Tag Archives: chico aquajets

CARD: new aquatic center study doubles in price to $75,000 – rec district wants city of Chico to pay for it

18 Jul

According to Laura Urseny in the Enterprise Record,   

“Getting close to the end of their budget cycle, the Chico Area Recreation and Park District board agreed to tweak the preliminary budget numbers slightly on Thursday.

Board member Tom Lando asked for more money to be dedicated to the aquatic center study after learning that it will take more than what was allocated for a consultant to do a feasibility study.

Lando and board member Bob Malowney interviewed several consultants, and explained that applicants were excellent, but more expensive than anticipated.

The board had set aside $30,000, but Lando asked that be boosted to $75,000, pulling the extra out of CARD reserves.

At her first board meeting, General Manager Ann Willmann said she would adjust the preliminary budget to reflect the change before the board’s final discussion and adoption of the budget at their next meeting, 9 a.m. July 23 at the Chico Community Center.

Chair Jan Sneed called the extra funding “shocking” but did not object to the additional allocation, noting that it will be further discussed.

“The $30,000 is not enough for the study,” Lando said.

Lando said he hopes that CARD can tap the city’s park fund, which he said has about $3.6 million and could reimburse CARD for the aquatic center feasibility study. The center would be of community benefit and qualify for the fund.

Thursday was the public hearing for the preliminary budget, and only one person commented. Jim Gregg, who said his family is involved in AquaJets, lauded the board for pursuing the aquatic center. Mentioned in CARD’s master plan, the aquatic center has been discussed for years and is proposed on city-owned property near Marsh Junior High off Humboldt Road.”



So, if that’s the cost of the study, how will CARD ever be able to build the pool without a property tax assessment or bond?

CARD still moving toward assessment for Aquajets swimming center

28 Jan

I’m sorry I have not been following the latest activities of Chico Area Recreation District – CARD.  This morning I’m noticing – Laura Urseny didn’t cover the last meeting either. I see I will have to get out that poker again.

The CARD board announced their intention to put out an assessment ballot. Last week they assigned board members to committees – including an aquatic center “ad-hoc” committtee – meaning, they don’t have to announce those meetings to the public, or keep particularly good notes. 

One thing I will do today is call the CARD office and ask them point blank about the assessment – how will it be done? 

I notice, Ed Seagle is out, replaced by Bob Malowney, owner of the yo-yo store Downtown. Seagle, unfortunately, was the only board member who seemed to have any sense of propriety on the aquatics center, being very honest about lack of support in the community, the cost of such a venture, and the sad fact that “these things never pay for themselves.” Malowney is pro-aquatic center, I think that’s why he ran. 

When my kid’s hockey league took off, they had to get sponsors. As the long-time owner of a successful local business, I’d like to see Bob Malowney take out his check book and fund the studies that are now being funded by CARD, but he has made no such offer. Jan Sneed, another aquatics supporter, is not poor either – she could easily afford to write a check for $10,000 or more. So could a lot of the proponents of this center, but they keep their purse shut, expecting us to foot the bill for their kids in Aquajets.

For that matter, why isn’t Aquajets doing more to fund this proposal? When I attended the early meetings, it was all Aquajets parents and grandparents, the Aquajets manager (who gets a paycheck), and some folks from the school district (the proposed pool will be on CUSD property, the existing pools are owned by CUSD but are supposed to be maintained by CARD). There is no support for this pool from the general community, but the Aquajets people are just standing there with their palms up. They don’t even have anything about it on their website.  When writing about this, Laura Urseny coquettishly refers to them as “a local swim organization.”

Meanwhile, Pleasant Valley and Shapiro pools have been neglected into the ground for years, while the money has gone into pensions and benefits for which CARD employees pay NOTHING. Only about 33 management employees get those fully-paid pensions and benefits – last year the board voted unanimously to cut the rest of the work force – the folks who actually provide the public with services – to 28 hours or less to avoid paying for Obamacare.  They had to cut programs as a result, the rec supervisor saying they’d cut 200 kids from one popular program, and were left with two part-time employees to supervise the other 300 kids. 

I’ll get back to you on the assessment procedure.




Chico Enterprise Record reporter Laura Urseny seems determined to pull the wool over the taxpayers’ eyes on CARD’s aquatic center boondoggle

18 May

Chico Enterprise Record, 5/16/2014:  “At Thursday night’s CARD board meeting, center representative and former CARD board member Jerry Hughes asked the CARD board to consider setting aside $30,000 for the aquatic center effort.  He said that money would be used to hire a consultant for a feasibility study.”

I find it really interesting that Enterprise Record “reporter” Laura Urseny, who covers CARD and attends all the meetings, chose not to tell us that CARD just put out money for a consultant for a “feasibility study”  – remember the little survey they floated last year?

I sat in on the consultant’s report – she said there was no support at that time for an aquatic center, and that CARD needed to “build support in the community.” That’s what this new consultant is all about – how will they convince us that we need to put a bond on our homes to pay for an aquatic center?

According to Director Steve Visconti, “There’s not enough to build an aquatic center; we’re talking millions. But we do have $30,000. We can do a conceptual plan or help with the process.”

What neither Visconti nor Urseny will ever  tell you is that CARD is on the hot seat for their unfunded pension liability.  Last year, in addition to $300,000 spent annually, they made a “one time” $400,000 paydown to avoid penalties from CalPERS. CARD employees pay nothing toward their own retirement – 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at age 55.    Visconti is set to retire soon on 70 percent of $112,000.

“Earlier in the week, an outreach meeting for potential partners and funding sources was held that attracted about 30 organizations that came together to hear about the proposed center. ” Really?  I signed up to be noticed of these meetings and they dumped me from the list. I have to ask, what 30 organizations, how about naming them? Why are CARD and Urseny so secretive about this whole aquatic center thing? Because they’re in those meetings talking about how they will get the public to pay for their pipe dreams.

Laura Urseny is not a news reporter – she’s nothing but a busybody. Oh yeah, I hear you – “look who’s talking…”  Well, it’s my purse they’re sticking their pudgy mitts into, and I’ll tell you what – they’re going to draw back a stump.



Aquatic Center efforts go underground

18 Oct

I came away from last night’s CARD board meeting feeling like they aren’t going to fully discuss their aquatic center plans in front of me because I’ve criticized them publicly. I also saw something last night that tells me, these kind of people serve on these boards to forward their own interests, CARD doesn’t really serve the community. It serves the board members’ friends.

We sat through an audit report from Mattson and Isom. The woman reminded me of a school  teacher, she was very professional and cheerful.  I won’t pretend to understand or care. Of course she found everything in order – as long as they keep records of where the money goes, an auditor doesn’t care that they spend it all on their own salaries and pensions.  She was speaking as an auditor, not a person who pays for it out of her property taxes. Of course she gushed all over the board at the end of her report and told them how thankful M&I is to get their business, leaving as they moved along to the next item.  

The bottom line was, CARD revenues are down because the board has cut programs and cut staff, but they have continued to make the payments to CalPERS for benefits and pensions. Two of the board members, Tom Lando and Ed Seagal, are CalPERS pensioners, and Herman Ellis receives a pension through Cal State Chico. The conflict of interest seems obvious to me.  But the board moved right along to “Unfinished Business.” 

A regular item on this list, the Humboldt Skate Park is of constant concern down at CARD. From the time it was built, we’ve seen that it was poorly planned, never should have been done. It’s too small, stuck in a corner of town where no kids live, and destined to be a homeless hangout. It’s concealed by that stupid fence so people can do drugs, ride bikes, even cars! and vandalize, without the scrutiny of the non-interested cops or the unknowing public.  I’s closed due to vandalism at least twice a year, for weeks at a time. It has a bigger maintenance budget than larger area parks.  

Maintenance superintendent Jake Preston showed photos taken from the internet of “brawls” and even of a small car being driven inside the gated fence.  Board member Jan Sneed reported that she went into the skate park and had a conversation with some “hardcore skaters” who told her they’d “beat up” any high school kids who tried to use the skate park.  Instead of having these losers arrested, she says they need to  be part of the committee to figure out what to do about the problems. 

Does she think this is Mayberry RFD? 

Maintenance director Preston laid out four possibilities: 

  • leave the park as is
  • close and eliminate the park
  • give it back to the city of Chico
  • create a positive atmosphere with some supervision and even programs

I was surprised when about half dozen members of the established “skate community” attended the meeting, three of them stood up to talk about ways the park could be improved. Two of them agreed the park was too small. All three agreed with Jake Preston that the park is in a horrible location. They all blame the “bums” for the drug and alcohol use, the syringes and other paraphernalia that litters the site, and the constant reek of pee. They also pointed out that the best skate parks are private and charge a small entrance fee.  They said they drive regularly to Sacramento and San Jose to pay to skate. 

The board listened attentively and respectfully to these people. One thing I’ll say about CARD meetings is, the speakers are treated better. The board members don’t go on with their bullshit philosophy for hours on end, these meetings are very businesslike. But, I also noticed a distinct difference between the way they treat the skate board park and how they later treated the  folks who want an aquatic center.

For the skate board park, they want to “create ownership” – have some non-profit take it over. For one thing, bless his heart – Jake Preston is sick of the Humboldt Skate Park. I don’t blame him. He’s being made to be a babysitter for druggies and creeps who want to hide in that fenced yard where the cops can’t see them doing deals and shooting up. Preston clearly does not want to be responsible for the skate park anymore, and neither does the board. They want to hand it off to some bunch of dummies like the Outsiders, who took on the frisbee golf course at Five Mile.  These groups can then apply for grants to do the maintenance, and CARD washes their hands of it. 

That sounds great until that group falls apart. These facilities always end up degrading with time and neglect, and turn into a problem again. And, the skate park is poorly designed, too small to be safe, and tucked away into a corner where everybody admits – the homeless have “owned” that spot since before I was born. When I was a kid, that’s where “Bidwell’s indians” used to sit around and get drunk all day along the creek. 

But that discussion ended with Ed Seagle’s suggestion to start a “Chico Skate Board  Club” to pay for some supervision of the park.  Charging a membership fee to get in, and demanding membership cards would “get rid of the riff raff,” he says. As for the “money issue,” Seagle mentions contacting local businesses, “so we don’t have to spend any money…” on a CARD owned property. Wow, great Ed, thanks for your support. The discussion ended with the formation of another committee to continue studying things – more study?    Jake Preston handed his card to the skaters as they left the room.

And then it was off and running to the aquatic center discussion, which was a whole new ballgame.  They talked about the 15 people who signed up for the committee (only one had signed up at the Sept 23 meeting), but argued over that being too many – “we’ll never get anything done with that many people,” opined one board member. Director Steve Visconti suggested the list be paired down by having each applicant submit “a letter of intent,” with information about themselves and their interest in the project. Oh? Pick and choose, eh? This committee is starting to sound kind of exclusive.   They talked about wanting more “stakeholders” on board – they only have one right now – and I’m guessing, that’s the Aquajets manager who was the only one to sign up at the Sept 23 meeting.  Aquajets are considered a “stakeholder,” but not a member of the general public? They want people with some sort of credentials, is what I get. How about this – I  can bring my cancelled tax payment checks? 

At one point in the conversation, Jan Sneed, one of the longest running members, declared that the board needed to decide whether or not CARD would take an active part in this aquatic center promotion before there was any further discussion. She seemed to feel they were violating some rule.  So, they voted unanimously to support this project.  

While they refused to talk about funding, Visconti mentioned that the next step would be for CARD to pay an artist to come up with drawing of the proposed center.   Here we go – CARD money! This is not appropriate, as far as I’m concerned, but they also chose to pay about $40,000 for a survey that they aren’t listening to. The survey indicated the public would not support an aquatic center, but Laura Urseny indicated in her article in yesterday’s ER that they still intend to pursue a bond. They refused to talk about that last night, I believe, because I was sitting right there. 

Ed Seagle did make a remark about finding a “stakeholder with deep pockets,” but that didn’t even get a response. Instead they opened the meeting to public comment, and of course the first “member of the public” to stand up was former CARD director and board member Jerry Hughes. First Hughes argued that they should have another publicly noticed meeting, try to get more members of the public “to commit”. But, he also detailed past attempts at “getting the public to commit.” Failure 40 years ago, failure 20 years ago, and he still insists we “need” an aquatic center. He ignored the results of the recent survey, which indicated, not enough support.  Two public swimming pools that CARD has refused to maintain, a skate park they are trying to pawn off on somebody else, but we NEED an aquatic center? The people have spoken again and again, but Hughes and his friends, mostly Aquajets grandparents who remember how many times this effort has failed but refuse to see why, still insist we need this ridiculous money pit.  There is NOT sufficient interest in swim sports here to build a fucking Taj Majal aquatic center, get over it!

Hughes and another speaker tried that old tack – “what an economic boon to Chico!”  One woman claimed a swim meet in brings 3,000 people to town. I don’t want to call her liar, but I would like to see some numbers on that from a more reliable source, like local hotels, restaurants and gas stations. Maybe she meant, several meets over a year? 

Here Ed Seagle broke in,  admitting, in a very frustrated tone, “The reality is, most pools barely break even…”

But Seagle had a bad case of double speak last night.  He acts like he’s uninterested, but went ahead and voted to form a committee of Sneed and Worley to oversee the citizen’s committee, and at a future meeting, they will vote to pay for the artist’s rendering.  I’ll drop a note to CARD staff, let them know I want to be noticed of these meetings.

I’ll try to keep an eye on this effort, you should too.

I find it weird that the skateboard park, which is already an existing problem, is left to “new ownership,” but this aquatic center rainbow is getting a  conceptual drawing, a  citizen’s committee, and according to the story in yesterday’s ER, a bond measure on the 2016 ballot.

When my kid’s hockey club went to CARD, asking for a spot in the facility they planned for DeGarmo Park, they told our kids NO – it’s bad for Cal Skate! They said it would be directly competitive with a local business. But here the aquatic center isn’t competition for In Motion? It isn’t going to negatively impact the school swim teams? What about PV and Shapiro pools? Will CARD close those pools due to inability to maintain them? They’re already in such bad shape that the school swim teams “are forced” to use In Motion Fitness.  This conversation was completely different than the conversation they had with our hockey club.  And completely different than the skateboard park discussion.

Why aren’t we screaming “MISMANAGEMENT” ? I sure wish the rest of you would get some letters to the paper on this. I think we could beat it down before any CARD money is spent on it.

NOTE:  I e-mailed CARD manager Steve Visconti and he has placed me on the notice list for the aquatic center committee. I’ll keep you posted. 

Aquatic Center? Bullshit – pensioneer Jerry Hughes is just trying to get more money for CARD to pay to CalPERS

25 Sep

Monday night I attended a meeting called together by former Chico Area Recreation District General Manager Jerry Hughes, who also served quite a number of years on the CARD board after he retired from the manager position.  Hughes and his friends at Aquajets want an aquatic center, and they want the general public to pay for it through a bond or assessment on our homes.  But it was pretty clear – while they claim they will offer programs for the public, Aquajets private swim club will obviously be the main user of this facility.

And, one thing that hasn’t been talked about before the public – it looks like they will abandon Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools altogether, having neglected them for so long they are now in need of major repair and ADA updating.  Staff tried to make it sound like it’s all because of ADA compliance – well, shouldn’t a public facility be ADA compliant? And shouldn’t they have been keeping up with the laws all along, instead of siphoning out all the money to pay their salaries, benefits and pension? 

I’ll tell you the funniest thing I saw that night – the little room was pretty packed, at least 40 people attended, at least 10 or 15 of them stood up to proclaim they wanted a pool, but I tell you what – no matter how Hughes and current General Manager Steve Visconti cajoled them, they mostly slipped out of that room without signing the list to be on the vetting committee.   As the room emptied, Hughes announced there were only two names on the list, one of which he was putting on it himself.

It’s official – the more money people have the more taxes they expect to get. You’ve seen this Downtown – our police department reminds me of this black bear I saw at the San Diego zoo – paw out front, mouth open – give me MORE!

Most of the people in the room were affiliated with Aquajets. I looked over the Aquajets website – you have to have quite a bit of dough if your kid wants to swing with this crowd – it’s not about your kid’s talent for swimming, if that’s what you think. It’s about raising enough money to pay their manager, a fellow named Brad.  Brad was the only one who willingly signed up for the committee. Boy, was he willing. 

Brad mentioned USA sports, a nationwide membership organization  that consults their fee-paying members –  local sports teams – and helps them get started. Brad said, that as part of Aquajets membership in this organization, they get consulting in these matters.   But former Chico Olympian Haley Cope Clark said, point blank, “we don’t want to let the public know right away about USA’s involvement…” She didn’t explain that, so I will – it means, Aquajets is taking over this project, period. Sorry, nudie girl, the public needs to know that point right off the bat.

The Aquajets are a non-profit with a paid director – why haven’t they garnered sponsors the way my kid’s hockey team did and build their own facility?   This NEVER came into the conversation.

Of course, Hughes was foxy – he never mentioned the bond or assessment – that was out of the conversation. But he made it clear, they want the public to pay for this thing, and they need to come up with an argument why we should. Cope and some others stressed the need to convince us that the place would be used for swim lessons and water safety training. Yeah, just like PV Pool, where we paid for stuff like that, having been dragged out at 7am on Saturday morning to stand in a line that snaked around the PV parking lot, to sign up and pay for the lessons, only to  be told at least once a session that we would not get our lesson that day because Aquajets was  commandeering the pool. 

Some old timers in the audience impatiently demanded to know, “why this effort didn’t go through in 1986″.    A couple of older Aquajets parents recalled that the public complained then about paying for something that would be used exclusively “by rich people.”  Well, duh, old man, how do you feel about welfare?  They didn’t seem to get that connection, expressing disgust, shock and embarrassment that the people of Chico were not willing to lay down money from their own kid’s college fund to pay for a tribute to rich people’s spoiled kids.  

The board discussed an aquatic center in 1986, and here’s the story Hughes told about it. “We had the meeting on the wrong night – Friday,” he explained.  He said, “people who didn’t want this to happen (the aquatic center)”  went out to bars at Happy Hour and dragged in a mob that shouted down the board. The board, he said, was intimidated by this mob and the discussion was ended. Never to be resurrected until now? 

I’ll say this – what a bullshit insulting story. I can’t stand being treated like an idiot.  Name names Jerry. Who “didn’t want this to happen”?  Who brought in a mob to disrupt a public meeting – that’s against the law.  And here’s the hum-dinger – you let this mob disrupt your meeting, tell you what you are allowed to discuss, and then you never attempted to agendize this issue again? 

Again, bullshit story. I was raised by a Texan Honey, you gonna have to do a little better than that!  Is this just a preview of what they are willing to pull out on anybody who opposes this Taj Majal idea?

At least maintenance director Jake Preston  continued to remind the audience, beyond paying to build this thing, they have to maintain it in the future. This is the dynamite point as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think Aquajets is big enough to support this thing, I  don’t even know how consistent their membership is, they don’t give out any information like that on their website. You never read about their events in the paper, nothing about fund raisers or anything like that. They expect to use this thing almost exclusively, but I sure don’t see them being able to maintain it.  Visconti also voiced his belief that rec programs shouldn’t pay for themselves. This is a man who expects the general public to keep him like a fat whore.

Read the article below, from less than a year ago, when Hughes and Mark Sweany stepped down from the CARD Board of Directors. They mention a bond, knowing that the RDA is history. Sweany expresses the opinion that CARD is not good at handling debt? So, they need a bond to pay off projects they’ve built, like the $900,000 they sunk into building and landscaping the CARD center back in 1975. I remember people being floored at spending that kind of money building one building. They made it a Taj Majal, looks like some rich guy’s hunting lodge in there with all the wood paneling and stone work.  Done on a piece of city property leased by CARD, that building is sadly underused. I think the fees are too high – when a friend of mine had a wedding there, she paid $400 for four hours, and you have to clean the place yourself, so she had to throw off her shoes and she and the groom and their families had to spend the last hour cleaning up  the joint. Of course everybody pitched in, but we all thought the time was a little short, and the money a little high. That was about 20 years ago. I have no idea what they charge now, I’m guessing it’s onerous, but I put in a request for information, we’ll see.

I think CARD is horribly mismanaged. They spend all their money on salaries, benefits and pensions for the staff who pay none of their own expenses. Then they cut hours on their employees, part time employees, so they are not eligible to get benefits. Finance director Scott Dowell says they will have to make more cuts when Obamacare takes effect next year (for businesses).  More cuts? How about cutting Dowell’s $96,000 a year salary. How about getting rid of Visconti all together – he doesn’t do anything but host meetings. The reports he gives are all made up of information he gets from Dowell and the other subordinates – why do we need to pay him $112,000 year, plus ALL his benefits and pension? 

These questions never game up. The whole evening was just an idea session about how they could get the public to pay for this thing. 

Below Hughes and Sweany discuss ” the reason that CARD exists — that is, to help the community with all kinds of leisure activities.”  I find it ironic that they’d already strayed from their mission by that time, and become a salary trough.

Toward the end of the meeting, Hughes discussed timing on this thing. They don’t think they can put a bond on the 2014 ballot, because they’re waiting for the dirt to settle on a series of constitutional amendments that are slithering through the state legislature right now, amendments that will lower the voting threshold for local tax measures from 66 2/3 to 55 percent.   Hughes said that if these amendments are successfully implemented over the next few months, they might put a bond or assessment on the ballot for 2014, but more likely they will shoot for 2016. 

These people have been plotting and planning to throw their financial malfeasance off on the public for the last couple of years as they’ve systematically jacked up their salaries. Don’t forget  – Hughes gets a pension for his years as manager, but I’m guessing, it’s chump change compared to Visconti’s $112,000/year. Still, Hughes knows, just like Tom Lando, that continued payment of his pension depends on agencies like CARD continuing to make their $300 – 400,000 a year in pension payments, as well as the occasional half-million dollar interest payoff.  They can’t do that without more taxes from us.



Chico recreation directors talk about their multi-year spans

By LAURA URSENY-Staff Writer

POSTED:   12/16/2012 10:34:17 PM PST
Click photo to enlarge

Mark Sweany (left) and Jerry Hughes prepare for a CARD board meeting on Nov. 15.(Jason…

CHICO — Two longtime directors on the Chico Area Recreation and Park District board said they didn’t run for re-election in order to make room for new voices.But both were proud of their legacies on the board, which honored them in November for their service.

Jerry Hughes served on the board for four years, but had been the recreation district’s general manager for nearly 20 years before that. He held the gavel as chair for the past year.

Mark Sweany served for more than 16 years, and said it was “time for a life. CARD was an easy branch of government, but politics can be all-consuming.”

Both said they ran for their seats because they thought they could help out.

When he was hired for the CARD general manager’s position in 1972, Hughes already had been involved in recreation for the city of San Jose since 1957.

Of his accomplishments, Hughes mentioned construction of the Chico Community Center at 545 Vallombrosa Ave., where CARD’s office is, along with classrooms and a general hall that are busy with weddings, assemblies and meetings.

Hughes said he helped facilitate meetings with neighbors who might have opposed the community center, but gave it their support. Hughes felt the effort resulted in a stunning, landscaped building in 1975 for $900,000.

Community Park, off East 20th Street, was another project that turned an empty field into the biggest developed park in Chico at the time.

Hughes recalled many meetings and phone calls that resulted in the trade of numerous government- and privately-owned properties that would leave Chico with a big field to develop into a park for the community, as well as for nearby Chapman School.

What he really appreciated about the project was the large community support — from volunteer workers to city hall cooperation.

Sweany was initially attracted to CARD because of the community effort to create an aquatic center.

Sweany said he was always interested in how projects were funded.

“That’s the key with any small local government, you can’t run up a huge amount of debt.”

CARD is a special district, funded in part by a portion of property taxes within the Chico area.

Sweany says the board is always looking at ways to save tax dollars, such as privatization of some recreation-linked tasks like landscaping and maintenance.

The financial future of CARD, with redevelopment funding disappearing and talk of a bond issue still in the early stages, is an area Sweany said needs watching.

“CARD is good at not incurring bad debt — projects it’s invested in like a big lawn mower, lighting at Hooker Oak ball field, solar panels at Community Park — have been wisely made. “It would be nice to wipe out debt completely.”

Happy with the way DeGarmo Park has developed, Sweany said there’s “a long way to go” on the park next to Shasta School, off The Esplanade.

Sweany notes it’s not only the cost of creating a project, but what further costs are in terms of replacement and maintenance.

“It’s not about building the building. It’s got to have staff, be maintained …”

Asked about advice for the new board members, Sweany said, “They need to be careful what they think their income is. There’s a danger of losing property tax money. With the housing inventory as it is, there’s less property tax coming to CARD. That and money from programs are the biggest income streams.

“If property tax drops, there will be some serious questions to ask,” Sweany said.

Hughes said, “Honor the reason that CARD exists — that is, to help the community with all kinds of leisure activities.”

Sweany said he feels the need for a second dog park should be considered. CARD opened the first dog park in Chico at DeGarmo.

Hughes and Sweany both recognized the staff.

“Sometimes we take them for granted. They’re tremendous,” Hughes said.

As general manager, Hughes said he was afforded extra insight into what the staff goes through, not to mention the efforts put in by volunteers and board members.

“Our staff made us look good,” Sweany said. “It’s an amazing group of people. Sometimes there’s conflict between labor and management. Even when we all weren’t in agreement, everyone pulled together for the community,” Sweany said.

Chico voters only had two choices to replace Hughes and Sweany, electing Tom Lando and Michael Worley for the posts. They will be seated this month.

Additionally, retired Chico State University administrator Herman Ellis was appointed by the board to fill the post left vacant by former board member Fred Brooks, who resigned after the election deadline had occurred.

CARD still stumping for a property tax increase to pay for Taj Majal aquatic center for Chico Aquajets

23 Sep

You might have read the story in the Enterprise Record about Chico Area Recreation District’s special meeting called tonight to discuss motivating the public to put a bond or assessment on their homes to pay for a new aquatic center.  I knew this aquatic center bullshit wasn’t over, I’ve been waiting to see what their next move would be. Apparently they’re wheeling in Old Mister Dunder to rally the troups.

Jerry Hughes was director of CARD for 20 years, and served a stint on the board.  Assuming credit for the building of the CARD center on Vallombrosa against the protests of the neighbors, Hughes has been dusted off and brought in to exert his formidable power of persuasion over us lackluster money bags. 

CARD did a survey earlier this year, spending a chunk of their dwindling finances on a consultant who came back with a vote of no confidence from the people of Chico. Respondents, according  to the consultant’s report, were  concerned about the economy, recent revenue measures (school bond E; increase in CA sales tax), and government spending.”

CARD board member Tom Lando reacted to this news claiming he’d gotten a positive response on his sales tax increase survey, but as far as I know, he never shared the results of this survey publicly, and I have not heard another word about it. He never even got it on an agenda, it just comes up in the idle chatter during the meeting. I often wonder if the other board members refuse to talk about stuff like that in public, they just seem to turn away from Lando when he starts talking about it.

So now Hughes has come/been brought forward, saying he’d been waiting for years to get an aquatic center, and that the board ought to lay aside all their other projects to pursue building this monument to the private Aquajets swim club.

Funny thing – this meeting was not noticed on the CARD website as of this morning, they got their pet reporter Laura Urseny to slide in a quick bit about it in yesterday’s paper. Says they sent out invitations? Yeah, it’s for Aquajets, they will get priority to use it, just like they were allowed to kick out kids who’d paid for swim lessons or rec swim over at PV pool.  We’d just be told – “you have to leave now, Aquajets has a meet.” If we had swim lessons, our teacher would usually warn us the day before that we would be paying for a lesson we would not receive.  But they didn’t even warn us during the rec swim, no sign, nothing.  They let us pay, time and time again, and swim for half an hour,  then we got told to leave.  Period.  They acted as though Aquajets owned the pool and that we were just being allowed to use it as some sort of social welfare program. So, it hardly surprises me they hope have a private little meeting with their peanut gallery about how to screw the rest of us to get what they want.

How they expect to finance it is one thing – how they will maintain it is another question. Pleasant Valley Pool was never maintained properly while we were there, it degraded right in front of our eyes. One day I overheard a contractor telling the head lifeguard that a crack in the bottom of the pool was allowing too much seepage. Not only was water being wasted but it was hard to keep the pool at a comfortable temperature on all but the hottest days. Aquajets was complaining! I heard the contractor tell the lifeguard it would cost about $2500. That’s it, $2500, to fix this crack, and make PV pool functional again. The kid told me later, CARD did not approve the repair, too much money? 

Aquajets left because of this. They now train at In Motion Fitness, which is great for IMF’s bottom line, if not great for their other customers. Don’t try to use the pool at In Motion on Thursday or Friday afternoons.

I notice Aquajets have no sponsors posted on their website. I can’t believe they don’t have some sponsors – if only the businesses of the parents whose kids are on the team. My kid’s hockey league proudly boasts their sponsors on their website here:


My son’s hockey league tried to get a facility here in town, in fact, they tried to work with CARD. Unfortunately, CARD often works with Cal Skate, and therefore felt that another facility would create undue competition for their friends, turning the hockey kids away. They didn’t understand – the facility at Cal Skate is not adequate for real hockey, not for kids over about age 10. The rink is concrete, the walls are concrete – I watched a boy break his arm there, running into the wall during play, just as simple as that.   The league had been given a real rink by UC Davis, their used rink. It is modular, can be take apart and set back up. There is a “sport court” floor to cover the concrete, like all the rinks in other towns we play. The rink is much bigger than the floor at Cal Skate, and the walls give when a kid runs into them. This rink made it possible for our kids to compete in other towns, and better yet – invite other teams to their rink. 

Aquajets, in past, has tried to say they bring millions and millions of tourist dollars to town for one of their meets. I suspected this wasn’t true, but now that I’ve had experience with the hockey league, I know it’s not true.  Our family is by far the lowest income family in our league. Most of the others are a lot better off, but they’re just the same kind of people as us – just because they have money doesn’t mean they blow it out their asses. When we go to a tournament in another town, their league does everything they can to get us to stay at hotels in town. They offer us a discount on our team fee – but this is usually chump change compared to what we save at the hotel by going online and getting our own deals. Some of the families have multiple kids playing, and have to stay up to a week at a time. They bring motor homes if it’s close enough, but if they have to stay in a motel, they do everything they can to save money.  Some don’t stay at all  – we have a couple of families that commute everywhere anyway, and have no problem driving in the wee hours, taking turns sleeping, etc. 

 There is a two week tournament in Southern California, depending on how many kids you got playing, you could get stuck there the whole two weeks. There is nothing cheap in this tourist town, but luckily, there’s a campground with reasonable rates. Some bring their motor homes, my husband and son opted for a little bungalow with bunk beds.   It’s not the kind of place we’d plan a vacation – for such a spendy, elitist town, it’s still a cramped in shit hole, just has more expensive stuff.  But, since they spend most of their time at the rink, they don’t care.  

We do enjoy a tournament or two in San Jose. What we think of as “San Jose” is really a collection of once charming little towns, like Sebastopol. We stay at a nice hotel – the Hayes Mansion, their version of Bidwell Mansion, and still open to the public for special events. But we eat there, ain’t worth leaving the grounds to look for a restaurant. We usually get a nice dinner there, but we live out of our cooler the rest of the time.

Another town we like is Pleasant Hill.  One of those towns you can say, “a nice place to visit, but Hell No! I wouldn’t live there.” Nice to eat out, nice to shop cheap, but cars are the dominant life force. It’s nothing but a big mini-mall along the freeway, which roars incessantly right outside our motel room window. But, it’s a good area to do your Christmas shopping, especially if you don’t mind getting on the freeway to visit other towns like Campbell. Campbell is one big mall. They have the biggest sporting good store I have ever seen, a whole room just for snow sports, so big you have to say, “Dick Who?”

And, when we were buying our last car, we found, even though the sales tax is higher in the Bay Area, their prices are so much lower than Chico, we could afford to pay the higher sales tax and still hit Jack’s for dinner, pull out all the stops, order whatever we want off the menu. 


They got meatloaf there, I don’t care what your mother did to meatloaf, these guys know how to do meatloaf. 

But, I doubt my little family, or any of the families in our league, make a blip on the radar in these towns, and if you think the Aquajets are really responsible for any TOT in Chico, you might ask for endorsement from the local hotels.

And look at their website – see how much they expect you to pay, and then your kid has to participate in fund raisers – a “minimum” of $50 raised. That means, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, and all the relatives are expected to kick in for every fundraiser.  And the kids who raise a lot of money get prizes, t-shirts, totes, etc, to show everybody who brings in the most money. Ever had a kid from Aquajets knock at your door, or assail you at the entrance to a grocery store? No, they hold private fundraisers, it’s the families who chuck in most of the dough. They don’t want your little snot nosed brat in their league, if you can’t afford to swing with them, your kid isn’t good enough. 

I thought our hockey fees were expensive, but the league found ways for the kids to do work at the rink to offset their fees. All this from a volunteer finance manager, a great guy named Mike Hislop. Mike has done the books for our league for years without compensation, figuring out what each kid owes, based on practices and tournaments attended. When one kid’s parents wouldn’t let him attend a tournament because his grades had slipped, Mike cut his fees to show the league approved of the parents’ decision. The rest of the kids all chipped in more to cover it. 

When the league couldn’t get a building in Chico, they went to a warehouse in Hamilton City. I don’t know how that worked, but I know our league president Jeff Novak is a tireless and enthusiastic guy who loves to play hockey with his kids. Jeff is also responsible for a lot of our sponsors – even got Pepsi!  We sure needed the money. The warehouse had been used for sugar beet processing, the floor had tracks that came in off the railroad track so train cars could be brought into the building. The floor was the first hurdle, and the dads and kids worked so hard for most of a year. If they hadn’t taken pictures, nobody would believe it. They fixed up the place, set up the rink and the tile floor – all of which was used, had sat in a barn for years, covered with owl plop. They pitched right in and cleaned it, what a job in that cold warehouse.  Besides my husband and a couple of other general contractors, none of these dads had any experience doing this stuff. It was new to everybody really. My husband had to do research online to figure out how to fill the pits in the floor – and at first, it didn’t look like it was working, they just had to keep trying, have faith.

Glenn County treated the league better than City of Chico or CARD, coming up with about $30,000 in grant money to do required code work. All of that money went into the building. 

A lot of faith went into that building. I would say it is holier than most churches.  When I hear these Aquajets bastards howling for tax money, I just want to stuff a pair of Speedo’s in their mouths. 

But, let’s not forget the dilemma CARD is in right now. An aquatic center? They can’t even staff the programs they have now, having had to cut their workers to less than 28 hours a week to avoid paying Obamacare on anybody.  Of course their fulltime staffers all make in excess of $50,000, their director taking home $112,000/year and finance director $96,000/year.  And here’s the sticker – NONE of them PAY ANYTHING TOWARD THEIR PENSIONS.  See page 24 of that audit report linked above.  Regular pension payments average about $300,000 a year.   Staff also takes reimbursement for unused vacation and sick time – about $153,000 in 2009, the latest figure I found. 

I would say the board also makes some pretty questionable spending decisions – a five year non-cancellable lease on a copier and a postage machine cost them about $75,000? They also transfer money fairly regularly from the Park Development fund to the General Fund to pay down debts, like the $400,000 “side fund payoff” they made to CalPERS last year. That is in addition to their regular payment mentioned above. 

The board also spends a lot of money on consultants – for example, services and supplies fund went 5% over budget due to “special contracted services for grant writing and board consulting.”  Frankly, at $96,000 a year plus fully paid benefits and pension, finance officer Dowell should be perfectly capable of writing grants.  As for consultants – here they just paid SCI Consulting out of Fairfield to run their duplicitous survey last spring.   I think they paid about $15,000, judging from a similar survey run last year in the city of Belmont California,  only  to be told that the voters would not support a bond or assessment, one reason cited being “GOVERNMENT SPENDING”.   But they’re still pursuing a tax increase to pay for an aquatic center?

I think that’s funny, but not ha-ha funny.  It’s pretty clear, Hughes and the board are out of touch with reality. They’re in touch with the Aquajets –  determined to make the general public pay to build a temple to special privilege. 

So, I will have to go down to the CARD center tonight to see what I can find out.  I’ll keep you posted.