Gov't

$2 Million “Discrepancy” Explained- Just the Facts

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By Dave Freneaux

On the basis of "A proposed Budget for the City of Central prepared by the Central Transition District" which was obtained via the Public Records Request of Mike Mannino, it has been reported that "the same services could have been provided by a combination of city employees and private contractors for about $1.3 million a year".  With that "information" circulating through Central in print, in conversation, in emails and on the internet, CentralSpeaks.com felt it prudent to verify the facts.
 
Fact: CentralSpeaks.com also filed a Public Records Request with the City of Central asking only to view records already approved for viewing by the City Attorney.  No additional legal fees should be incurred.  Having reviewed all of the Central Transition District's available records, CentralSpeaks.com paid $10 for forty pages to be copied.  Two of these forty pages are an undated spreadsheet titled only "City of Central – Proposed Budget".  This document appeared to be the source document, and contain exactly the same cost breakdown, as the information printed last week and being discussed at length in Central.  To be prudent, CentralSpeaks.com asked Mr. Mannino if he would share the source document he had obtained.  Mr. Mannino has been gracious and open in his cooperation, always asserting that he only seeks the truth.  It was indeed the same document.
 
Fact: There is no indication on the document that it is the work product of the Central Transition District.  Fact: There is no date on the document indicating it is a budget for 2005.  Fact: The first CTD (Central Transition District) Budget, which was neatly hole punched and filed in order in a binder with the minutes of the meetings where the budget was approved, was for "Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2006", is clearly titled "Central Transition District" and signed by the Chairman.  Fact: That budget, which repersents only a nine month period, lists $3.24 million to be paid to the City of Baton Rouge for what we are now calling "City Services", not the reported $1.3 million.  Fact: The Transition District ammended this budget on May 18, 2006 and restated the expense to be paid to the City of Baton Rouge as $3.95 million.  Fact: The CTD budget for year ending June 30, 2007 calls for Baton Rouge to receive $3.69 million for "City Services".
 
Fact: The two page un-dated document which seems to be the source of the claim of a wasted $2 million was indeed found amongst the CTD papers.  However, it was not hole-punched and placed in the binder, it was obviously a photocopy, and had highlights and handwritten notes and marks on it.  Indeed it looked lik a "worksheet".  Its appearance and condition was inconsistent with the actual labeled records of the CTD.  Fact: CentralSpeaks.com was VERY curious as to the origin and author of the "Proposed Budget".  After speaking with the majority of the members of the CTD as well as others involved in the brainstorming from 2002 to 2005 of what it would take to create the City of Central, here is what was shared.
 
The process of trying to obtain usable financial data from Baton Rouge was long and frustrating.  Over a period of several years the group attempting to create this city fought for information, reviewed numbers, spoke to officials, and were still unable to determine with complete certainty what  the real numbers were.  Indeed, since the area of the Parish that is now our City of Central was simply a part of the large rural area maintained by Baton Rouge, the city itself was often unable to identify which portion of the "City Services" were actually spent in "Central".  All of the individuals CentralSpeaks.com spoke with told this same story.  Two of the individuals who saw the two page "Proposed Budget" identified it even before being asked what it was.  They knew it to be the culmination of a long and frustrating search for data to give themselves assurance that the economics of forming a city could work.  The recognized that the data was far from perfect, but it was they best that could be obtained.  So, exercising the best judgment they could, the decision was made to proceed with incorporation, resulting in the Central we all enjoy today.
 
Fact: There was never any intent on anyone's part to assert that these numbers were anything near perfect.  Fact: This document IS NOT the work product of the CTD.  Fact: That the documents were found, filed loose in a binder of the CTD only proves that a member of the CTD brought these papers to a CTD meeting.  Fact: The actual CTD budget for 2005-2006-2007 is very much in line with what Central pays for "City Services" in 2010.
 
Fact:  CentralSpeaks.com does not claim that the contract with CH2M HILL is perfect, or even good, as there is no way of determining that until it is rebid.  Fact: CentralSpeaks.com is as interested as anyone, and more interested than some, in having quality City Services provided as inexpensively as possible.  Fact: CentralSpeaks.com hopes and expects that Central's City Services contract is re-bid for July 1, 2011.  Fact: If it is found that the service Central receives from CH2M HILL can be provided at a $2 million savings, CH2M HILL needs to leave town quickly.  Fact: CentralSpeaks.com believes that if the bid process shows that CH2M HILL has charged fairly for services rendered and they are the low bidder, they should be retained.
 
Fact: All of the documents referenced in this article can be seen at the office of CentralSpeaks.com.  Fact: If there has been ANY mis-statement, omission, misinterpretation or indeed anything in this article is found to be less than the truth, CentralSpeaks.com stands ready to immediately post the entire truth, along with an apology, on CentralSpeaks.com and will print a correction and apology in the next weekly paper.
 
Fact: This article is intended to inform, not to offend.  Feel free to contact Dave@Central Speaks.com or call Dave at 262-3730 if you feel the need to discuss this issue.

41 Comments

  1. mike mannino

    August 12, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Dave,
    Dont disagree with much of what you said. However, here are additional facts to supplement my assertion.

    – The document in question is a worksheet from a person on the CTD that was an EBR public works employee at the time. Did you ask the members about that ? The point is this was what was submitted to the legislature as proof we couold run the city on the estimated income.
    – The binder you reference was a hastily thrown together collection of documents that appeared to be thrown together to meet my public records request. It was not in chronological order and if you remember at the first meeting releasing the documents, I quickly noticed this and stated that it appeared to be an attempt to organize a box of loose data after the fact.
    – Using the EBR charges as a baseline to say that we got a deal with CH2 is ludicrous since we were getting hosed by EBR. A better starting point WAS this CTD document since it very closely mirrors the way CH2 is set up today.( almost exact, imagine that)
    – A better way to disprove the document would have been to take the actual numbers and positions on it, compare to what we have in place, and see if the charges for services were out of line. This is what I did and how I validate contracts day in day out.

    Now as I stated before in my analysis, for the services CH2 today closely align with this proposal.

    Total on CTD estimate – 1.3M
    25 % contingency ( very liberal) 1.625M
    20% Inflation ( Has not happened, labor and fuel down) 1.949M
    Roundoff, just for kicks 2.0M
    subtract 60K for weed control and sant. missed in CH2 1.94M
    Actual Costs CH2 ~4.2M
    Overpayment to CH2 based on original estimates 2.26M

    I have liberaly allowed for inflation, and 25% error in the estimate which addresses your comment about these numbers being far from perfect. But lets say I’m just no where close. Cut it in half. We are still paying over 1M over what we should be.

    You and I have agreed that we got into this contract without knowing what we were doing and thats not criminal. Just didnt know any better. But to continue to defend the indefensible is intellectually dishonest. I would have been embarrased by your article if I had made some huge mistake in the financial piece of this but that is not the case. I continue to invite anyone to sit down with me and tell me where I’m off. If you can, I will be the first to get on this site and admit my mistake and you know I’m not too humble to admit a mistake. I have no agenda, dont benefit 1 penny from bringing this out, in fact its costing me time and money, but I do want my tax money spent wisely. Your article is full of facts except actual dollars proposed vs. what we spend. I had hoped your investigation would have been centered on that to disprove what I have said. It did not and the costs are the substance of my claims. How about an in depth comparison of costs since you are a CPA. I will work with you on such a thing and we just lay the findings out.

  2. Fedup

    August 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I am so happy and very proud of Dave. Somone has need to check into Central’s activities a long time ago. Check and Balance always kept the innocent innocent and the guilty out of offices they never should have been in. So much for living “out in the country”. Cutting down the trees and replacing them with new houses that nobody wants, has only kept the rich richer and the poor poorer. A group got together and ran what they wanted, sold what they wanted, basically doing what they wanted. Too many others went around with blinders on trusting people and never checking into what was really happening, or were too scared to cause trouble, scared of the outcome. Now the top hot shots are stepping down and leaving a true mess and living high on the hog. Driving around in Super Duper Motor Homes while the rest are begging for jobs and help keeping their homes. So much for country living.

  3. boyd hood

    August 12, 2010 at 9:44 am

    isn’t it wonderful when a few work together for the sum of the whole. keep up the great work.

  4. Fedup

    August 12, 2010 at 10:27 am

    yep it is boyd hood

  5. Concerned for Central

    August 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Fedup

    Are you saying that the super duper motorhomes were paid for with money stolen from the Central Citizens? If so, you are very misinformed. The “group that got together” did so at their own expense. They also spent a considerable amount of their own money and time to help create the City of Central. They have not profited at your expense or anyone else in Central. If you have proof that they did please bring it to our attention and I will give you a full apology.

    We could still be a part of EBR and not our own City. Has everything gone perfect. I’m sure they would admit that some things should have been done differently. There is always a learning curve with a new venture. We weren’t born experts at anything. We are fortunate that “the group that got together” had the means to do this for the people of Central. Have you at any point considered thanking these people for helping to create the City of Central. I doubt it. Most of the uninformed in central are quick to point criticism without any facts to back it up. How many of the critics on here have done anything other than read the Central City Enquirer and their half truths and innuendos to form their opinion. Mike will find no criminal misdeeds from his research. Personally, I’m glad hes doing this to clear up the matter. Lets see when the truth comes out if Woody will admit his erronous ways. Maybe he will admit that he is not an unbiased “reporter” and only prints his opinion. I’m sick of good people being maligned. Maybe you should have or should now participate and find out things for yourself. How about talking to one of “the group that got together” personally. You will find that “the group that got together” are genuine and honest. Better yet, how about thank one them for helping to get us our own city and schools. We are in a far better place than we were 6 or 7 years ago.

    These are not the ones who are cutting our trees and building homes. In fact, part of the criticism they get is that our ordinances are too stringent and permits are too costly. This was done to help keep our country atmosphere. Before we were a city EBR controlled the zoning in Central. It was pretty much anything goes. Yea, there may be more developments going up here. That’s because more people want to move to Central. Why, because we have quite a place to live out here. These people want to be here. If you are going to criticize so much, maybe you should move back where the parish has control.

  6. Tim Lazaroe

    August 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

    As concerned said, stop criticizing: Get involved and make a difference. You will find that those who you are criticizing work their butts off for the benefit of everyone out here.

    They (nor you) are perfect. It’s okay to call them inexperienced (or inept if you want to step it up a notch), but do not call them crooks unless you can back it up.

    Tim Lazaroe
    RV Cams, Inc
    261-7815

  7. HadEnuff

    August 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Agree with Tim and Concerned for Central. Where were all of these “critics” when decent, honest Central citizens were giving of their time to create this city? Not part of the team then and sure not part of it now. Mistakes will be made, but you go too far when you accuse honest people of wrong doing! To do so only shows your ignorance!

  8. KeithK

    August 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    So I’m confused?… Fedup, are you mad because you don’t own a big RV, or because people cut trees down and make houses out of them or because your not a hotshot and didn’t do anything to step down from? Maybe, just maybe, if you did something more than criticize those that ARE doing something you would see what really happens to men and women who work hard, spend their own time and money to make this city and school system better. They get slandered, their character called in question, even their vehicles are criticized! And you’re the one FEDUP?? Give me a break!

  9. mike mannino

    August 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Cmon everyone,
    Lets keep this to the discussion of City Services. No accusations of any kind on my post other than we are learning and may be able to do better next time with the current contract. What people have, how they got it is not my business and there is no indication in anything I have seen so far of anything illegal, at least with this. Dont expect to find that either.

    I just want someone to get into a healthy discussion on the fundamental points of my conclusions. If I’m wrong, I will be the first to point it out. If I’m right, so what, we are committed to this contract through next year. Only option at this point is to prepare to re-bid which will probably happen anyway. What does disturb me is that we are wasting energy defending the status quo. During the campaign, I strongly campaigned on these permit fees as did Jr. Shelton. Everyone denied there was a problem. But we recently made changes to address it. So who was right ? Doesnt really matter, it was fixed and we have taken the right step. Same thing here. These numbers cannot be disputed so lets quit wasting time arguing. The quickest way to cut me off at the knees is for someone to admit there is a problem and announce we will be looking at options. What can I say then ? Nothing, its addressed. Newspaper articles stop on the subject, dead issue. Now if I really had an agenda other than whats best for Central, would I be giving people a way to cut me off ? Think about it.
    There is a peaceful way to handle all this and I would rather it be done that way……….

  10. Kyle

    August 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I am glad to see so many people starting to step up and defend the good people of our city. I am saying this in a serious manner. While I did not know many of them at the time of incorporation, I have gotten to know several of them over the past few months since the election, as I have taken the time to call them or personally talk to them to find out the “truth” of matters, rather than reading and believing everyting posted in the Central City News. It is amazing how much I have come to realize is not true in the CCN, and how misaligned and biased that paper is. I am glad to see that more people around our city are starting to realize that.

    Concerned for Central, Keith, Tim, and HadEnuff, thanks for speaking up. I too am tired of good people’s names being slandered, businesses being threatened by Woody’s associates if they support the city, developers being accused of things that aren’t true, and Dave (editor of CentralSpeaks) being slammed for reporting “the facts”? Dave, you have been an eye-opener for the rest of us by giving us informative, unbiased information to counter all these false rumors. I hope that all of the good people who are being slandered on here and copying everything that is printed and turn it over to a good attorney who will sue for defamation of character, libel, slander or whatever. Maybe that will put an end to all of this bickering.

    Seems Woody just wants to keep things stirred up. Ask yourself…why? He doesn’t even live in Central, so why is he doing this to our city? Why all of a sudden, does he want to get rid of the school board and city’s attorney? Why does he have pastors in the community turning against him? We have a new council that wants to move forward, but he is doing everything he can to push them back. I read in Central Speaks where Mayor Watts sends his “From the Mayor’s Desk” to the Central City News too for publication. Why has Woody never published it? Maybe because he can’t edit it or editorialize it. People need to wake up and ask what Woody’s secret agenda is and why he changed against this city so fast. Something’s up. I am fed up too. It’s time to move on, but we can’t as long as the CCN is around spreading misinformation and half-truths and publically criticizing and humiliating anyone who disagrees with them.

  11. KeithK

    August 12, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Mike, fundamentally the argument is faith based, like deciding between wether truth lies in the bible or the koran. You believe the document you hold is the original worksheet, if I’m reading it right Dave believes it was a preliminary document not intended for final use. I’m sure both of you have relatively good sources as do the christians and the muslims. Until the actual document can be agreed on the argument is kind of pointless. I don’t doubt your desire to find the truth in this and I believe you are sincere in your research. I believe the truth concerning this is out there, and I also believe no wrong doing will be found. I am very concerned though that all the speculation of misappropriation and mishandling of public money is just more wood for the fire for a burning at the stake of many good innocent people by those that have an obvious agenda to do so.

  12. KeithK

    August 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Mike,
    Fundamentally the argument is faith based, like deciding between wether truth lies in the bible or the koran. You believe the document you hold is the original worksheet, if I’m reading it right Dave believes it was a preliminary document not intended for final use. I’m sure both of you have relatively good sources as do the christians and the muslims. Until the actual document can be agreed on the argument is kind of pointless. I don’t doubt your desire to find the truth in this and I believe you are sincere in your research. I believe the truth concerning this is out there, and I also believe no wrong doing will be found. I am very concerned though that all the speculation of misappropriation and mishandling of public money is just more wood for the fire for a burning at the stake of many good innocent people by those that have an obvious agenda to do so.

  13. KeithK

    August 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Sorry, may have double posted??

  14. andrew

    August 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    If those who wanted to rush into this “Central City” had taken their time and not been so hasty, maybe we would’ve gotten more than 1/4 of the 26 million we were owed for the construction of a new Central Middle. In 15 years almost every public school in EBR has been either heavily remodeled and renovated or completely rebuilt and a year or two before they get to central middle we jump the gun to prevent the “undesirables” from getting into our city. In Bellingrath we actually had to call central’s town hall to get a median weedeated and cut because whoever is supposed to take care of that job(CH2MHILL???) let it go by for over 5 months causing a dangerous blind spot to traffic. finally these geniuses send out 2 guys with weedeaters to cut a quarter acre because they said it wasn’t scheduled on the list of places to mow. WE already have the highest taxes around, let’s atleast have some decent city services for our money, for what we pay we could have fresh flowers lining the streets year round.

    if they’re innocent it will show, but when one of the wealthiest guys in central randomly steps down from his position after “working so hard to get this city” it stinks of something foul and i’m all for finding out why!

    Also, let’s think back to when our wonderful mayor wanted to build this massive school complex for an outrageous amount of money, wasn’t the land they wanted to use for said school in the watts family!

  15. Mike Mannino

    August 13, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Andrew,
    To be fair, I’m going to have to defend the mayor on your comment. The school system has nothing to do with the mayor. And I dont remember any of the proposed sites being in the Watts family but if I’m wrong, someone correct me.

  16. Wade Evans

    August 13, 2010 at 6:49 am

    if it was Watts, it was not Mac Watts

  17. Jimmie Keith Kepper

    August 13, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Andrew, our taxes are not just for grass cutting or lining streets with flowers! I’m gonna make a assumption that you’re talking about Mr. Starns in the conclusion of your post. I’ll also make the assumption that you don’t really know Mr. Starns! Because if you did you would know of his love and support of this community that trails back into his childhood. Accusations form public opinions as harshly as convictions do, so, innocent(as I am sure he is) or not the damage is done. I’ll guess that in a broader sense you’re saying that if you were he, you would be running again, no matter what the emotional, personal and financial cost would be? Well, I seriously doubt you would.

    Whil

  18. Jimmie Keith Kepper

    August 13, 2010 at 9:19 am

    My real question for you is what are you doing besides complaining to make our City and School System better? Put your money where your mouth is, that’s what Russell did!

  19. Kyle

    August 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Andrew:

    The mayor has nothing to do with the school system. The school system is a separate body that has nothing to do with the city. Also, was the median you wanted weed-eated on a state highway or parish road? If so, those aren’t central’s responsibility..they belong to the state or parish. I see Central’s crews out mowing some state roads because the state won’t. I’m not complaining!

  20. HadEnuff

    August 13, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Andrew, I find your remarks offensive! Mr. Starnes gave his time and money to do something good for this community. It is people like you who spew vicious, evil, and just plain slanderous remarks that make good people throw in the towel.
    SHAME ON YOU!

  21. Sugar

    August 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    “just the facts” are mostly opinions and speculation.

    I want to know where my tax dollars are going. How is that ripping the city apart?

    • dave

      August 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Sugar,

      To your statement: ““just the facts” are mostly opinions and speculation.”

      I guess I could take you at your word, “mostly” and ask you to identify that over 50% of the “facts” presented are opinion and/or speculation. Instead, how about you give me three. Please cite three things printed as “facts” that are actually only opinion or speculation. If you will do that for me, I will retract or correct each of them both on the website and in print. I will do that if you just give me one! Fair enough?

      To your comment: ” I want to know where my tax dollars are going.”

      The City of Central is audited by a CPA firm with expertise in governmental accounting each year. These audited financial statements are on line at the City’s website. The link for the 2008-2009 financial statement can be found at this link: http://www.centralgov.com/CityClerk/Budget/2009/Audit_Report_0630009.pdf
      I believe that this will account for every penny of the taxpayers’ money. In the Case of CH2M HILL, which is what you are probably asking, we give them money in exchange for providing the services outlined in their contract. If they fail to provide those services, we have contractual recorse against them. However, I have not heard in all the conversation that it is actually an issue of service failure. Rather, it has been about wanting to see their records, and the court has said we don’t get to.

      I suspect that you are asking how the recipients of these tax dollars, specifically CH2M HILL, spend THEIR money. Short answer is, we don’t get to know that. If we, as a City, want the benefits of privatization, which include shifting liability for retirement funding, lawsuits, insurance claims and the responsibility to ensure productivity, to a private company, we sign away the right to dicate, or even know, how they spent THEIR money. If we want to run a Public Works Department and saddle ourselves with all of those risks, responsibilities and long-term financial responsibilities, we need to take the process public and do it ourselves. I am not a proponent of that.

      Demanding to know how much CH2M HILL pays for their subcontractors or their employees or their paper clips is just like demanding to know how much Xerox spends on advertising simply because the City buys Xerox toner cartridges for the copy machine. Just because CH2M HILL is a large part of our budget does not give us any more of a right to demand their private financial information.

      As a disclaimer, most of the preceding is simply my opinion.

      Dave

  22. HadEnuff

    August 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    I disagree with you Sugar. Facts that are stated are just that, facts.
    As to wanting to know how our tax dollars are being spent, I think everyone is interested in that and Central citizens are entitled to know.

  23. HadEnuff

    August 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks Dave!! I agree with your “opinion”!

  24. Mike Mannino

    August 14, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Simply put, this is not about how CH2 spends their money, its about how much more we give them than we should have agreed to. IF everyone would admit we MAY be spending too much, not because anyones crooked but because we just didnt know any better, I might let this go. But we have people insisting its OK because their friends, uncles, brothers, mama, daddy or what ever relationship was invloved in this in the begining and tehy worked so hard on it. I have one question for anyone that thinks this is no big deal. How much is OK to waste? Is it $100, $10000, $1,000,000 ? How about $500,000 ? Give me a number so I can see if you are really concerned about our tax money or worried more about embarassing someone you know that has been involved with getting CH2 here. All I hear is emotional responses on here, very few fact based discussions. Not one comment even trying to dispute the “worksheet” or ” PROPOSED BUDGET” as I prefer to call it.

    • dave

      August 14, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      Mike,
      I have presented a fact-based discussion in the article itself. If you desire a fact-based discussion can you please start be addressing the facts presented? Can you please start by explaining why the “proposed budget” has been promoted as a 2005 budget and as a work product of the Central Transition District? I would have to assume that attributing these things to the pieces of paper makes them seem like a more legitimate base-line for claiming that our current contract is too expensive, but I would like your opinion of those claims. Then please google “slidell louisiana budget” and look at the nearby city of Slidell with the same population as Central and a Public Works budget of roughly $8 million, twice the budget of Central. I do not claim to have researched all of the difference between the two cities, but I am also not making the claim that Central’s leaders saved us $4 million when they signed our current City Services contract. Finally, perhaps we should find an arms-length transaction in which a City and another entity entered into an agreement for the contracting of City Services and compare those numbers. We will not have to look far. When we broke away from Baton Rouge the intergovernmental agreement to provide these very same services was roughly $4 million. While I actually don’t think that is a true measure of the value of the services because even Baton Rouge had no idea of what the spent in Central, it is certainly at least as legitimate as the worksheet on which you have based your claims of wasting $2 million.

      So here we have three approaches, $1.3 million based on a worksheet compiled with incomplete data, $4 million based on the charge by Baton Rouge to Central for these services, $4 million negotiated for our current City Services contract, and $8 million that Slidell pays for theirs. All of this is to point out that there will be truly NO WAY to evaluate a fair price for this contract until it is rebid in the competitive open market. THAT, is how contracts work. You get one shot, you take the best deal you can get at that moment in time, and you live with your decision. At the next opportunity to evaluate the market and make the best deal you can, you do it again. It is unhealthy for this community for anyone to create a crisis over an issue when the extent of the research is to look at a “proposed budget” put together with incomplete data for the purpose of justifying the creation of the Central we have today. Where is the due diligence of comparing Central’s City Services budget with similar sized cities in the gulfsouth region? If you want “fact-based discussion”, how about starting with some well-researched facts?

  25. Mike Mannino

    August 15, 2010 at 12:56 am

    I’m not going to debate anymore about whether the “worksheet” was a “Proposed Budget” anymore. It speaks for itself as its written all over it. You know as well as I do, the binder you reference was put together from a box of loose documents to meet my public records request. I mentioned on that day, that very fact. Ask around, all but people who dont want to admit to this “fact” for political reasons, believe me.

    As far as the Slidell budget, thanks for reinforcing my position. I took your advice and looked it up. As I expected, it includes many things that are not relevent to Central such as $621,000 for the City Council, Sewers, waste water treatment, $400,000 for training and on and on. I’ll bet if I really dig into it, because its not well detailed though it at least gives some detail on Public works, it may be closer to what the “proposed budget” shows than you think.

    I would be more than willing to do a workup for Central but there is one big problem that keeps getting in the way and its CH2’s lack of cooperation. That aside, just going by what you can see as far as the number of people they have, and estimates of some of the services from the proposed budget, it looks dang close to the 1.3 million. I’m not pulling this out the air, I actually have checked it for reasonablness. Any more 30,000 resident Cities you want to compare ?

    • dave

      August 15, 2010 at 1:34 am

      Mike, It is all too convenient to call an arbitrary halt to the discussion of the “Proposed Budget” in order to avoid answering the question: “Can you please start by explaining why the “proposed budget” has been promoted as a 2005 budget and as a work product of the Central Transition District?” when neither the year 2005 nor any reference to the Central Transition District is made on the document. Still would like an answer on that one. And, I refute your assertion that the CTD binder was “put together from a box of loose documents to meet my public records request”. I found the majority of the paperwork to be organized, properly bound, and well presented. And, I still would like an answer to my question.

      I did not make any assertion that Slidell’s budget was an exact model for Central, but befoer the numbers get mis-reported, see page 2 of 7 of the budget, under “Public Works Department”, which has a total buget of $7,498,278 before you add in “Planning” and “Building Safety” from page 1 for another $1,130,021. See specifically the line item under “Public Works” labeled “streets” for $3,010,245 and the line item under Public Works labeled “Administration” for $2,937,192. The items you referenced “City Council” and “Training” are not even items included in the $7,498,278 for “Public Works”. Sorry to have failed to reinforce your position. Still not saying the budgets can be compared “apples to apples” but when the line item for “Streets” alone is $3,010,245 it is, as you like to say, “intellectually dishonest” to claim that the entire Slidell Public Works budget is closer to $1.3 million. That is just baseless. I still only use all of this to say that no one can or will know the current competitive market value of our City Services contract until it is rebid. Assertions that CH2M HILL is hiding anything is like accusing Raising Cane’s of hiding their “secret” sauce recipe. Of course they protect their private company information. That is why we call them private companies!

      An interesting side note. Slidell, a City whose population is almost exactly that of Central, has a City Attorney’s office with a budget of $398,756… for a SINGLE YEAR!!! Yet, the people of Central, whose City and School System Attorney has defended or prosecuted at least three lawsuits for the City and School Board, are being led to believe that $75,000 per year in legal fees for each entity is outrageous. Care to comment? Again, an answer to my first question would be nice as well. I also remind you that we have had an ongoing discussion of all of these issues for some days now, and I only engage you in public because you chose to continue the discussion on this site.

  26. Mike Mannino

    August 15, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Only because I find it amusing LOL.

  27. BeBe

    August 15, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Dave,

    I respond to your comment above, (so we can get facts straight here), in which you said,

    “All of this is to point out that there will be truly NO WAY to evaluate a fair price for this contract until it is rebid in the competitive open market.”

    and since you capitalize the words NO WAY, I thought you may actually believe what you say here. Dave, there is A WAY, to evaluate a fair price.

    That WAY would be to get a new, updated proposal from a professional company, outside company and just redo the proposal which you and Mike seem to argue endlessly over as to what the correct terminology is on what to call it!! And this time we can get the projected costs of a police force included.

    That way, regardless of any bid, we can know what the true cost is to compare it too. But we should also consider the cost of privatization and its closed books and capability of back room deals being made. I’m sorry Dave but I live in the real world of today, the one that is not all peaches and cream.

    The Mayor, nor council or any other seems to see this obvious answer nor are they proactive in obtaining this information. It seems they have one answer, CH2, and whatever CH2 says they precieve as the truth and their right. I beg to differ. CH2 is looking out for their best interest, and it seems the mayor looks after it for them as well.

    • dave

      August 15, 2010 at 11:02 am

      BeBe, Your point is valid. I agree with your assertion that a MUCH BETTER ESTIMATE (caps added for humor) could be obtained by hiring a consultant. That would at least give us a ball park idea of the value of our City Services work today. In a prior post on this thread I vaguely suggested a similar approach when I asked Mike for some real research including comparables. You, however, accurately pegged a process by which we could get a reasonable estimate. Ultimately, the only true cost will be what a company offers and has accepted in a competitive bid. The school construction is a great example. We spent a significant amount of money having PBK architects estimate the cost of the projects. The bids determined the actual fair market value of the contract. Fortunately, it was a million or so (I believe) lower than the estimates.

      In short, I readily acknowledge you are correct in your approach and that it is a rational way to end the speculation. That process, while a good one, would cost money and would probably take months, but would be a great investment if we had two or three years left on our contract. Fortunately, with about 10 months left until a new contract is awareded, we can shift that burden to bidders, so long as we do a good job of writing the new Request For Qoutation, which we need to begin doing now, and involve enough competitive bidders to keep the price honest.

      I mostly appreciate that in showing me another view of the process, you have been gracious. I honestly DO want you to post or e-mail me when you feel that I may let “opinion” sneak into the presentation of a “fact”. It is impossible for anyone to keep themselves 100% “honest” simply because we all get lost in our own assumptions and begin to see things from only one point of view. Keep posting and stay involved.

      Dave

  28. BeBe

    August 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Dave,

    In reference to your comment here:

    “To your statement: ““just the facts” are mostly opinions and speculation.”

    I guess I could take you at your word, “mostly” and ask you to identify that over 50% of the “facts” presented are opinion and/or speculation. Instead, how about you give me three. Please cite three things printed as “facts” that are actually only opinion or speculation. If you will do that for me, I will retract or correct each of them both on the website and in print. I will do that if you just give me one! Fair enough?”…….

    I just gave you one, would you like me to show another?? Do I get a prize or something for doing so?….LOL. I can show you your opinion in quite a few places… 🙂

    But its okay Dave, I am of the belief that you actually have a RIGHT to your opinion and that it holds value. Just as I believe others have right to theirs which are just as valuable.

  29. Mike Mannino

    August 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Thank you BeBe !

  30. BeBe

    August 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

    You are welcome Mike Mannino!

    and Dave, I see your response as half correct. The proposal would be better than a bid estimate due to the fact that we decide the salary for each position and its stated duties. However, the person in consideration of the job description, of course, can accept or not. In which case, we interview the next candidate for consideration.

    But it is a LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT to do an updated appraisal on the cost of running our own city government vs that of a contractor bid. And these professionals, are just that, professionals. They range very close give or minus a small percentage.

    10 months huh? We better get started!!

    • dave

      August 15, 2010 at 11:47 am

      You are right. 10 months does not leave much time to play with. I will accept “half correct” in the sense that the only avenue I was considering was continuing with the level of privatization we now have. The only way we can set salaries is to begin taking the City Services function on as a part of government. I am fearful of the financial consequences in the long term. Central, as a city, is a baby. Slidell, which I have said is similar to Central in population, has about $17 million in available funds to do what we do for less than $6 million. We do not have anywhere near the tax base they do. As to being half right, I am a married male so half right is a good day for me.

      Your approach is quite valid and might indeed be the less expensive soultion today, but let’s watch out for the long-term costs.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Dave

  31. BeBe

    August 15, 2010 at 11:48 am

    oh, and lets not forget the cost and value of those things which cannot be calculated and percieved in monetary values, which come with the benefit of running our own city government. Things like open, honest, transparent government with still allows us our rights, freedom,prosperity and the ability to determine our own destiny!!

    Those may be the most valuable things of all and the greatest ‘cost’ saver here … 😉

    • dave

      August 15, 2010 at 11:59 am

      That is a HUGE cost. I believe that the Mayor, if he had it all to do over again, would handle all of this differently. However, I believe the same of everyone, including former and present Council Members, Those who sought office and were not elected, and each of us who has commented and analyzed the process. I will be the first to say that if I knew then what I know now, I would have acted and spoken differently. It is all easy in hindsight.

      Our challenge is to allow each person and elected official enough space and time to evaluate where we are today and choose their path going forward. City Services will not fall apart tomorrow. Costs will not run out of control in a week. There will not be an election in a month. Let’s all take a deep breath. There is a time-line and necessary schedule for each action, and the City Services contract deadline looms, but I have confidence it will be handled properly. In the light of our sudenly enlightened, involved and valuable public, and their input, how could the Council or the Mayor do any less?

      • dave

        August 15, 2010 at 11:59 am

        I will be back on site later, not ignoring anyone.

  32. mike mannino

    August 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    BeBe,
    Thank you for articulating what I have been trying to get across, whether the ” Budget” fell from the sky or a bunch of aliens wrote it, its at least a good document to use for a comparative basis since it is very close to what we are doing today. Only point Ive been trying to make. I could care less where it came from because the substance is usable.

  33. Mike Mannino

    August 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Dave,
    Now thats a very fair statement and I totally agree with you. So why cant we all agree on that and let it go. Thats all I’m saying and Im fine with it. Lets just see some movement instead of fighting about words because there is nothing that we do or dont do that will have catstophic affects in the short term. You see, we can totally agree on something and thats all I want is a reasonable approach to address concerns. Then I nor anyone else has a leg to stand on as far as being critical.

  34. Jimmie Keith Kepper

    August 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Mike, maybe in a perfect world, but seems to me criticism just for the sake of criticism is the rule these days. I would venture to say that no company or city for that matter has ever put a budget together and been 100% successful in maintaining it. It is a guide used to reach a desired result. I completely agree that there MAY be better answer out there than what we have now.  But really, all of this energy simply to say in the end let’s do better next time?  Couldn’t that point have been made without a discovery of documents?  I know you stand independently, but this was all motivated for purely political purposes. Now it’s trying to be reclothed as something it’s not.   A mayoral candidate used as his platform information concerning city services that were misleading and not accurate and that was exposed in an ad by CH2.  I am sure that had that candidate been elected this post would not even exist. 

    I’m on the side of privatization for what I think are sound economical reasons.  This doesn’t mean that I will maintain this position as our city grows and changes occur. 

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