Tag Archives: Chico swimming pool tax

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.

https://chicotaxpayers.com/2015/09/27/why-has-card-neglected-shapiro-pool-why-would-laura-urseny-say-theres-not-much-hope-when-it-can-be-rebuilt-for-less-than-a-million-dollars/

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.

Airport Commission will not recommend AVPorts; CARD committee will hear from $60,000 swimming pool consultant tonight

28 Oct

At last, good news to report.  The Airport Commission will not recommend hiring AVPorts to manage the airport – just when I thought these guys would trade a cow for a bag of magic beans.

And, here’s the refreshing part – 13 people lined up in the council chambers to tell the commission not to recommend this deal. That’s actually a lot of people to attend one of these commission meetings. They all said they thought AVPorts’ proposal was too expensive and many felt AVPorts was making promises they could never keep. For one thing, somebody pointed out, AVPorts has never successfully brought commercial service back to any airport they’ve worked for, and that was the carrot they’ve been dangling for months now. 

Some people opined that “there’s no hope” for regaining commercial service.  I’m glad to hear that – why we need commercial service with Sacramento International Airport less than a two hour drive up a road we’ve spent millions of tax dollars improving is beyond me. The commercial service conversation is being kept afloat by a very small group of self-servers, who, as my grandma used to say, can’t see past the end of their own nose. They want commercial air service, for themselves, for their puffed up visions of what Chico is “supposed to be“, so they don’t have to feel as though they come from a podunk town when they are hobnobbing with their expensive friends in the Bay Area and LA. They’re embarrassed of our town because we don’t have big, stinking jets flying over our homes, dropping space peanuts through our roofs?

It’s hard to relate to this crowd – maybe because they don’t really live in Chico, they live on the road and in the air between their “homes” – storage units – in the Bay Area and Hawaii and other wonderful places. Chico is just one of the places they temporarily hang their hat, sticking their johnson into our business here for their personal gain and then hitting the road for better prospects. I’ve met these people through these meetings Downtown, I get to know their faces just about the time they pack up their carpet bag and head for some other little burg that still has a few loose bucks to grease their palms. 

AVPorts got about $200,000, just for coming to Chico and entertaining us at a couple of meetings. I’m still laughing about the idea of putting city staffers in pilot’s and stewardess uniforms, having them walk around City Plaza during functions, acting like, “Flying is FUN!”  Brings back memories of a, uh, simpler time…

The real simpletons here are the council who agreed to this deal. AVPorts actually mentioned hiring a specific person – Rod Dinger, who has run Redding Airport. What’s wrong with our council and staff? Why can’t they just hire an airport manager?  We need a $200,000 consultant to hire a person? 

The same thing is going on at Chico Area Recreation District this afternoon, 4pm, CARD Center on Vallombrosa. A consultant will report on the $60,000 “feasibility study” being run to get the voters to put a bond on their homes to pay, not really for an aquatic center, but for the $1.7 million pension deficit currently hanging over CARD, and CalPERS, like a time bomb. I’d sure like to think 13 members of the public would come in to express their concerns about CARD’s spending policies – especially now that they are thinking of taking over the Nature Center, including another management salary, and promising money for projects like the recent pump track and improvements at the skate park. In 2012 they laid off employees and cut hours so they could avoid paying Obamacare for their hourly workers, opting instead to make a $400,000 “side fund pay-off” to CalPERS toward salaried management pensions. Current CARD management pay NOTHING toward their own pensions out of salaries over $100,000.

They also ran a survey a couple of years ago that came back negative – the taxpayers do not support a bond for a facility that will primarily be used for private clubs.  But the CARD board recently voted to spend another $60,000 trying to tell us we do! Helloooooo? 

Meetings People, you got to attend the meetings.

 

CARD pension liability as of June 30, 2014 – $1,700,721

9 Oct

Yes, that’s one million, seven hundred thousand, seven hundred and twenty-one dollars. That is the difference between what CARD owes it’s retirees, and what they have saved to pay them. In other words, CARD is $1,700,721 in the red.  For an average of 30 full-time employees, whose salaries continue to climb and who continue to pay nothing toward the fund they expect to dip into.

I got that information from CARD’s new Business Manager, who hired on at over $100,000/year plus a $30,000 package.  She reminded me that figure for their pension liability is over a year old, she couldn’t give me a newer figure, but use your imagination and whatever math skills you were able to eke out of the public school system.

This is why they want to put a bond on the 2016 ballot, not for an aquatic center, or a skate park, or a pump track – to pay off their pension debt to CalPERS.   The experts have been saying CalPERS will be bankrupt by 2043, because the pension payments are going out a lot faster than they are coming in. At CARD, they keep raising salaries, and that raises pensions, but CARD employees do not contribute anything to their own pensions or health benefits.

If you look at CARD’s budget, available here, you see in 2012, they took about $400,000 to make a pension pay-off to CalPERS. Every year, their salaries and benefits take more of the budget:

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

Here’s how that works – the last director, Steve Visconti, made about $115,000/year salary. He left earlier this year and was replaced by a former underling, Ann Willman, at $124,000/year salary.  She receives about another $24,000 in pension and benefits, for which she pays nothing out of her salary. Out of their $6.9 million budget they pay over $5 million in salaries and benefits, mostly for their 33 full-time employees, and most of that goes to five or six top staffers. Most of the CARD employees who actually get their hands dirty serving the citizens of Chico make less than $20,000/year and get NO BENEFITS. They have to turn to the county when they need medical care. 

CARD actually creates poverty in our town, while the top management get salaries in excess of two times the median income and enjoy “Defined Benefits”.

From   http://www.qdrodesk.com/plans/CALIFORNIA-WATER-SERVICE-CO-PENSION-PLAN-15764.shtml

“CALIFORNIA WATER SERVICE CO PENSION PLAN is a Defined Benefit Plan providing retirees with a predetermined monthly retirement benefit upon reaching a specific age. The retirement benefit paid to a retiree is typically calculated using a formula which often employs years of credited service under the plan and salary information. The retirement benefit is typically payable to the employee upon attainment of their normal retirement age for the remainder of his/her lifetime. “

In the private sector, employees might be offered a “Defined Contribution Plan,” if anything:

http://www.investopedia.com/university/financialstatements/financialstatements9.asp

There are various sorts of pension plans, but here we review only a certain type: the defined benefit pension plan. With a defined benefit plan, an employee knows the terms of the benefit that he or she will receive upon retirement. The company is responsible for investing in a fund in order to meet its obligations to the employee, so the company bears the investment risk. On the other hand, in a defined contribution plan, a 401(k), for example, the company probably makes contributions or matching contributions, but does not promise the future benefit to the employee. As such, the employee bears the investment risk.”

The Investopedia article had an interesting perspective – that of the investor. The general gist of this article was this: don’t invest in companies that offer defined benefits, because you will be on the hook for paying people into perpetuity.  Why would something that is considered a bad investment in the private sector be business as usual for the public sector? 

 

 

 

 

search term of the week: “how to defeat a city sales tax increase…”

4 Oct

I’ve been busy – I got a splinter in my finger and whoa, it got infected. Having run the gamut with the local medical scene, I waited until it was swollen up like a basketball and then I got a new razor blade out of my husband’s tool box and I cut it.

BOOM! Bloody puss everywhere, what a mess. I had to cut it a couple more times to get all the junk out, squeezing it and dabbing at it with a Q-tip soaked in witch hazel. Then I took a pair of scissors we got from the vet, and I cut the rest of the blister off so it wouldn’t get full of puss again. At this point I started to see tadpoles swimming in my eyeballs so I had to quit.

I would have amputated the finger to avoid a trip to any of our filthy local medical establishments. I’m looking at it right now, poking it with my other finger and everything – I can’t believe it’s almost healed already. Feels brand new, except a stiff little scab on the tip of my finger. It’s shocking how an injury like that just takes all my concentration, even now I think about it every time I touch that finger to the keyboard.

It’s still hard to concentrate with all the stuff going on around here. It’s like one of those tv shows where the plot line is so complicated, if you miss one episode you might as well quit watching. And when I turn to fellow audience members to see what happened while I was in the bathroom, I get, “sorry, I missed that meeting…” or “oh, I don’t have time…”  

After a recent conversation with one of my elected representatives and staff regarding the homeless situation, crime, and the County Behavioral Health Department, I’m tempted to blow this whole Chico scene and go off grid.  Just say,  Fuck it,  like EVERY DAY.  But when I look at that sea of crap floating in here and all I got is this little dinghy, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “Man the battle stations!” There is nothing left but The Fight. I won’t give up everything I own here and hit the road like a dust bowl Oakie.  

So imagine my delight when I look at the search engine and see “how to defeat a city sales tax increase” hanging among the debris of the week? Somebody else is out there!  

I wonder what they found besides this blog. I type their search phrase into the computer.

I find out, right off the top, about two-and-a-half years ago, the voters of Los Angeles defeated a half-cent sales tax increase – $211 million/year “to prevent layoffs, fund the Los Angeles police and fire departments and improve city streets and sidewalks.”  Facing a $215 million deficit, 55% of voters just said “No!” to their city employees’ outrageous demands. Good for the people of Los Angeles. But that’s kind of a squeaker.

Next I read an interesting story from Park City, Kansas, a small town near Wichita, where a sales tax increase was placed on the 2008 ballot.   According to a pre-election article in  the Wichita Business Journal, ” a proposed one-cent sales-tax increase over 10 years — to be decided by voters Nov. 4 — to finance the construction of an $8 million recreation center is putting Park City’s pro-business reputation under fire.”

There are pictures of businesses around town with “Vote No” messages on their marquees – a sign at the local Spangles gives a phone number and encourages passersby to contact their  council members. “Park City business owners talk about the competitive disadvantage and how a higher sales tax rate would drive patrons to places outside the city with a cheaper sales tax.”

Good for Park City business owners, and good for the voters who turned out to trounce that measure by 88%.

In 2014, Wichita tried their own sales tax increase – to fix roads was all I could find on that – but the voters defeated that measure by 62%. There were three sales tax increase measures on the Sedgewick County  ballot that year, all defeated.

Kansas kicks ass. 

But, I can’t find very much about how they defeated these measures.  And there’s not much news for what happened afterwards. I found an article that threatened more highway fatalities because Missouri voters defeated a sales tax grab.

http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/blog/morning_call/2014/08/missouri-sales-tax-hike-defeat-could-mean-more.html

That’s all they have – threats. Here in Chico, our police department threatens not to do their job. Well, they already don’t do their job, so what do we have for perspective?

I find, I’m not the only person who thinks the government is a financial black hole, that our public employees are only interested in their personal finances, and that we the taxpayers have had enough. 

 

 

 

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

CARD will run a phone campaign to talk public into paying for $10-18 million aquatic center

17 Apr

Last night the Chico Area Recreation District Board of Directors voted (Sneed, Malowney, and Ellis, Lando and Worley absent) to spend $25-30,000 on a consultant to run a phone campaign to get support for their proposed aquatic  center. 

Early estimates for a trio of designs ranged from $10 – 18 million. As former board member Ed Seagle said, these facilities never pay for themselves, the whole wad will have to come from the taxpayers in the form of a bond or assessment on our homes.  

I don’t know the exact boundaries of the district, but it includes Forest Ranch.

The task ahead will be to inform the voters about CARD’s sketchy history, their budget, their excessive salaries and benefits, the revolving door they seem to have on their directors, and pattern of poor spending decisions. Most recently they voted to spend over $150,000 on a rose garden instead of fixing the two existing swimming pools, scheduled to be closed in 2016 after years of neglect.

 

 

Up to my neck in meetings

14 Apr

I get up in the morning, sometimes as early as 5:30, even 5:00, just to be able to deal with my correspondence and blog. I attend these meetings, which are a giant pain in the ass, and I feel if I don’t write something in my blog the time was stolen from me with no good purpose. 

As I whined in my last post, I’ve been trying to get into Chico Area Recreation District’s secretive little Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee meetings. CARD staff has held me off by the forehead because I’ve been critical of their activities – no surprise there – the public sector seems to be full of petty, vicious little people trying to protect their snatch, what else is new?

It’s been frustrating – at one point I had board member Jan Sneed yell at me and stick her finger in my face, charging me down a hallway because I had asked for a copy of the monthly finance report. In another instance, I sat in the audience while former and currently interim director Steve Visconti told the board they needed to get people to write letters in response to letters I’d been writing about their activities. That was weird,  I was sitting right there, he knows who I am, but wouldn’t address me or even  look at me. 

When I noticed reports from the AFAC on the board agenda and asked why I had not been noticed, temporary director Jerry Haynes raised his voice to me on the phone, telling me there was no committee, no meetings, and no intentions of getting an assessment or bond. Shortly thereafter he announced his departure, citing differences with the board? Sure. And Visconti was back, but he passed me off to staffer Jennifer Marciales. Marciales told me repeatedly I was on the notice list, that there hadn’t been any meetings, and seemed annoyed when I asked her why there were still reports on the board agenda if there weren’t any committee meetings? I found out, Jerry Hughes and Aqua Jets president Brad Geise had formed an ad hoc committee to get around reporting and noticing rules. Then I noticed my inquiries were being handed to the Recreation Superintendent Robert Hinderer. 

Hinderer’s the poor dummass who was made to apologize to me. What a stupe – I would feel sorry for this person but he’s making twice my family’s annual income in salary, and paying NOTHING toward his own benefits.  A shill deserves no pity. 

I’ve tried to get the editor of the News and Review to send  a reporter or cover these meetings – Laura Urseny from the Enterprise Record has been at almost every meeting I’ve attended but her stories never say anything about plans for an assessment or bond, she won’t use the name Aqua Jets. She sat through that first meeting, where Jerry Hughes detailed the workings of the legislature, telling the 30 or so folks from Aqua Jets and the school district that they needed to wait until the legislature had lowered the threshold for tax  measures from 2/3’s to about 50 percent.  He talked about that for about an hour, but there was NOTHING about it in Urseny’s subsequent story. She is also a shill, and deserves nobody’s pity. 

The Good News! I got a note from Third District Supervisor Maureen Kirk. I had been haphazardly trying to remember to include Maureen  in the conversation the last couple of years, and when she realized they’re giving me the business, she wrote to CARD and asked to be put on the notification list too. I really  appreciate her oversight here, this is an entity that needs a lot of scrutiny.  

Although, it remains to be seen if either Supervisor Kirk or I will actually get a notice, or just the usual lame apology.  I’ll keep you posted.