The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Heystek Holds Staff Accountable for Completion of Projects

During budget discussions this past Tuesday, Councilmember Lamar Heystek pressed on the timeline for a number of projects.
"The reason why I am asking is because I noticed on attachment A that staff is deferring funding pending this report, but I believe that since we're making these budget recommendations it would behoove us to put money where our mouths are for the next year's budget, so when it comes time to make motions I will be motioning to appropriate an amount to cover design."
Heystek brought up the issue of the solar panels at community pool. He asked for the timeline of replacement or removal of that entity.

In 2004, twenty-four years after the project was built, Tim Townsend, a mechanical engineer specializing in solar power, went before the Davis City Council and informed them that in fact, the solar panels do not work and have never worked. Despite this fact, this is a signature project of the city with pictures of them have regularly featured on city literature touting Davis's "greenness" and commitment to the environment.

The following is from the minutes of the March 16, 2004 City Council meeting:
"Tim Townsend questioned the usefulness of the city’s largest solar panel at Community Park pool. He alleged that the solar panel does not work and has never worked. He reported that he has spoken to city staff and has not received a satisfactory response other than a statement that it would be too costly to remove. He stated solar panels should be a matter of civic pride and everyone that visits Community Park is lead to believe that the panels actually work. He asked that Council consider removing the panels"
It was only at this point that Bob Weir began to study the problem. At the November 29, 2004 City Council Meeting Weir and Donna Silva, Parks and Community Services Director came back with a Capital Improvement Program to replace the non-functioning solar hot-water heating system at Community Park. This was projected to cost $41,000 in addition to over $100,000 (in 1980 dollars) spent on the initial project.

This issue came up again on Tuesday when Heystek asked for a progress report for repairs and restoration. Bob Weir told the council this past Tuesday that plans were proceeding. He said:
"The next step is basically a cost estimate, that is what it would take to refurbish this facility essentially as is."
This represents a fundamental failure, not of this council, but rather of previous councils to hold vendors accountable for their work and projects. The city spent considerable money in 1980 for something that has never worked. The city now is going to have to consider spending more money because of their failure to ensure that the project worked to begin with.

Heystek would press the issue later with his motions that attempt to hold staff accountable for their projects.
"I want to signal the council's commitment to the city that we are putting our money where our mouths are regarding design of the facility [Walnut Park pool], whatever it is, whatever the project total is, whatever is being projecting by staff. And I just think that having participated in a joint meeting with the council as a member of the park commission and having the council given previous direction to get some facility built. [He reads from the minutes of that meeting...]. It's now over two years later and I would like to be able to locate at least 10 percent of the project total and some sort of funding mechanism, and I think that the park impact fees is the most appropriate source."
Heystek asked for the council to bring back some sort of recommendation to finish it.

Saylor's response was basically that we are working on it and that these things take time. Heystek did not get a second for his proposal.

There is a consistent pattern in this city that projects that are approved either do not get completed properly or get completed on time. This problem is due to lack of oversight and scrutiny. Another problem is the problem with the surface of the road on Covell between Sycamore and Anderson. The road is warped, it was never completed properly and it has been warped for over 10 years. No one held the construction people accountable for their work product.

Throughout this discussion Heystek pressed staff for timelines and assurances that projects approved by council would be completed in a timely fashion. The council majority was not interested in pressing these issues. And moreover, at times Saylor and Souza, both of whom sit on the subcommittee, acted as apologists for staff. Davis residents have paid real money into many of these uncompleted or poorly completed projects. They have also poured money into projects that have fallen into disrepair. It was refreshing to see Councilmember Heystek press for these projects.

What is interesting is that fiscally responsible Don Saylor, who earlier on Tuesday opposed annexation of West Village based on fiscal considerations, does not have the same fervor for fiscal responsibility in this regard. Indeed he continually apologized for staff and acted on their behalf. This does not seem an appropriate role of a councilmember who should be holding staff to the motions and regulations passed by council and if things do not follow the trajectory laid out by council, should ensure that they get back on track.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting