Can We Get A Refund For The Stairs?

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.

Elevators to Nowhere – The Rising Cost Hits Fullerton Directly

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 DepotRemarkably, 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 may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

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.

— Fullerton Engineer

Elevators to Nowhere – Construction Begins! Oh, Wait. No It Doesn’t.

Friends, here is another in a series of posts about Fullerton’s ill-fated “Elevators to Nowhere” series by “Fullerton Engineer”

It may have been expensive, but it sure was unnecessary…

In following the trajectory of the new elevator project at the Fullerton train station I have described a project that the public neither wanted nor needed, that had its genesis in the simple availability of “free money” way back in 2011 – six long years ago.

Although the design contract was let in 2013, the project was not bid until 2015 when the low bid came in 22% higher than anticipated. The construction contract was awarded anyway. With numerous ancillary “management” contracts, the project budget had grown to $4,000,000. By 2017 that figure had ballooned to an astonishing $4,600,000.

And yet construction didn’t start until February, 2016 and when it did it was only for some minor ADA toilet room modifications adjacent to the AMTRAK ticket office.

Woodcliff Billing #1

You can see in the project billing submitted by Woodcliff Corporation, the contractor, a few items related to bonds, mobilization and the bathroom work in February 2016 – a year after the contract bid. Nothing was billed against the elevator items at all, except for crediting the structural steel shop drawings for $55,000. Over 14 months later the structural steel has not been erected. In fact, the foundations for the steel structure haven’t even been built, as the site sits empty with minor demolition having taken place and some lighting conduit rerouted.

If any delay claims have been submitted by Woodcliff, those documents have not been shared, although delay claims are certainly coming, and escalation costs are already starting to accrue, although we don’t know how much because the costs were intentionally lumped together with  other completely unrelated items in the March 2017 staff report.

As I noted in an earlier post the cause of all these delays is not known by the public because the Public Works staff doesn’t want the public to know that things have obviously gone wrong, very wrong; and, that the inexplicable and unexplained delays have finally cost the taxpayers of Fullerton directly. The money is no longer free.

— Fullerton Engineer

 

 

 

The Elevators to Nowhere – Managing The Managers

It may be expensive, but it sure is unnecessary…

Yet another in a series about the depot elevator additions by our friend, Fullerton Engineer.

There is an alarming trend in public works construction, namely the larding up of the project with costly overseers to oversee other overseers. The justification is always the same – hiring essential “expertise” to make sure the project gets done on time and under budget. Forget the irony that no one in charge really cares if a project is late, or how much it costs, although they would prefer that no one find out. But what they really care about care about is the photo-op ground breaking and the bronze plaque with their name on it.

The consequences of this trend are two. First, the cost of the project goes up. Way up. And secondly, the overdose of management is guaranteed, when something inevitably goes wrong, to diffuse accountability by the sheer numbers of people potentially responsible for the problem. 

Exhibit A for the prosecution: the completely unnecessary elevator addition project at the Fullerton train station, a project that has already skyrocketed toward $5,000,000. Yes, you read that right. $5,000,000.

When last I left off my narrative, the City had hired Woodcliff Corporation in April 2015 to build the new elevators; and it had paid Griffin Structures to make sure the thing was “constructible.”

In August of 2015 the City employed the services of Anil Verma, a civil engineer and construction manager for vague “construction support services” with a contract worth about $154,000. Since the contract was not provided per our PRA request, we are left to guess what Anil Verma’s scope of work is; we do know they presented two large invoices in 2016 for $55,000, even though nothing had been started except the small ADA remodel adjacent to the AMTRAK office. Regular billing began this spring and the total paid out so far as of April 2017 has been $66,000.

Anil Verma PO P002068

As if the professional services of Anil Verma were not enough to oversee this small project, the City hired yet another construction management company in March 2017 – Griffin Structures, for another $154,500. Since the contract was not provided per our PRA request, we are left to guess what Griffin Structure’s scope of work is, but we know that they are not replacing Anil Verma because, as noted above, the latter seems to have begun regular, monthly billings.

Griffin Structures PO P902854

Now we come to the money that must be spent on our own city staff who makes sure the overseers are properly paid and ministered to. This money popped up in a budget transfer in March, money that is now coming directly out of Fullerton’s own Capital Budget. The total identified in the staff report is a lump-sum $600,000 for various items since the City Engineer, Don Hoppe, was not kind enough to share the specific amount for what is casually referred to as “additional assistant in construction administration.”

And finally, let us not forget the amounts that will surely be billed by, and require further contract augmentation for, Hatch Mott McDonald, the original designer of these two elevator structures, for on-site walkabouts.

Speaking of inspection, back in June 2015, the City hired the “as-needed” good offices of Smith-Emery, a construction testing/inspection lab. The contract is for just under $50,000, which is an awful lot of money for materials testing on a couple of elevator towers; so we’ll just have to trust our City public works department that the money will be well-spent. Our city council certainly trusts them.

Smith Emery PO #P001989

— Fullerton Engineer

Comment of the Month, Plus A Taxpayer Funded Movie!

Here is a recent comment from one of our Friends, Just Off Euclid, in response to watching another one of those super-expensive “State of the City” videos that we buy to make City Hall and the politicians therein, look good.

Thanks for sharing that nauseating bit of municipal self-promotion. I note:

Whitaker sitting in front of Laguna Lake where untold millions of gallons of prime MWD water were lost with no apology, no accountability, no responsibility. Fitzgerald brazenly bragging about the moronic stairs to nowhere. Donwtown stakeholders are committed she says. Committed to what? Profit at our expense. Sebourn, with his ass parked in the Corporate Yard as the streets of Fullerton crumble; “we’re ready” he boasts. ready for what?

And then the images of the vast Joe Felz/Karen Haluza stack n’ pack tenement blocks. Who is the target audience for that? Developers, I guess.

Jesus. How much did this bullshit cost?

We don’t know how much it cost. Not yet anyway. But here are some invoices that indicate the cost of 2015 and 2016 productions:

Kneadle 2 | Kneadle | Barron AV 2 | Pipeline Digital 2-2 | Pipeline Digital 2 | Pipeline Digital 1

Behind the Badge

One of the more startling examples of stupid waste at Fullerton City Hall has been the exorbitant expense of Behind the Badge: fifty large ones a year for former bad OC Register “journalists” to publish and disseminate pro-cop propaganda pabulum. It was all phony crap meant to obscure the real news about the FPD: a litany of bad behavior and criminal activity that over the past decade has spanned the breadth of the California Penal Code. Fortunately, thanks to the Friends this ridiculous waste is coming to an end. We wanted to make sure, too, so we requested the good bye letter.

And here is our temporary police chief Dave Hinig, hand-wringing over the loss of what can only be described as no loss at all for the taxpayer:

Is this some sort of sick joke? Value? To whom? Certainly not for the people who were paying out almost $250,000 over the past four years.

And what’s really laughable is all this lachrymose bullshit over a contract that was made in secret, was grossly mismanaged, and that had no actual requirements for performance – even if Joe Felz had had any inclination to oversee what he initiated.

Well, anyway, Behind the Badge is going away although why we have to pay another $8000 for two more months of this unadulterated literary manure is beyond me.

Photo Fun: Jesus Asks Questions

If you don’t ask you’ll never find out…

Friends, in response to our public records act request regarding council communications on November 9th, 2016, we actually received the image below from newly-elected but not even sworn-in councilman Jesus Silva.

The first message from the afternoon of November 9th is “responsive,” but not requested since Silva was not yet a councilman. Still it’s pretty darn funny.

The second message dated five days later is a completely gratuitous offering, and you are free to make of it what you will. To me it looks an awful lot like Jesus was planning a list of invitees to an upcoming fundraiser. Let’s hope Felz didn’t waste any time on a purely political exercise for somebody too lazy too do his own research. Of course Stumblejoe had other things on his mind on November 14th.

Jesus Silva’s phone

I wonder if Joe had a restful weekend.

Quirk-Silva & Newman Throw Taxpayers Under Brown’s Train

Choo-Choo! Onward to higher taxes.

Our local statewide electeds, Josh Newman (D. 29th State Senate District) & Sharon Quirk-Silva (D. Assembly District 65), have opted to vote to increase vehicle registration fees, gas taxes and add a new tax on zero emission cars in order to fix the budget that their own party is too incompetent to balance.

The vote was on California Senate Bill 1 (SB1) and both Newman and Quirk-Silva voted “Aye” on 06 April 2017.

I’m especially annoyed with Josh Newman because I thought, at the very least, that he wasn’t totally full of it. That he had a solid first name helped some during the election as did the GOP running their own brand of horribleness. Newman seemed like a reasonable guy who wouldn’t buckle to the whims of his party’s thievery.

Newman’s website, in the “Why Newman” section, states the following:

Boilerplate nonsense that clearly meant nothing to him.

It’s time to push back against the special interests and political careerists in Sacramento. As your State Senator, my priorities will be your priorities: creating opportunity, improving schools, balancing budgets, and solving problems.

I didn’t read that as “I’ll tax you into oblivion and work with the political careerists to give them their gas and vehicles taxes that they’ve been clamoring for for far too long”. True to that (D) behind his name Newman played the standard tax’em-into-oblivion game that his chosen party oh so loves.

I voted for Josh Newman but bear suit be damned I will not make that mistake again. (more…)

It Was the Fullerton Hunger Games

And the Odds Were Not in District Three’s Favor

Do not be fooled; Fullerton had it’s first Quarter Quell on Tuesday and Councilman Greg Sebourn was put up as Tribute and didn’t make it out of the games alive. Somewhere a canon is being fired in his honor.

The vote was all about self-interest and gerrymandering and anybody who says otherwise is either lying to you or is too dishonest with themselves to know the truth. I’ll explain quickly.

The city never really gamed this out or explored any options legal or otherwise. I had asked, several times, if the city could require sitting At-Large Council members to resign their At-Large seat to run in for a District Seat and the response I got was “We don’t know if that’s legal”. Gee, if only we had a lawyer in the room during Council to answer these things or research them.

I also inquired if it could be made random in order to take the horse-trading and politics out of the equation and again crickets. All of this means that the city never gamed these basic scenarios out.

To make matters worse we had no study-session or talks about how this would play out post-election. The election happened, with a gerrymandered council approved map, and voila they voted on who got to stay and who got to go.

The real meat about this crap is that it was all race based if you read the complaints and lawsuits that got us here. There hadn’t been an Asian on council since X-Date or a Hispanic since X-Date and thus we got sued and the council settled. So the Council voted to put up District 5 under the guise of giving the Hispanic vote a voice. District 3 means that the likely scenario is that the Hispanic vote will have 2 voices on Council while the Asian vote will have none until 2020 when somebody can run for Fitzgerald’s seat only to have the District Map change in 2022 after the 2020 census. It played out this way because apparently;

  1. Jesus Silva is not Hispanic?
  2. Silva living 2 blocks from District 5 is too far for him to understand that district’s “unique voice”?
  3. The Asian vote doesn’t matter as much as protecting Fitzgerald?
  4. Oh and Sebourn gets the bum’s rush owing to reasons Whitaker has yet to articulate publicly.

I’ll admit that I don’t like the way Sebourn votes on a lot of issues. Further I think Fitzgerald is the worst kind of tax-and-spend bankruptcy-inducing fiscally irresponsible politician the GOP can muster and that’s saying a lot. However — at least with the GOP you get the theory of a sliver of a chance of maybe some fiscal sanity. With the next few years of belt-tightening, thanks to the greed of public safety and the insanity of CalPERS, we’re going to require more budget allies and not fewer. Throwing 1/2 of our current 3-2 fiscally responsible minority out with the bath-water in the hopes that 2018 will maybe, possibly, hopefully and somehow see some balance seems foolhardy to me.

I still contend that the map should have been chosen randomly but I prefer governmental honesty to political expedience and crony gamesmanship.

Now going forward should a Republican decide to run in 2020 against Silva I can only offer one bit of advice:

Whitaker Wants to Hear More From You; Bored, Tired, Cranky Fitzgerald Wants to Hear Less

Watch as Mayor Bruce Whitaker restores the public’s full speaking time. Following in Jan Flory’s footsteps, Jennifer Fitzgerald puts her disdain for the public on full display. Councilman Silva shows a healthy attitude about hearing from the public and staying up late from time to time: “It’s what we do.”

When lobbyist Fitzgerald began her mayoral term last year, she cut public speaking time to 3 minutes. Of course she gave out-of-town developers all the time in the world.