Friday, July 29, 2011

Planes, Trains and Turf Fields

I was not in attendance at Wednesday nights' contentious meeting whereby the turf/track project was discussed and a bid was chosen for the now combined project. I understand that Andy Falvey was not happy and I understand his frustrations. There's a lot of misinformation being generated around both projects some of it intentional in my opinion. But if we remove the misinformation and rhetoric around these two projects then perhaps we may understand why folks in town are frustrated by these projects.

A brief history about turf: If you search the Nov/Dec archive on my blog, I posted details on the turf project namely what the BOE agreed to when it sent the turf-project-only over to the TC for consideration. In addition to establishing it's own (BOE) turf-replacement funding plan, the BOE also passed the motions with two stipulations:
  • That the turf project not begin until ALL of funds have been raised with NO installation cost to Cheshire taxpayers.
  • That a town fund be setup by the TC for the sole purpose of collecting all future funds raised for future replacement of the turf field before the shovel hits the ground.
Additionally, and this is very important to me, I put forth mechanisms to the BOE that would audit/report on the financial status of the turf field. The mechanisms will track what the turf field generates in revenue, what is being spent on the turf field (if anything) and what is being raised (and where) to replace the turf field as well as periodic reports on the health of the town fund capturing replacement funds. Accountable.

The BOE planning and finance committees also decided to monitor the turf field under the planning committee. We did not create yet another sub-committee for the turf. Keeping it simple. This was very important in that up until this point, and even as of this day, nobody can say for certainty if this committee reports into the TC or the BOE. It simply exists. Transparency.

Fast-forward to Wed. As of Wednesday, the town has not established a fund to capture replacement funding for the turf and to the best of my knowledge, it was never discussed by this TC even though it was in the motion sent to them back in November. It was ignored. If there ever was an opportunity to stick it to the BOE and hold the BOE accountable for the turf project...this was the opportunity. Our attempts at being fiscally responsible and accountable for this project were simply ignored. Responsible.

The BOE has failed to establish the mechanisms needed to monitor the financial well-being of the turf field. Specifically, the BOE Policy committee has failed to act on far. Will it act soon? It better.

Regarding the track...something changed and it changed very quickly. The BOE Planning Committee met in early spring about turf/track. The consensus then was to use part of the $150K already appropriated for the track project to replace the South D zone which is in horrible condition and would pose an injury risk when the turf is installed due to grading issues in the area. This was the extent to which the track field would be touched in relation to the turf field.

Today...the complete replacement of the track field has been tacked onto the turf project. I agree that the track needs to be resurfaced. The PBC may be justified in recommending both get done at the same time. However, since the track is/will be paid for by taxpayer monies...and considering the track referendum was voted could we possibly shove this through without taxpayer consent?!?

Doing the track and turf at the same time may make financial sense. I agree. But whereas the turf is not (arguably) being paid for by property taxes and no-cost to the town...the track is being paid for by taxpayer money. In this regard, the TC has every right to question the addition of this project because the taxpayers are demanding it.

In my opinion, there are too many loose-ends with both projects that need must be tied up and tied up quickly. There seems to be a rush to get both projects done as soon as possible. The question I have is Why? What's the rush? Certainly, for one more year the football field and track is safe-enough to play on. There's no patient dying on the operating table here folks.

I think it would be prudent to take a breather and resolve all of the issues I raised above before either the track or turf projects are started. For me this is not about personal agendas or even politics...but it's accountability, transparency and responsibility. All of which are now clouded, for me, under both projects.


Tim White said...

the town has not established a fund to capture replacement funding for the turf

How is your recording / reporting mechanism intended to work?

Breachway said...

Amen Tony

Tony Perugini said...

What I proposed was quarterly reports on the revenue generated related to athletics. The revenue would be broken down by sport/field. Further broken down by ticket sales, field rental, banner revenue, etc. If, for example, FB home game #2 sold 1,000 tickets and an extra $1 was charged for turf replacement then this detail would exist in the report.

Another report would show what was/is pending to be deposited into the replacement fund account. There were a few other ideas discussed including periodic audits.

The idea being, besides financial transparency with athletics, this BOE and future BOE's, could gauge how the replacement fundraising is working and adjust it to meet it's goal of full replacement costs 10 years out.

Tim White said...

Thanks. That makes sense to me.

And with regard to the likely costs associated with these recording / reporting requirements, how much was reflected in the turf fundraising budget to compensate the town for this work? Any idea if this will require staff overtime? Or will it be fully integrated in their daily work?

And on what assumptions were these cost / time estimates based?

For example, how much time per week (or month) for reconciling accounts, verifying and recording entries, etc.?

And since we're probably adding new controls, how much money was included in the turf budget in case the auditors require additional testing on these new controls? Maybe somebody has already spoken with the auditors and gotten some feedback?

Or maybe I'm missing something?

In years past, I imagine this was all handled on a volunteer basis. But if you want to incorporate this into town (or school) business, it'll probably require a bit more time (to meet proper accounting procedures) than an entirely volunteer operation.

For reference, I know the "replace turf" was estimated at $394,000 and the "disposal estimate" was $56,400 for a "total" of $450,400.

Can you provide the details on those two numbers? I presume the $394,000 included the Town-side staff costs. But did the BOE (or Council) ever see the replacement estimates that generated those two numbers? I presume those documents are somewhere in the public forum.

Tim White said...

For clarity on the numbers I just mentioned, I posted them on TWL on Aug 19, 2010. You can see the documents here. But now as I read the comments again, I see this comment from you (Tony P) on August 20th:

the BOE/Turf Committee has NOT discussed or approved funding for this project, long-term planning, etc.

So the $394k & $56k may not have included all of the various long-term costs / revenues.

Regardless, my previous questions (about town-side costs) stand if you have the time to answer them… and do you have a link to the BOE / Council-adopted estimates for lifecycle costs? That had to have been part of the discussion… and I presume in greater detail than what I posted last August.

Tony Perugini said...

Tim, I do have a life-cycle cost analysis done by the BOE and a long-term turf replacement funding plan. It's on here, I have to dig it up. In fact, I will spend some today collecting the scattered turf artifacts on this blog into one location so it's easier to find and reference. Check back later tonight. - tony

Tim White said...

Thanks Tony. I took a peek myself, but nothing jumped out at me.

On a separate note... with regard to the possibility of saving money through the consolidation of fields (school & town) on the town side, you said that GF conveyed to you that such a discussion was low on the priority list for the TM. Did you ever get an answer as to what those higher priorities are for the TM & DPW? I know you asked several months ago.

Tim White said...

Come to think of it, I hope you take advantage of the Capital Budget discussions and ask the Council / TM what's happening. The TM will certainly be at the meeting.

I presume the TM will answer and I think his answer would be fascinating. And hopefully when he responds, you can then ask the Council if they agree with the priorities of the TM.

And of course, it would be good to ask for time estimates on various projects... both for your suggestion (aligment of fields to one budget) and all other higher priority projects. Since the higher priorities and unavailalility for your project are known, that assessment could only have been done with time estimates on each of the higher priority projects. Right?

Anonymous said...

I think Andy Falvey disgraced himself and his own party by his ridiculous outburst at the meeting. To call members of the town council and his own party "idiots" in a public meeting was totally uncalled for.
He should step down from his seat.
If he is too hot headed to control his temper, then he shouldn't take part in these meetings. They will get heated, but acting like a 2 year old is not right.

I also don't understand how this council is slipping the new track into this deal when the town overwhelmingly voted it down in the last referendum. They figured out how to get it done without a referendum. Perhaps they should think about what the majority of town residents want sometime instead of a select few.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Falvey was out of line with his remarks. Apparently he didn't like that Sima and Ruocco were questioning the track project. I'm glad they questioned it because now taxpayer dollars are going to be used.
Redoing the track was voted down. Amazing how they're keeping the number just under the referendum amount. Apparently the contigency numbers are unusually small too which is helping stay under that $350K.
No one should be surprised though. Look how the D's got the turf project through.
Even if you go to the public hearing on the track it won't matter b/c they have the votes they need to get it approved.

Tim White said...

Perhaps they should think about what the majority of town residents want

I agree. I'm shocked by how quickly this Council showed their true colors. Within six months of taking office they were whitewashing the police report to protect the TM, IMO... rather than allowing for the light of day to shine.

They used a completely false "summer-only" pool budget (remember the full-time yr-round staff at the pool??) to try to convince the voters that the permanent structure was only marginally more expensive than a summer-only pool... I won't even bother getting into all the other unnecessary recreation projects they're pushing.

They tolerate the waste & mismanagement in the DPW. Who was held accountable for the Norton boiler? Was it the taxpayers who had to foot that $150,000 bill?... while the TM gets endless kudoes... the taxpayers get fleeced.

Of course, this Council did win concessions... and that certainly wasn't happening with the former "this contract is sustainable" Council.

So this Council did have a win on fiscal policy. But for me, fiscal issues are second to good government issues, such as transparency and accountability. And on that count, well, they leave something to be desired.

Slipping through the track is a slap in the face to the voters who are told every year by pols "you SHOULD vote... your vote counts!"

Really? Why did I even bother filling in the oval last fall to reject the track referendum? This Council certainly isn't too concerned with my vote... or the votes of the other 61% of the people who said NO.

Tim White said...

So this Council did have a win on fiscal policy.

Pension reform was another big fiscal issue for which they deserve credit.

Anonymous said...

Tim, its good to know you are on the sidelines doing nothing but pointing fingers instead of being on the team pointing fingers. Pension reform? way to use the hot button catchphrase of the year. How much money has the town contributed to the pension funds in the last 20 years? I would bet its less than 1 million. Assuming that number that would equate to 50 k per year. Now if we have 50 employees making 40k = 2000000. assuming the town matches to 4% that is a REQUIRED cost of 80000 per year. Not factoring raises.
With regard to the track you mean the 61% of the people who showed up to vote. That number was about 30 % of the population. Lets not forget you accomplished nothing in Cheshire, you did the same thing you are doing now. Thats how you win elections Tim - tell people whats wrong and who is to blame, that is not being a leader. I give Falvey credit for calling it as he sees it. I also give credit to Sima and Rocco for asking questions. Its about time someone on the council "manned up" and wasnt more concerned with complaining than progress.

Anonymous said...

I love that Tim is still getting under your skin.

Your reaoning that "30% of the population" voted to turn down the track projsect is ridiculous.
If there were real supporters of that track, they would have shown up to vote. Those of us who cared came out and told the town we didn't want to spend the money now. Now all I see it as was a waste of my time.
You can use your reasoning when discussing any kind of vote. You are lucky to get more than 50% of the voters to vote, but these are the people who really care. Lets look at the last town elecetion, what percentage of the town wanted Ecke to be on the council? He couldn't even win the election.

It is times like this where I wish Tim was still on the council.

Anonymous said...

@1215 - Tim not under skin, hes just doing his usual nonsense. I DO agree about the voter turnout. Its a shame that people wont take 5 minutes out of thier day to make their votes. That was actually the point I was trying to make (poorly). How many of these supports/detractors didnt even vote when they had the chance.

Anonymous said...

It's simply amazing how feeble and fickle some voters in this town can actually be. The town council found a way to replace the aging track much cheaper than the price tag that went to referendum last year. They're trying to save this town money and are doing the right thing as leaders.

Most folks understand that doing the track is the right thing to do. Get over it. The track will be done and there's nothing you can do about it because common sense has eluded you. Stop your crying.

Those the lead actually lead and those that can't just complain and/or become complacent.

Tony Perugini said...

I think folks have valid reasons to ask why the track is now suddenly the "right thing to do". After all, as was stated many times, the track referendum was defeated. The voters spoke pretty loudly about it.

Fast forward about 10 months, the track is back on the table and going to public forum this week. So it's no surprise voters are questioning "how" this came to be after it was defeated. I think there's a positive story to tell on the savings/merits of this project.

There's a public hearing on the track tomorrow night. FYI.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the cheaper way to fix the track come up before they wasted our time and put it to referendum?
"Most folks" don't want the track done, as shown in the vote. Whether 10% of the voters voted or 90% voted, this is how democracy works. I was concened enough to go an vote as were many others. We spoke and that should be what the TC follows.

I will be at the meeting to hear about the "savings/merits of this project", but I am wondering why it took a year to come up with an alternative.