Guest Commentary: Staff Wants Council to Approve Two Fire Station Kitchen Remodel Projects for a Minimum of $422,000



Over $200,000 each for Kitchen Remodels During these Disastrous Times? – You Have Got to be Kidding Me !!!

by Alan Pryor

Davis and the entire world are in the midst of an economic meltdown for which nobody has a clue when it will end. Locally, Davis will be hardest hit by the huge loss of the transit occupancy tax collected by our now near empty hotels and motels and the plummeting sales tax caused by the collapse of retail and auto sales. This will cost the City many millions in lost tax revenue just as the City’s revenue needs will likely surge due to humanitarian costs.

Yet in the midst of this obvious economic calamity and according to a Consent Calendar item on this coming Tuesday’s Council meeting agenda, Staff is asking Council for approval to spend another $43,000 on local architects Indigo | Hammond + Playle Architects (Indigo Hammond) for design/engineering of heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system upgrades and disability access improvements as part of the planned complete remodels of two kitchens in Fire Stations 31 and 32 in Davis. The two kitchen remodels are expected to cost over $422,000 for the remodels and this may not even include the additional costs for HVAC system upgrades and disability access improvements at one of the fire stations.

But get this, the kitchens are reportedly working fine right now!

If true, this is a foolhardy discretionary spending decision that the City is considering in light of the public health and economic perils we currently face. And this is from a City management that promised us that they were laser-focused on cost-containment when they asked us to renew the existing 1% sales tax on the recent March ballot less than 3 weeks ago.

Let me explain

As part of the City’s approximate $61,000,000 budget for FY 2019-2020, revenues of $16,226,000 are expected from sales and use taxes levied and collected in the City. Many pundits expect this to fall by a minimum of 50% and possibly 75% on an annualized basis during the duration of the current ongoing Corona virus crisis. This could result in an annual shortage of as much as $8,000,000 to $12,000,000 if the economic damage is extended for a year into the future. This would be disastrous for the City government’s economic well-being.

Yet in the Consent Calendar item scheduled to be considered this Tuesday, Staff is asking Council to authorize an additional $43,530 on top of the $42,600 they have already award to Indigo Hammond for the kitchen remodel redesign. Apparently, however, this planned remodel is NOT because the existing kitchens do not work now. I have been told they are completely usable by one public safety employee whose spoke under a promise of confidentiality.

This is somewhat substantiated in the text of the Staff report submitted to Council as part of this authorization request (see copy at the Staff report end of this article). In this report, Staff does not explain why this remodel project is a priority or urgent necessary capital improvement project. Nor do they even disclose if the existing kitchens are functional or not or what the expense would otherwise be to repair or replace individual appliances if they are not currently in working order or to do partial upgrades or maintenance of any necessary urgent repairs needed at the fire stations. The only justification of the proposed kitchen remodel projects given by Staff in their authorization request to Council is as follows:

The Fire Station 31 and 32 Kitchen Remodel project was created based on the existing condition of the kitchens at the respective fire stations. Major rehabilitation of the fire stations is not anticipated in the near future, but maintenance and minor improvements are needed for the existing facilities….During design of the kitchen remodel project, it was identified that the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in fire station 31 needed to be reconfigured to improve air circulation in the kitchen, and additional improvements to meet the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) are required to meet the building code. The additional work was not in Indigo’s original scope, and additional meetings on site, construction support, as-built drawings, and design work would be provided by Indigo with Amendment 1“(Emphasis added)

Really? That’s it? So Staff is proposing to spend over $422,000 for two complete, extensive, and hugely expensive kitchen remodels because “maintenance and minor improvements are needed“. Staff does not say if any of the major appliances are not working or whether there are electrical or plumbing safety-related problems or if there are mold or peeling paint or structural rot in the facility. In fact, they do not give any indication at all that this need is a critical infrastructure improvement. So it appears that this expenditure is clearly in the “nice to have” and not in the “need to have” category of spending prioritization.

As such and it light of the current financial crisis, it is highly inappropriate of Staff to even request authorization for this seemingly exorbitant amount for remodel of only two kitchens that each serve only a handful of fire personnel on duty at any one time.

In the Staff report they disclose that the current expected project costs, including the proposed increase award to Indigo-Hammond, will total  $422,00.

It is not clear in the Staff report if this cost includes the increase in construction costs for the additional ventilation system and disability access upgrades. It would seem not to be the case since the apparent requisite design and engineering for the project to accurately price the construction cost for the HVAC and disability access modifications has not even been done yet. If so, the total project cost could soar even higher. Nor does the Staff report explain why disability access improvements to the kitchen are required since there are obviously no fire department personnel with such disabilities who would ever be using the remodeled kitchen facilities.

While not rising to the level of $500 hammers procured by the US Department of Defense in the past, approval of this project by our City Council will undoubtedly gives taxpayers an obvious impression of profligate and reckless spending.  Everyone I have otherwise informally talked to about this proposed expenditure was incensed and outraged that our local government would even consider moving forward on this discretionary project while so many of our residents are now scrambling for rent, food, and gas money or for other basic needs.

Whether the old saying that “Nero Fiddled while Rome burned” is true or not, clear analogies can be drawn to the current actions by our City management in pursuing this ill-timed and unnecessary expenditure while our municipal fiscal house is figuratively burning. It seems from this proposal that Staff has absolutely no sense of the financial crisis the City is facing and the extreme financial stress that will be felt by the City in the immediate future. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that our City employees are somewhat isolated from the financial calamity a major portion of our population is feeling right now. All City employees are now working from home except for fire and police personnel and those providing critical City function such as utilities operations. And all are still paid full salaries and benefits while working from home.

Whatever the reasons, our City Council must stop this irresponsible expenditure of funds when we have so many of our citizens out of work and our municipal income is expected to plummet.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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16 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Staff Wants Council to Approve Two Fire Station Kitchen Remodel Projects for a Minimum of $422,000”

  1. Keith Olsen

    $422,000 for two kitchens?  Those must be some very nice kitchens.

    And to think, the Vanguard was worried about the cost of a few surveillance cameras?

  2. Ron Oertel

    Excellent points in Alan Pryor’s well-written article. Given David’s claimed interest in cost-containment, you’d think that he might have taken the lead on bringing this up, or would at least express some interest in the $422,000 issue. Even more so, during this time of fiscal crisis caused by the coronavirus.

    Perhaps the initial (and subsequent) costs of the “Mace Mess” is another example of wasteful spending, by the city.

    1. Craig Ross

      It seems like an excessive amount of money.  But a key question I have that Alan never addresses in his “well-written article” – the staff report identifies two sources for funding, are those general fund monies or special monies?  It is worth noting that in the agenda the consent item suggests they are Prop 1A expenditures.  Still Alan’s “well-written article” makes no effort to determine the sources of funding.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The staff report was attached in the “other” blog.  Regarding funding, the report states the following:

        There is currently over $1.3M in the building Capital Outlay line item budget in the Building Maintenance Capital Improvement Program (7908) to support citywide facility capital maintenance needs. Funding for the additional design, and construction support for this project would come from this program out of the Facility Maintenance Fund (626).

        Not seeing any mention of Proposition 1A in the staff report.  I did find this link regarding Proposition 1A, which shows that it’s for high-speed rail.  Is there another Proposition 1A?

        Where are you seeing any mention of Proposition 1A, regarding this expenditure?


        1. Craig Ross

          You’ve listed two funds – where does that money come from?  How can it be spent?

          Sorry on Prop 1B, it as the item above, not this one that was funded by that money.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I see.  You’re apparently referring to the resolution regarding the list of road repair projects that would be funded by “SB1” (as noted on the agenda).

          Seems that your comment was not “well-written”.  Perhaps you should have been more careful, before mocking my statement (and Alan’s well-written article).

        3. Alan Miller

          You’ve made completely false claims, and are now (apparently) attempting to divert attention away from that.

          This, my friends, is an example of a phrase that it used when a conversation has completely run its course, plus one.

  3. Tia Will

    My thoughts:

    Although I am usually very proactive in wanting to perform all needed repairs and upgrades to prevent the deterioration of our city facilities, we are facing an unprecedented challenge in the form of coronavirus. Having listened to the BOS presentations this am, my strongest impression is how little we actually know about what we will need over the ensuing weeks and months. I am therefore recommending that the CC suspend consideration of these elective projects until such time as our health authorities determine we are past the coronavirus crisis.

      1. Bill Marshall

        There are several categories of such funds… one likely one is from MPF Public Safety or Public Facilities fees (MPF = Major Project Financing program fees assessed on new development since the late ’80’s).

        Without knowing the details of how much goes to ‘equipment’, and how much to the ADA or HVAC piece, hard to tell… but the reality, is this might be coming up on the right time to bid such a project… bids could well come in lower than expected normally, and it would give the economy at least a little ‘shot in the arm’… neither of which are bad.

        The “well written article” seems to be partly an example of the author’s “well documented animus” towards City staff.

        If the wind dies down, and it doesn’t rain, perhaps I’ll put some green wood in the fireplace and bask in the glow of a nice fire on the hearth. As long as I’m sheltering in place…

        1. Craig Ross

          That’s what I suspected.  So basically this “well written article” based on a false premise that this money is somehow coming from the same pot that would be impacted by loss of revenue from hotels and sales.

          Now, that doesn’t mean this is the best and highest use for the funds where this is coming from, but it does mean that Alan Pryor’s article is on a faulty foundation.

      2. Alan Miller

        Even projects that are carved out of funds that can’t be used for general purpose?

        It’s amazing what government can do with pots of money while under a state of emergency.

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