Sorry to disturb your summer. I wasn’t going to write to you until September but there are some local issues churning and I thought you’d like to know.
Let’s start with the interesting My Turn column in this morning’s Press. Local resident Frank Orzell wrote a detailed column about the actual wording in the contract between Team McEuen and the City of Coeur d’Alene.
Frank has lived here for 5 years and is a retired business consultant. When I asked him about his background he said: “I spent some 40 years as a consulting partner in such prestigious firms as Booz,Allen & Hamilton, Coopers Lybrand and CSC/Index Group and have played a significant role in evaluating projects of all sizes and degrees of complexity around the world.”
Frank requested and received a copy of the city’s contract for the McEuen Park plan. The contract is with Miller-Stauffer Architects; they are the responsible party. They are the ones who were paid $125,000. And, even though many of the contract’s specifications were NOT met, the city council recently approved payment of an additional $60,300 to Miller-Stauffer for more studies.
Please take a few minutes to read Frank’s itemized article, (link below) your eyes will pop out at the mismanagement. Here are a few of my favorites:
--The contract clearly dictates the boundaries of the park plan. Guess what? Tubb’s Hill and 4th Street are not included...at all. So why were they ever part of the McEuen Park Master Plan?
--Remember the big brouhaha about the lack of prices for the plan? And the Mayor and Mike Kennedy claiming they didn’t know what the project would cost? Team McEuen said they were never “tasked” with getting price estimates, but, oh, yes they were, it’s right in their contract! They were also supposed to create several other documents and timelines which the city admits still have not been done. But the city paid them the full amount anyway.
--And if the city tries to wriggle out of this by saying the plan is only “conceptual”, remember that the contract, which was created in July of 2010 and signed by Mayor Bloem and Dick Stauffer, is for the creation of the McEuen Park Master Plan, which is exactly the title of the plan that was presented to the public and was approved by city council on May 24, 2011.
On a related topic, Coeur d’ Alene’s KVNI radio had an interesting program this morning. An architect who used to live in CdA but now lives elsewhere, has questions after reviewing the McEuen park plan. He wonders why the city wants to create “the most expensive kind of parking garage”, which is 3 blocks long and will have 4 elevators, which are high maintenance, to get people up to street level. He thinks it will create a “fenced off” feel between downtown and the lake. Gee, didn’t Team McEuen claim the new plan would help “connect” the two areas?
Now let’s quickly cover three more points on our theme of public mismanagement of taxpayer dollars:
1. Hope you didn’t miss the news that the City of CdA is going to give ALL city employees a 3% raise, and more than 40% of them will also get an extra boost up to as high as 8%. This at a time when unemployment in CdA is stuck at a 12%, which is much higher than state and national levels. (Mark your calendars: The next city council election is this November 8th.)
2. Did you hear that the 4th street renovation, for which LCDC paid $2 million of our tax dollars, is having problems again? (link below) Seems the colored concrete intersections weren’t done right and are peeling for the second straight year. The Press reported, “... the project is no longer covered by its one-year warranty, so the contractor won't come in and touch it up.” Where was the follow through on this project? Didn’t LCDC check the product quality and demand the contractor deliver a real solution to the problem, not just a yearly band-aid fix that will now have to be paid by the taxpayers? The Press quotes, "Yeah, it's disappointing," said Tony Berns, director of Lake City Development Corp. the urban renewal agency..."You pay for something and it didn't work."
3. But don’t worry about sad Tony Berns, he’s probably feeling much better now because the LCDC board just decided to give him a raise! Tony makes $120,000 base salary, plus golden benefits and almost $20,000 per year added to his retirement account. Now he will get a 3% raise as well. Tony makes more than the governor, more than the county commissioners, the sheriff, more than our city administrator, city attorney, fire chief, police chief and, of course, he makes way more than the mayor and the six members of the city council, combined. I bet he's among the very highest paid public employees in the state...and now he gets a raise. Our property tax dollars at work.
These are our public officials, people, playing fast and loose with our tax dollars at a time when every nickel is dear. The only way to make it stop is to stand up and speak out. I’m so impressed with the many dedicated, courageous citizens who are doing just that. Our thanks to all of them. Have a great weekend! --Mary
Here are the links to the two articles: