Money For New Annex
But Not To Upgrade Colliery Dams?
Anyone who has been down to city hall lately will see that the shiny new office for city staff is just about ready for all that shiny new furniture. It is with a sigh of relief I am sure that all those staffers will finally be able to leave that death trap they have been working in this past decade!. Sarcasm intended.
Looking at the timeline for hazard assessment studies of the Colliery Park Lakes Dams it is apparent that the fact these dams needed dealing with was evident to city staff during the same timeline they were angling for a shiny new office. Remember they could have chosen to stay put and live like the rest of us daredevils who walk and drive over old mine shafts all the time. They could have chosen to spend $4 million to upgrade the old building (if that really was the cost, they seem to take 'guesstimates' for quotes when making decisions).
Could diverting the $16,000,000.00 from the shiny new office, with shiny new furniture, combined with the $7,000,000.00 they seem to have budgeted for demolition have been sufficient to build new dams, even if their 'guesstimates' are on the high side??
It would seem to this lowly scribe, that far more people would be served by using those funds to address the Colliery Park Lakes Dams, than providing shiny new offices for our highly paid city managers.
I realize I could be misjudging the intentions of how Mr. Kenning has managed these two issues, but the skeptic in me keeps growing the longer I observe the process at city hall.
Furnishing 'Shiny New Office' ... $550,000
Boost To Staff Ego ------ Priceless
Staff wisely chose to ask council to approve an RFP for the purchase of new office furniture at a non-regular city council meeting. Wisely? Well, there is less chance of public scrutiny if these matters are dealt with at a COW meeting away from the glare of Shaw TV broadcasts and meetings often not attended by the local mainstream media.
Not wishing to draw too much public scrutiny is consistent with the methods employed by city staff and approved by our complacent council in all matters relating to the expending of nearly $16 million to provide themselves with a shiny new office. Remember it would have cost less than $4 million to upgrade the existing annex, but then of course staff would have had to endure another decade or so of operating out of the old annex. That just wouldn't do.
Remember, the public still has no idea what the alternate costs would have been to provide staff a new office (providing upgrading the existing was rejected) as they refuse to make those alternate costs public. A quick comparison however, is the fact they are building a new office for $13 million for 45,000 square feet, and the nearby Dunsmuir building with over 70,000 square feet, on three city lots, recently sold for around $7,000,000.00.
Staff would have us believe the taxpayer is getting good value for the money, but given the fear of public scrutiny demonstrated by city staff and city council, one has to wonder.
It will be interesting to see if city staff will release the results of the furniture RFP or will we be asked to 'just trust them' as we are being asked to trust them when they say spending $13 million on a shiny new office without going to public tender is sound fiscal management.
Two Buildings Total 75,623 Square Feet
And 3 Parking Lots Sale Price: $7,200,000.00
It is right beside the shiny new staff office being built for $11,000,000.00 (not tendered) which when complete offers I believe about 45,000 square feet. Not included in the $11,000,000.00 price is the value of the land the shiny new office will be sitting on.
The decision to not upgrade the existing Annex for $4,000,000.00, or perhaps buy the Dunsmuir Place building which gives a considerably larger building for considerably less money, will be forever shrouded in secrecy as city hall and city council is still unwilling to release the minutes of the in-camera meeting where they decided to spend $16,000,000.00 on a shiny new office for city hall staff, complete with shiny new desks and equipment. By the way, that amount would equal the budgeted tax increase for 4 - 5 years had they chosen to either stay where they are, or upgrade where they are.
But instead city council and city staff decided it best to spend $16,000,000.00 of YOUR tax dollars. Do you think they made a wise choice??
$16,000,000 Annex Underway
Wasting no time getting shovels into the ground the company awarded the $12 million+ contract to build a new annex instead of upgrading the existing, has begun site preparation work.
This single project calls to question the rational and critical thinking of all members of council and senior city staff. Can you imagine awarding a $12,000,000.00 contract without ever having gone to public tender? However, that is exactly what this city council and city manager Mr, Kenning think is a demonstration of best practice and due diligence when it comes to spending your tax dollar.
At yesterdays FPCOW meeting council debated whether to award the contract for auditing city accounts to an out of town company who had submitted the lowest of four bids for the contract. There were four bids considered ranging from $38,000 - $46,000 and the criteria for accepting the out of town bid was the considerable saving of $8,000.00.
Compare putting to tender a contract of less than $120,000 so you are certain Nanaimo tax dollars are being well spent, while at the same time awarding a $12 million contract without having even one other tendered bid for the same building??
I have tried to get information about the process that saw Windley contracting being awarded this contract without going to tender, but the whole process including which councilors supported this decision is being firmly hidden from public scrutiny under the often abused in camera shroud. This is a tactic employed by elected and unelected officals when they don't want the public to know what they are doing.
Perhaps during the upcoming civic election, this will become an issue that candidates will have to explain if they expect to be re-elected. Remember leaving the current annex as it is would mean no tax increases for 5 years and renovating the exisiting annex would mean no tax increase for 4 years, but building this new annex means a tax increase of at least 21% over the next five years.
City Council and City Staff
Could Have Kept Your Tax Increase At ZERO
For the next FIVE YEARS
Instead they have chosen IN SECRET to Spend
$16,000,000.00 On a New Staff Office
If YOU don't think that is a good use of YOUR money
Sign Petition To Stop Wasting YOUR Taxes
An engineers report recommended the city spend $4.2 million to upgrade the city hall annex to meet seismic requirements, which are not required under a city bylaw. The fact it would take a significant event to cause any damage to this building brings into question the need even for this upgrade.
The $16 million it is going to cost to build a brand new annex was decided upon in secret by this current council, the amount was not even mentioned in the draft five year financing plan presented to the public during budget discussions.
This city council has NO MANDATE from the public to spend 10% of the total city budget on such a frivolous expenditure with is designed to satisfy over-inflated egos of highly paid city staff who are likely looking for something to keep themselves busy, during the current economic downturn in Nanaimo. Remember unless, they have projects to oversee, and millions of YOUR dollars to spend they don't have anything to do!
This project is an outrage ......... the secrecy surrounding the spending of $16 million is an outrage...........there is currently NO contract in place to give any assurance this building can even be built for $16million.
Remember being told the conference centre would cost $52 million? It is the same management team in place at city hall that oversaw that building project. Do you really think we need to turn them loose again? Apparently this city council does, which is the reason they have lost the confidence of the few Nanaimo taxpayers who are currently paying attention.
If you have not already added your name to the petition to put this Outrageous Expense on hold until after the next civic election click HERE to sign the petition.
Should City Staff Be Relied On To Be Unbiased?
The current financial fiasco underway at city hall, being orchestrated and overseen by the same managers that brought you the Conference Centre which ran millions and millions and millions over projected costs brings many questions to mind, which need to be answered before this disaster is allowed to go any further.
One serious question needing addressing is the possibility that city staff are actually acting in their own best interests when steering city council to the foregone conclusion they want made. They have no reason to try and reduce the stress they are putting on the public purse, as not one of them is responsible to the public for the amount of money they spend.
Within the realm of bureaucratic kingdoms there is the natural tendency to surround ones self with as many trimmings and trappings as possible that reinforce the visual impression of their 'status' within the corporation. You know, the top banana always gets the best corner office, with the best view, the biggest, flashiest desk, the most staff and on and on it goes.
So, when presented with a scheme that would see them lifted out of there current, older work space and elevated into posh new surroundings that a $16 million office would provide, who can blame them for putting their heads together to make it so? After all, it is city council that takes all the heat for decisions made by council, which of course were recommended by staff, so it is really staff who have made the choice. There is no real accountability within the hallowed halls of the city bureaucracy. They are a kingdom unto themselves, and pity the council that tries to reign them in!
So, now all city staff have to do is present a mind numbing avalanche of reports, studies and reviews which conclude the only sensible choice is to spend the $16 million on a new office tower. Does council have any other resource to rely on before making a decision? Do they have any counter recommendations made by some other totally unbiased authority? Of course not, they can only draw on their own life experiences and expertise before making a decision. Without being unkind to anyone, it is fair to say, that few on council have any real experience or expertise in evaluating the recommendation put before them by city staff.
The Taxpayer Will Get Ripped Off Again!
Just like the conference centre fiasco, the current method of deciding to proceed with the new city annex offers the shareholders of this corporation (that is every single taxpayer) no opportunity to tell if they are getting any real value for their money. In essence, city staff is asking us to just trust their judgment when it comes to getting $16 million of value for the taxpayer.
The ONLY way to know if you are getting real value for your money, is to compare at the very least two bids from qualified builders for a building with the exact same specs. Only then can we have any assurance we are not just being led down the garden path again, by an arguably incompetent group of managers.
This insanity has to be stopped now and not be allowed to proceed until after open and clear discussions in FRONT of the taxpaying public take place during the next civic election campaign.
It is most reasonable to just put this whole project on the shelf until after the next election, and if the new council gets a mandate to build a $16 million office tower instead of not increasing our taxes for the next five years, only then should this project proceed. At that time, should the taxpayer of Nanaimo indicate they want to proceed with the major construction project, the city should hire an outside, independent project manager, and not turn city staff loose on another ill-fated construction project such as we witnessed downtown.
Mayor Ruttan Says:
'May have done it differently'
In a recent Nanaimo News Bulletin article Mayor Ruttan is responding to questions about the decision to spend $16 Million on a new office for city staff.
In the article he is quoted as saying: "If we had the luxury of time we may have done it a different way, but we didn't think we did, so we acted".
Does this mean that for some reason he felt rushed to make this decision and was not able to give it due consideration? Is he aware of the date of some certain disaster which could strike the city, imperiling city staff, if we don't act now?
In the interest of securing the immediate safety of the city staff, assuming that is the concern, they should immediately be removed from harms way, and the existing building be brought up to standards. This would mean you are not leaving staff in harms way for another year or so while they await their shiny new office. It would also mean we only spend $4 million instead of $16 million.
The Mayors logic is difficult to agree with.
Nanaimo City Managers
Among The Highest Paid In The Province
There are a total of 167 employees at Nanaimo City who are earning in excess of $85,000 per year, with the top spot going to city manager Al Kenning at $214,544.00, which puts him in the top one half of one percent among 8181 municipal employees in the province! Among 8181 of his peers, our own Mr. Kenning comes in at number 39!
The following are the 'Top Ten Dogs' at city hall by salary rank. Remember there are still 157 more earning in excess of $85,000 with a great many exceeding the $100,000 mark.
- Al Kenning $214,544.00
- Andy Laidlaw $183,089.00
- Ted Swabey $184,791.00
- Doug Holmes $175,695.00
- Per Kristensen $144,229.00
- Tom Hickey $141,230.00
- Toby Seward $139,987.00
- Richard Harding $138,186.00
- Terry Hartley $137,195.00
- Andrew Tucker $134,709.00
- Total $1,593,655.00
The total paid for wages and salaries on the financial report for the year 2010 was $52,373,548.00 which represents a staggering 64% of every tax dollar collected from Nanaimo taxpayers. Mr. Kenning will tell you this is perfectly sustainable. Does he mean long term? Or just until he can retire?
This elite group of Nanaimo citizens also decided they needed a $16,000,000.00 new office instead of upgrading their existing one for $4,000,000.00. Are any of the taxpayers getting as upset as I am??