Labor Unions Yes !...Three new city buildings NO !
Barely in the nick of time, we got the Ferndale City Council to adopt a resolution to require a labor agreement for any city construction project over a certain amount of dollars. This will support our efforts to ensure quality work, workplace safety, and prevailing wages for our workers. That this came at the 11th hour, however, is another blemish in a process that began two years ago, and this effort has been, in my opinion, characterized by bad decisions, over-spending, and unrealistic planning.
Everyone agrees we need a new courthouse...one with proper accessible facilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and one with adequate room, storage, and technology. A majority of city council however has joined with the city administration and other department heads in demanding a totally gutted and renovated city hall and police department. These grandiose plans are desirable only until one looks at the costs. Now expected to cost nearly nine million dollars, these multi-faceted series of expensive building projects are going to result in huge financial problems for our city over the next 30 years !
Had we gone with the original plan advocated by Councilman Lennon and myself nearly two years ago, we could have renovated the OLSHA building next door and move the Courthouse next door for less than one quarter of that amount. It would have been built by now.
Instead, the city hired an expensive planning/consulting agency to "advise" us on what we really need. (That cost the city $40,000 last year). Without ever meeting with the mayor or council on the building "needs", their thin, albeit expensive, report said we need to rebuild all three city buildings. This same company was then hired to explore another bad idea...moving City Hall to the 2nd floor of the Credit Union bank building.
Council then voted to hire this same company again to "manage" the projects...to the tune of $6,000 per month for the next three years. (They were the second most expensive company to bid on the project). That same company said that we could afford these plans, which is not surprising since they profit from the projects.
I voted no again and again every step of the way as we got to where we are today. We have paid this consulting company more than $60,000 so far without a shovel in the ground. And we now know that we cannot afford to do all of these projects.
The City of Ferndale has the largest budget deficits coming over the next 3 years the likes of which none of us have ever seen. To even think about spending these kinds of millions now when cities across the state are laying off firemen and policemen, closing community centers and reducing salaries is pure folly. Unless this huge spending spree is stopped very soon, we could end up with lovely new buildings, but very few police officers, firemen, or streets and parks workers left to occupy them.
We will be lucky now to even get a new court building, which I always supported. But unless the City Council wakes up and gets a grip on the economic reality that is surrounding us now, our wonderful town will be paying for these mistakes for a long time indeed.