Report by Paula Antolini
March 31, 2018 5:34PM EDT
LETTER TO THE EDITOR from FRANK MINEO
Letter to the Editor: Accountability on Police Station Project; Small Percent of Voters Demanding a Turf Field is Not a Mandate; Turf Field Safety Issues
RE: Comments about the 3-30-18 Bethel Advocate article: Bethel First Selectman Knickerbocker Blames New Bethel Police Station Cost Overage on ‘Market Changes’ and Says Turf Field is ‘Inevitable’
Having had some time to think about this since first reading yesterday, respectfully I don’t believe that our FS gets what this is about. It’s not about the volunteers on the committee. Even though they are for all purposes “owners reps”: the ones responsible for preparing specs, plans and bids are the professional and well paid architects and engineering firms hired for this project. It’s these people who came up with the $13.5 million figure for the project who are “in charge.” It’s these people who along with the construction managers (also well paid) manage the project start to finish.
As high bids come in, it’s their job to compare to approved funding and either rebid or recommendation options to the committee. This does not take away the responsibility of the committee to ask the hard questions and demand answers, it’s their role to protect the interests of the owners (the taxpayers). But it’s not the role of our elected officials to give hired well paid professionals a pass when they have not done what they’re supposed to.
In my opinion, the BOS and BOF should approve ZERO new dollars without a full understand of why routine actions such as rebidding did not happen. Accountability is essential in large projects. If something like these cost overruns, to the tune of 7-8% higher than approved are allowed to happen without holding paid professionals accountable, just imagine what might happen with a $65 million dollar school project.
So, yes there are people in charge and no this is not politics. It’s about accountability and looking out for the people paying the bill.
On the turf field, I’m wondering how 130 people (don’t know if all were voters) can “demand” the spending of almost $1 million dollars. This when (according to one town official on a previous FB from a year or so ago) about 30% of registered voters (number is around 11,000 according to that post) usually vote. Using those numbers, anticipated voters would be around 3300. Being very conservative, let’s reduce that down to 3000 (though it actually might be higher given the interest in this years budget). This would mean that the 130 people demanding the field be restored to the budget actually represent less than 5% of those who historically vote. Certainly this is not in any way a mandate.
Also, I read where the FS said our current fields are a “safety” issue. If that’s the case why was it removed in the first place. After all, identifying something as a safety issue, then not addressing it, gives rise to other issues should someone be injured. Safety is very different than “inconvenient that use of fields are limited, and/or because everyone else has turf fields and we can’t let them beat us.
So, if the turf field is required due to safety, then get it done by paying out of fund balance. Of course, if for other reasons, then put out for its own up or down vote so people can weigh in on the cost. Democracy in that the most votes win will then be the prevailing point, not all of the other issues.
Last but not least, I’m curious to know if the cost overruns for the police station were actually identified before or after returning the turf field back to the budget. Seems this info would be important in terms of what takes priority when it’s comes to asking people to pay more. Thanks.