Guy W. Farmer: An under-budget animal shelter
I think it’s time for Mayor Bob Crowell and the four elected city supervisors to reject expensive projects that fail to come in at or under budget. And yes, I’m writing about our new $4 million animal shelter.
When the board approved a sales tax increase without a vote of the people, it promised the animal shelter would cost $4 million, or less. But now it tells us there is a shortfall of close to $600,000 on the project. That is simply unacceptable and the Board of Supervisors should bite the budget bullet on June 18 and keep its promise to local taxpayers.
I agree with Mayor Bob, who said the new animal shelter “must be built,” but it must be built at or below the original budget. No excuses, please. I don’t want to hear about unanticipated expenses or “value engineering” that busts the budget for this multi-million-dollar project. Why can’t the city build a nice new animal shelter for $4 million?
Enough is enough and our elected leaders need to draw the line and keep their promises. We taxpayers can’t allow them to play fast and loose with the city’s tight budget, especially since all of them promised to spend our tax dollars wisely when they ran for office.
Supervisors Karen Abowd, Lori Bagwell and Brad Bonkowski told the Appeal’s John Barrette they want to know more about cost overruns before approving additional funding for the animal shelter. That’s exactly what local taxpayers want to know. According to Barrette, City Manager Nick Marano explained “items first taken out after the initial bid process and rejection, using the value engineering scrutiny, then put back in due to need totaled more than $365,000.” Can someone please tell me what that verbiage means?
Apparently, the city agreed to pay $312,000 to BDA Architecture of New Mexico to design the new shelter, but Mark Beauchamp of Shaheen Beauchamp Builders of Carson City told Barrette the shelter was “overdesigned” by an out-state-firm unfamiliar with local conditions and needs. So why didn’t the city go with a local architect in the first place? Lesson learned: You often get what you pay for when you choose the low bidder on complex projects.
City Animal Services Director Kevin Ryan said a surgical center is absolutely essential for the new shelter, adding it would be “penny wise and pound foolish” to scrap the proposed surgical center. CASI founder and director Lisa Schuette, who has worked tirelessly to make the new shelter a reality, agreed with Ryan and said her group continues to solicit donations, having already raised nearly $200,000. I know and like Ms. Schuette, and admire her efforts, but she and CASI should accept the fact the city allocated $4 million for the new shelter, and not a penny more. Cost overruns should be covered by donations and private funding.
Here’s my prediction for what’s going to happen at the June 18 Board of Supervisors’ meeting: A motion to approve the cost overruns will probably receive three votes, but will fail to achieve the four-vote super-majority needed to exceed the amount budgeted for the new shelter. So Ryan, Ms. Schuette and their allies will have to live with a $4 million shelter unless they can raise the money to cover cost overruns. Sometimes they sound as if the new shelter is our city’s No. 1 priority, forgetting about our cracked streets and rundown areas north and east of town.
I’m simply asking Mayor Bob and the Supervisors to spend our tax dollars wisely and keep city projects under budget. Is that too much to ask?
Guy W. Farmer is a longtime Carson City resident.