We’re constantly told that policing in Fullerton is physically demanding work that necessitates extreme financial compensation. Without multi-million dollar pensions, we’re warned, our city may not be able to afford the best of the best. And so for decades we’ve been paying, and we’ve been paying quite a bit.
At least it’s good to know we’re getting the best.
It happened pretty quickly, just like a UFO sighting, and just as rare: a Fullerton councilperson suggesting accountability. But here you see Greg Sebourn raising the embarrassing subject of the lamentable Hillcrest Park “stairs to nowhere.”
If you’ve been paying attention, you know very well by now that these rickety looking wooden “exercise” stairs are a $1.6 million waste, a genuine Fullerton-type boondoggle that nobody outside City Hall wanted; a mess compounded by what can only be called substandard materials, workmanship and incompetent oversight – and that’s being charitable.
No, Greg, we cannot get a refund and good luck finding anybody to second a motion to do a full and complete audit of this project to find out how and why the whole thing went sideways so badly.
In case you needed any more evidence of the slipshod way the “exercise stairs” at Hillcrest Park were built, I offer in evidence some images taken by the FFFF Construction Field Documentation Team (CFDT) that has been awfully busy lately examining the many failures at the “Pine Forest Stairs” to nowhere.
Here is what the foundations are supposed to look like:
Here is what happened at one location. The top of the caisson was too high and had to be broken out to accommodate a post or cross beam supporting the stair stringer. Unfortunately the rebar in the caisson has been exposed to rust away and eventually spall the concrete.
Here’s a location where a large chunk of the caisson has mysteriously broken off. Here there is no reinforcing steel in sight.
And finally, here’s an example of what can happen when you decide to sink a big 6″x 6″ wood post into concrete:
Apparently many of the caissons are already cracking just like this one. Are these structures even safe? Will our common seismic events cause serious problems? I’m not privy to those answers, but I can tell you that there’s no way I’m getting on those things.
And just for fun, note that the contractor reworked the top the caisson to get water to run off. This sloppy effort is going to flake off – exposing the post to a permanent puddle.
It’s hard to believe that “professionals” inside and outside of City Hall were extremely well paid to oversee this hodgepodge of construction horrors, but there you have it. $1.6 million dollars and this is the best Fullerton can do.
Take a second and watch recall leader Carl DeMaio explain how recalling Josh Newman is the first step in a three stage plan to rescind the new car tax and fix California’s roads without new taxes.
To sum up his plan:
Recall Newman and eliminate the 2/3rds Democratic majority in the state senate.
Give legislature 30 days to rescind gas tax before additional recalls commence.
Pass statewide initiative to commit existing tax dollars towards road repairs.
Now that’s pretty ambitious. But remember that this tax is just the first test case for the Democrats, who are working on other tax hikes as we speak. They’re now desperate to fill in the enormous financial gap left by the public pension crisis. Even just the elimination of Newman has the potential to stop the state from reaching back into our pockets over and over again.
During our series on the ill-fated, $1.6 million dollar “exercise stairs” in Hillcrest Park, some of our Friends correctly noted the problem of the wood support posts that had been poured into the concrete caissons that hold the whole structure up. Obviously, something went wrong. Notice how none of the posts are centered on the caissons, and some are barely two inches from the outside of the concrete, leading me to wonder how they managed to fit a rebar reinforcement inside the caisson.
From the project drawings, here is how the caisson and post are supposed to be aligned. The post centers on the caisson with 4 rebars equally spaced around it. Please notice the 3″ minimum clearance from the rebar to the outside of the concrete.
Clearly the footings and posts were built incorrectly. Obviously the caissons holes were drilled in the wrong places – and the construction manager must have agreed to let this pass. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens. If the footings crack them may have to be replaced – and they weren’t built to be replaced.
This whole mess made me wonder about why the posts were sunk into the concrete in the first place – a very odd situation given that the expansion and contraction of the posts, when wet, could lead to potential concrete cracking and spalling, especially when the post is near the outer rim of the caisson.
It turns out I wasn’t alone. Here is a string of e-mails from the contractor, construction manager, and the architect discussing the redesign of the caissons and posts to a hardware connection – a solution that would make the replacement of the posts significantly easier. The contractor was willing to do this and add the necessary cross bracing at no cost to the City.
I wonder what will happen when the concrete caissons crack, or when the posts rot out. The architect seems to think the posts will outlast the rest of the rickety framing. I wonder which will go first.
A while back some anonymous Friend dropped off what appears to be leaked financial statements from Rusty Kennedy’s non-profit, the Orange County Human Relations Council. The files didn’t receive much attention from FFFF at the time, but this week one of our readers recently pointed out Rusty has been down at the county begging for a new $250,000 infusion to fund additional employees for his private non-profit.
OK, let’s take a look at his financial statements. If you believe that this leaked budget is authentic (I do), an additional $250,000 per year from the county taxpayers would conveniently cover the Council’s projected loss for 2016.
Now that’s not very good, is it? Running a non-profit at a 20% annual loss is cause for concern. But of course this is a private 501(c)(3), so that’s normally a problem for Rusty’s private board members to worry about.
Or is it? What if Rusty is groveling for cash at the county just pay for existing expenses, rather than hiring the three new people as promised? The group already receives substantial funding from the county and local cities. Why should the county give more money to a group that can’t balance its budget? Furthermore, it’s hard to tell if there’s any real value in Rusty’s services, or if his organization offers any sort of efficiency. Program expenses aren’t identified in this budget at all. Why not?
Here’s one clue hidden within the documents: Salaries, Benefits, and Payroll Taxes account for 98.1% of their budgeted revenue. With salaries eating up the entire budget, one might wonder if this whole operation isn’t just some make-work project for Rusty and his friends.
There’s one more concern. Rusty has collected a lot of donations over the years by pretending that his non-profit is actually an empowered county agency. Many of his donors are misinformed, which is why the county recently insisted he stop using the county logo and misappropriating the name of the similarly-named Orange County Human Relations Commission. Furthermore, there is at least one board member who hold seats in both organizations – a glaring conflict of interest that the county has yet to resolve.
Altogether, these documents paint a pretty dim picture for Rusty’s personally lucrative public/private amalgamation. Will county supervisors continue to dump money into Kennedy’s opaque and unaccountable mess of an organization? And how much are individual OC cities paying into Rusty’s perpetual self-employment apparatus? Do Orange County residents receive any real value from this public/private partnership, or is it time to scrape this useless barnacle off the county barge?
Here is the Director of the OC Human Relations Council, Fullerton’s own Rusty Kennedy (in a letter to his sister’s Fullerton Observer) simultaneously congratulating himself and his fellow professional do-gooders, boot-licking the County Supervisors who will soon reflect upon the merits of Kennedy’s operation, and of course, denigrating all the citizens who are rightfully concerned that having several hundred homeless people imported into the vicinity of their homes, schools and businesses are misguided, etc., etc.
Of course none of this semi-literate screed is surprising. In fact it’s all old stuff – particularly the nauseating part about the death of Kelly Thomas being some sort of wake up call. From the very beginning of that saga, Fullerton’s old guard liberals were determined to make the death of Thomas at the hands of six FPD goons a homeless issue, instead of what it really was – the worst example of a police department mired in corruption, incompetence and denial.
For Rusty Kennedy in particular, this distraction was essential and based on his own self-interest. Kennedy’s crew collects income from local police departments who “partner” with him in the aftermath of one of their outrages, ostensibly to calm troubled waters, until the next crisis. He relies upon police chiefs to recommend him and his “council” to be the County’s operator of another useless organization: the OC Human Relations Commission. And that contract is reviewed periodically as part of the County’s frugality theater kabuki.
Here’s the final (for now) installment of the series by our Friend “Fullerton Engineer” documenting the sad history of the project to add a couple of elevators to the existing tower/bridge structure at the Depot. Remarkably, none of our elected representatives seems the least bit curious about the downward trajectory of this project, or the ultimate tap into our Facility Capital Repair Fund, a fund that was never intended to pay for new construction, particularly for projects never needed in the first place.
The best way of avoiding embarrassing information is not to ask embarrassing questions. It’s not their money.
It took over five years, but the astonishingly high cost of an elevator addition project at the Fullerton train station finally hit Fullerton taxpayers directly in 2017.
The project that the public never asked for and doesn’t need was initiated based not on necessisity, but on the availability of money from Sacramento; and later, OCTA came to the funding rescue. But the delays piled up – year after year, and OCTA would no longer pay the bill. So in March, the City Engineer, Don Hoppe, came hat in hand and asked the Fullerton taxpayers for money. Lots of it. Here’s the staff report.
Notice how the various and diverse issues are all thrown together into a single sum – $600,000. We see added cost for the railroad flagging for some unexplained reason; the curiosity of “unforeseen” utilities on a well-developed site; an unknown amount to pay for the escalated cost of the elevator subcontractor; and finally, an unspecified amount to cover “additional assistant (sic) in contract administration” a nebulous term, but a category clearly meant to cover the ongoing cost of someone in the Public Works department. The final item is particularly ironic given the amounts already contracted with private companies for construction support and management on this very small project.
The simple fact that these items are lumped together can only be explained by an attempt to obfuscate the nature and trues costs of the ongoing delay. And those delay costs are increasing even now, as the project seems to have stalled again.
Here’s a clip of KFI’s John and Ken expanding upon The Hourly Struggle’s recent interview with state senator Josh Newman. The radio hosts also took the opportunity to announce that they are coming to Fullerton this week, gathering signatures to recall Newman.