THE LAKE CALHOUN SOUTH SHORE PARKING AND PLAZA PROJECT
(See two additional documents attached at bottom this post)
A little over a year-and-a-half after the Parade Sports Complex fiasco, Park Watch has discovered that Park Board staff have been spending time and money on another covert project. This one is located on the south shore of Lake Calhoun and sounds suspiciously like a sailing village revision. Staff have been entering into secret contracts that have been moving the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking and Plaza project toward implementation without the knowledge and consent of the Park Board commissioners. The $350,000 project is the first phase of a multiphase project.
This unexpected discovery of another secret scheme prompted two open time speeches at the November 19, 2008, Park Board meeting, posted below. We are also adding a link to a letter from the consultant to the Park Board and the September 8, 2008, agreement with the consultant for “preparation of construction documents for phase one of the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking and Plaza project.”
Open Letter to the Park Board Commissioners
November 19, 2008
Over the past several sessions, we have listened to the recommended budget for 2009 and have heard how difficult it will be to maintain our current park system with the amount of money allocated to us by the state and local governments. We have also heard discussed how we must be judicious about where we put additional dollars into infrastructure that we know will be increasingly difficult for us to maintain. So imagine my surprise to find that a project is on the immediate horizon for the south shore of Lake Calhoun.
According to Park Board documents, Hoisington Koegler has been contracted to prepare construction documents for phase one of the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking and Plaza project. This construction package has a contract price tag of $47,200 so it was not subject to board approval. However, according to the documents, Phase One ALONE of this project is expected to cost about $350,000. As I scoured the 2009 budget, I could find no reference to this project. And, if the capital budget is being detailed in January and February, doesn’t it seem odd that a project of this impending magnitude not be on the board’s radar at all? And if this is Phase One, doesn’t that imply a Phase Two, Three, etc – and what might be the cost of those phases?
I have so many concerns about this project that I am not sure where to start. It leads me to believe that we might be in the position of being “paraded” again – that is, having the staff get out so far in front of the commissioners that it seems as if the staff is running the Park Board and not the officials elected by the taxpayers.
First, I would ask that you halt this project until it is clearly a “board-driven” project and not a “staff-driven” project.
Second, I would ask that you institute some controls to ensure that you are made aware of all potential projects. For example, you may want to receive a monthly report listing all contracts of $50,000 and under so you have visibility into those projects. I have many other thoughts, too numerous to mention in a few minutes, but that is probably the bookkeeper in me surfacing!
Please understand that the citizens of Minneapolis value their parks and want to work with you to ensure that there is enough funding to maintain our system. But we have elected you to represent us and set priorities for this Park System. In these tough financial times, we want to ensure that the decisions are being made by those who are accountable to us – the elected board members.
Here we are again, expressing concern about another staff-driven project being developed and implemented in secrecy without the knowledge or consent of our elected officials–you, our Park Board commissioners.
What is unacceptable is that the Park Board’s administrative staff has developed this bad habit of advancing projects in secrecy. Other examples of stealth projects that have caused public concern are
*The $50M sports complex at Parade and the unauthorized road that came very close to construction.
*The two Flatiron leases that never came before the Board for the Board’s consent and the president’s signature.
*The unauthorized two hundred and five thousand dollar ($205,000) promise of subsidies to SkipperLiner Industries.
*And now the $350,000 first phase of a multiphase development project on the shores of Lake Calhoun, where citizens fought off another development not very long ago.
Again the Park Board’s administrative staff have overstepped their boundaries and are making decisions that are not theirs to make. It is our expectation that our elected officials, with citizen input, make the decisions about whether a $50M sports complex and new road at Parade would have made sense, if we wanted and were prepared to plan and budget for a large development at Lake Calhoun and how the Flatiron proceeds should be spent.
It is our hope that you, the commissioners, will take the necessary steps to protect your authority from further erosion.
Co-founder of Park Watch