Tag Archives: Chico Area Recreation and Park District

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.