information through the use of a computer and telephone. Why they need to spend $30,000 on what amounts to a basic English class research assignment is beyond me. In fact, CARD staffer Rob Hinderer told the committee that all the demographics information required in the study is available online.

 Looking at other feasibility studies online – including an article that used a couple buying a home as an example – you see it’s just a common sense matter of deciding if the project is a good idea. But consultants are also hired to sell the project – it’s the way they present it, they way they lead the conversation, they don’t ask us if we want it, they tell us why we want it. 

 (From Wikipedia “feasibility study”) Market research study and analysis. This is one of the most important sections of the feasibility study as it examines the marketability of the product or services and convinces readers that there is a potential market for the product or services.[citation needed] If a significant market for the product or services cannot be established, then there is no project.

 Here’s a swimming pool feasibility study from Otto Township Pennsylvania, 2009. Look at the survey – the answers to the questions were provided


I looked at Otto Township, Pennsylvania, on Google. It’s a  small town, for sure, but it looks like less than 1 percent of the town population participated in the study. That’s not a study, that’s called “giving tacit consent.” All the consultant had to do was run the workshops, prove they were adequately noticed to the public, and provide some numbers for attendance. I don’t know if Otto Township got their project, but this is basically how CARD will go about running their aquatic center up our ass.

Here’s something interesting – they are asking potential consultants to “re-interpret” the old mail-in survey done by another consultant two years ago instead of conducting a new survey. Apparently they didn’t like their previous consultant’s findings that “there is no support for this project in the community.”   So, they will pay the new consultant to come up with findings they like out of the same survey. I posted that survey before, I’ll dig it out and do some interpreting of my own – the questions were very leading, including threats that our kids would fall into drugs if we didn’t build them a fancy new Taj Majal swim center. 

I would encourage people to attend the committee meetings, attend CARD board meetings, and write letters to the CARD board and the newspapers, but I would not encourage participation in the workshops unless you plan to be very vocal in your opposition to this project. Otherwise you are just a body in a chair, and they count you in favor.

One of the items listed on the request for proposals is to fix Shapiro Pool. I think they’re just including this option because they’ve had so much stink from the public since they announced Shapiro will be closed for good at the end of Summer 2015.  They originally said that Pleasant Valley pool would also be closed, but that was not mentioned at the meeting. CARD staff says it will cost SOMEWHERE between $275,000 and 1.65 million to fix Shapiro Pool. What’s with that range? There was no explanation. This is just more crap to get the public to approve a new tax of some sort.

What I’d like to know is, why is there no “pool fund” in CARD’s budget? If you’ve been to either pool, it’s obvious they haven’t spent money on maintenance for years. The money has been going into their salaries, benefits and pensions – for which they pay nothing – like water going down a gopher hole.

I’ll try to post the entire draft later  – I have a paper copy, I’ll figure out the best way to post it on the blog when I get a chance.

Do your research on CARD budget, come to some meetings – we need to shut down their tax grab before it gets out of the gate

26 Apr

Chico Area Rec District (CARD) is going to be mounting a phone campaign, I’d say within the next couple of months, maybe sooner, to get the public to support a tax measure. They say the money will go toward a new aquatic center, but we’ll have to wait for the details. If they put the money in the General Fund it can be used for anything, including their pensions.

At the last board meeting I attended, the board approved the hiring of a consultant to conduct the phone campaign, we’ll see how long that takes. I will try to keep an eye on these meetings – regular board meetings are held once a month, on a Thursday around the 15th of the month. Board agendas are posted  on the website, in advance, so it’s easy to keep an eye on them.


They are supposed to notice me if they have an Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meeting, but there’s all kinds of ways to get around the notice list, as I’ve seen over the last couple of years. Who cares about me anyway – the entire community needs to be in on this conversation, and  they need to do a little research to avoid being hood-winked. Here’s a letter I wrote about it to the Enterprise Record:

Last year Chico Area Recreation District announced that Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools had fallen so badly into disrepair they would be closed in 2016.

They’ve talked for over a decade about a new aquatic facility but excessive management salaries and fully paid benefits and pension have caused financial problems. In 2013 they cut staff hours to make a $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS for management pensions.   At an “emergency” meeting April 2, interim director Steve Visconti told the board, “with day-to-day operations, and all these projects, it’s really hard for staff…they are spread so thin…”  

CARD spent $25,000 surveying property owners in 2013 but the bond consultant reported “no support” in the community for an aquatic center, suggesting they mount a campaign to change public sentiment. CARD formed a committee that met without public scrutiny for over a year, contacting designers and other consultants. At the April 16 board meeting, former CARD director Jerry Hughes and Aqua Jets president Brad Geise recommended  a $30,000 phone campaign to convince taxpayers they need to pay for this project. The board approved. 

I’d like to caution the public – do some research on your own before you answer any questions.  CARD budgets, reports, and minutes of their past meetings are available on their website, under “Resources”. The State Controller website shows the salaries and compensation packages:  http://preview.tinyurl.com/nzn3n8c

Juanita Sumner, Chico CA

I don’t know if that link for the State Controller worked, here’s a regular link to that website:


CARD management pay nothing toward their benefits or pensions.

When I talk to my friends who have grown up in Chico they are floored to find out CARD is closing Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools.  I took my kids to those pools for five or six years, and they were packed full for both the CARD swimming lessons and the “rec swim” every afternoon. I remember when people had to line up at 7am on Saturday mornings to sign their kids up for swim lessons, and they would, bringing drive-thru coffee and lawn chairs, staking out the line at 6:30 am three or four Saturdays every  summer.

The pools declined before our eyes. They  had needed to enlarge and update the restrooms at both pools for years, but nothing was done. I watched the same maintenance man lumber between both pools, cursing the equipment as he mended this and monkey-rigged that, trying to keep things running. I remember him admonishing the pool staff – “if you hear  that pump making that noise again, you shut it down!”

One day I listened to a contractor tell the manager at PV pool that the  pool had a crack, that’s why it wouldn’t heat, it was leaking too fast. He said it could be fixed for $2500. The manager responded he didn’t think CARD would pay for it, they wanted to build a new pool. I thought he meant, a new pool at that site, I didn’t know about the proposed aquatic center. Aqua Jets ended up leaving over that crack, taking their business to In Motion Fitness. I believe that loss of revenue really hurt CARD.

Sure, CARD management wants a new pool, but they know it won’t happen for years. Kids whose parents support this thing will not use it. They know most of the revenue will be eaten by administrative costs – their salaries, benefits and pensions. They also know the cost will climb steadily, probably double or triple the $10 – 18 million estimate range  consultant Greg Melton put on it. They know, it may never even happen.

I’ll keep you posted on the phone campaign.



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.