Why Public Works Projects Cost So Much

If you build it they will come.

Well, paying legally required “prevailing wage” to union workers, for one thing. This adds from 33-50% to the straight labor costs.

But there’s a more insidious cost to reckon with. And that’s the often overlooked administration costs tacked on to construction projects by the City Engineering Department. By gouging these projects with inflated bureaucratic costs, the Engineering Department can pad its own budget without leaning on the General Fund. The monies for capital projects comes from CDBG funds, Redevelopment tax increment, Gas Tax revenue – a whole crazy Byzantine funding network that fortuitously disconnects the payer from the beneficiary.

Yesterday our blogger Christian noted that a contract to upgrade traffic signals at three intersections was let out to a contractor for about $102,000; but that the City’s Engineering Department tacked on a whopping $39,000 for its own administration and inspections. That’s about a 38% increase, and is anomalously high – even for a typical project in Fullerton. Smaller projects get disproportionately nailed. But the point is that actual infrastructure improvements – the very stuff that everybody says they want to promote – is getting, and has gotten robbed by featherbedding in the Engineering Departments.

Of course this has been going for years and years and years. It’s a standard practice. Probably everywhere. So why haven’t the politicians ever cottoned on to this sleight of hand? Maybe they have. But its just so much easier to go along with the “experts” and not ask any questions; or if you do, don’t demand any cogent answers.

9 Replies to “Why Public Works Projects Cost So Much”

  1. Makes you wonder what the mark up is on the Library and Community Center projects is. Must run in the millions.

    Maybe we can get one of our outstanding councilpersons to explain this to us.

  2. Stop bashing “union” labor.. Unions are what made the middle class.. Enabled all those factory workers to buy homes, send their children, sometimes the first generation to college etc. These men and women created vibrant neighborhoods, communities, a nation, where everyone was almost equal.

    The war on “unions” over the past few decades has cost America dearly. We no longer have a substantial middle class, the classic bell curve, but something frightening, an inverse bell curve w/more and more poor, very small middle class and more and more rich. I don’t know what you all have been reading but in the last 20 years, the shift in wealth from the middle class to the already rich has increased 50 fold or more.

    Hurrah for unions.. They advocate for fair wages (I don’t see anyone protesting CEO salaries 2000% more than the average worker), health care (we pay more out of pocket than ever w/health care companies reaping billions in profits) and defined retirement plans (kiss those goodbye, the scam that is 401k’s).

    Unions built great cities, when employers were leared south (in a barely disguised effort to break unions), poverty has soared. Just look at America’s south, the epitome of a “union” busting environment, hardly the most properous region, probably the poorest.

  3. Unions have become the scourge of productivity and the celebration of the lowest common denominator. They use politics and emotion to distort pay structures and protect the laziest workers at the expense of economic freedom and individual prosperity.

    Unions have bled the life out of every industry that they have attached themselves to. Auto manufacturing, airlines, municipalities, state government — all clearly recognized failures in this modern world. All sucked dry by the union political machine.

  4. So, unions are to blame for the current climate of corporate greed which has led us into the Second Great Depression in this century?

  5. tax dollar funded government grants that usually fund some silly social engineering project or worthless research at some university are skimmed by at least 11% to the person who wrote the grants so he or she may administer it. I may write a grant to study the effect of aging on the elderly, document a few hours at a nursing home,search the internet for an existing thesis on this dumb topic, and spend the grant on my personal purchases. Government at all levels must be fiscally reformed so to stop further abuses outlined in Desert Rat’s post

  6. Economies cycle. If you’re looking for someone to blame for an unusually deep cycle, I would suggest you look at our monetary system which has been perverted by politics to heighten and lengthen the economic peaks, thus deepening and lengthening the troughs.

    Corporatism also plays a role. Very similar to what the unions have done, actually. The political manipulation and unbalancing of natural supply and demand structures has been perpetrated across the board.

    The only solution is a smaller and less intrusive government.

  7. How many years was your assclown Sean Nelson on the city council; ask him instead of sucking his ass everytime he farts.

    1. You make a good point. Nelson never said a word.

      However the term assclown is proprietary and belongs to Hide and Seek Harry Sidhu.

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