Tag Archives: swimming pool tax

Why CARD isn’t going to fix Shapiro Pool

11 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

26 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Aquatic Center Advisory Committee meeting to discuss bids from contractors – Monday, May 11, CARD center, 6:30 to 7:30 pm

8 May

I FINALLY got a notice from CARD staff that there will be an Aquatic Center Advisory Committee meeting, and gosh-golly-gee they will let me attend. Aw shucks – should I get a shave and a haircut? I feel like a debutante!

These meetings are open to the public, it’s just that, well, they don’t tell the public about them, when they are, who’s there, what they discuss. That is so legal, it’s sickening. So I’m telling you – CARD center, 545 Vallombrosa Ave, Monday May 11, from 6:30 to 7:30. They will be discussing the “Draft RFP”. I had to look this up online – ” The Draft RFP (DRFP) is not a formal solicitation tool, rather it is used to gather comments and suggestions from potential offerors.”

I’m going to guess – they’re taking bids? From design contractors? They’ve seen some design proposals, but those were informal. Now they want to take actual bids. It would be a very  good meeting to attend. They’ve put a time limit on it, so try to show up a few minutes before 6:30 so you don’t miss anything.

CARD board meeting tonight, Lakeside Pavilion, 7 pm – there will be a report from the Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee

16 Apr

Again, a meeting is taking my day. I say, it takes my whole day because I have to plan and rearrange to make room for it. And, it’s not the meeting I’ve been trying to get into – that’s the Aquatic Facility Advisory Committee, and you’ve read here the runaround I’ve got from CARD staffers Steve Visconti, Jennifer Marciales and now, Robert Hinderer, about being notified of those committee meetings so I could attend. Just last week they blew me off for a meeting, Hinderer making some bullshit excuse about my name not being on the right mailing list. 

Rob, this is why you don’t have any friends.

I’ll try to attend, because if you don’t play the game they try to say you’re not serious and dump you out of the loop. Even though this meeting is warmed over hash compared to what goes on in the committee meetings and the private conversations, I will try to attend, just to show face. There’s a lot of ridiculous face-showing in this business, it’s worse than a game of No Limit Holdem.

I have finally got some other people watching, and I want them to know I wasn’t just yanking their chain.

I wish more people would attend these board meetings though. I’ll say, they’re prompt, start at 7 pm, and usually over by 8:30, even 8:00. For me, the drive out to Lakeside Pavilion is onerous, but after seeing Maureen Kirk running all over the county, night meetings in Forest Ranch, then another night meeting in Chico, I feel lame for complaining about driving to a meeting. Hope to see a few new faces, the board seems to be malleable to public scrutiny. 

I would like somebody to stand up during the public comment period and ask about plans to salvage Shapiro and Pleasant Valley pools- as far as I know, they plan to shutter these pools and hand them back to  the school district after the 2015 swim season. They’ve neglected those pools for years, it’s in the books. Now, instead of bringing those much used facilities back up to par,  they throw over $150,000 at a rose garden?

CARD is a recreation district, but they have gutted their funds with exorbitant salaries and benefits and pensions for which the employees pay NOTHING. You might have noticed, city and county workers pay a percentage, the cops have raised their share to 12 percent.  But CARD employees still enjoy 70 percent of their highest year’s salary at 55 for NOTHING.  Director Steve Visconti retired last year at about $112,000/year – do the math – that’s about $77,000 a year, with COLA, to do NOTHNG. CARD hired a new manager at about $117,000, but he left within six months because of a disagreement over the aquatic facility discussion – I think he wanted to put that to bed, tried to tell them it was crazy given their budget – and there he went. Now Visconti is back in – does he get an interim salary in addition to retirement pay? Now there’s another question you could ask during the public comment period! Get in there! 

A year or so ago they bottomed out their general fund making a $400,000 “side fund payoff” to CalPERS. Their general fund is still pretty tanked, they’ve had to let off most of their part time staff.  Now they try desperately to raise funds to keep the doors open – and the CalPERS payments made – with a rose garden wedding chapel? That’s why they said they were spending over $1 million on Lakeside Pavilion. They’re trying to compete with private industry, when they’re supposed to be providing low-cost recreation activities. All for the salaries, benefits and pensions of about 33 management employees, who are quickly running out of underlings to do the actual work. 

They expect volunteers to run the Junior Giants program, while they all get salaries in excess of $50,000 a year, plus fully-paid benefits and pension. The Giants, by the way, foot all the expenses for Junior Giants, they even train the volunteer coaches. They just need somebody to advertise the program locally, so CARD steps in like a wolf in the sheep pen.

Have you ever seen a sheep get pissed off? Here’s a guy we could all learn a lesson from:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdX4JobRCUc

 

 

 

 

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

4 Apr

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

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

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

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

https://chicotaxpayers.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/card-aquatic-center-cost-estimates-1.pdf

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

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

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

http://www.chicoaquajets.org/Home.jsp?_tabid_=0&team=caj

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://leagueathletics.com/?org=nvhsc.org

See sponsors here, compare this to Aquajets sponsors:

http://leagueathletics.com/Sponsors.asp?n=62270&org=nvhsc.org

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

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

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