Community Center a million over budget in Irvine, Council shrugs.


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The recent news that the remodeling of a community center at Northwood Community Park is now $1,000,000.00+ over budget is not surprising at all.  It’s yet another reminder of the dire fiscal condition that we are in as a city and a big litmus test on whether or not our newly elected Republican majority is capable of handling such projects.

This Council majority ran on a message of reform.  This example of the grossly over-budget community center was a perfect time for the council to step up and demand that fiscal responsibility and sound decision making reign with Irvine politics.  Where does the buck stop in Irvine?

As with anything in government “the buck does not stop here.”   The attorney representing the City called it the “perfect storm.”  Apparently, “perfect storm” is a euphemism for city employees making decisions to reinvent and circumvent the center’s original design.  Decision making:  When does the average employee get to make design changes to a construction project?  And how can an employee create more than a million dollars in cost overruns?

As usual, it’s too easy to blame the employee, not the managers, project managers, and council members overseeing the project.  The approved project and the many change orders had been approved by council.  These employees report to managers and they report to council, so why are we throwing these employees under the bus?

The council seems to be astounded and stunned that it should be an important task that they watch over a multi-million dollar projects. Mayor Choi, it is your inability to manage staff and projects within our City, and  Ms Shea seems to think that “we do not have the capability to look at every low level decision.”  Sean Joyce, City Manager saus “We will learn from this, it reminds me of my home projects I have done”   Lalloway cites  “a learning experience” and a “lesson learned.”

What kind of response is that?

Negligence falls on the city council’s doorstep! And we as the taxpayer, should watch very closely at the Solar Decathlon for further negligence and the failure to have sound business practices. This is the problem with the long term incumbents with no background in running a large business.

As I stated in a previous story, the community center is a massive project that should receive maximum oversight through the entire process, yet somehow this oversight went awry.  And not awry by a small amount, but to an extent that will literally cost the city 0ver a  million dollars.  Budgets are tight, everywhere.  The days of bountiful government surpluses are over.  Every American is feeling the pain in their personal budgets.  With taxes and fees raising in many areas its essential that government does everything in their power to deliver projects on time and at budget.

In April I discovered that city staff acknowledged that council members were given misinformation regarding the cost of the project.  For this very reason the City Council had requested that the additional money was to be tabled until further investigation.  Perhaps the most disturbing part of the entire process is the fact that City Manager Sean Joyce admitted that city officials have little experience with complicated remodeling jobs and that the initial budget, first estimated at four million, was now up to a requested 5.8 million dollars.

Such a massive lack of understanding on how to deliver such a big project in a big city like Irvine is extremely troubling.  For that reason alone an investigation is warranted, not to mention the lack of communication and outright misinformation given the elected officials that are overseeing the project.

It’s time the City Council realize that they were working with taxpayer money and there isn’t an endless trough of it.  Let’s ensure this project is finished responsibly and that subsequent projects receive the proper oversight.


About Irvine Valkyrie

Irvine Valkyrie is Katherine Daigle, the once and future Irvine mayoral candidate, an independent-minded Republican who is aligned with neither of the two dominant Irvine political cliques.