Mission Viejo, where enablers on our city council continue to drain our treasury

As our local Saddleback Valley News gives a pass to Mission Viejo staff as it relates to challenging and reporting of total project costs, I hereby blog the following Agenda item that is scheduled for Monday’s city council meeting.

Since the initial cost estimates of a conceptual design for expanding our community center in January 2001, as presented by a dozen member Design Task Force, this expansion has grown in cost from roughly $3 million to $12,527,894 in constructions expenses for Douglas E. Barnhart Inc., NOT INCLUDING, $777,620 to Robert Coffee for his design nor other contractors such as contract management. So our expansion has grown from $3 million conceptual design to $13 million dollars and counting.

Don’t ever believe them when our council majority calls themselves “fiscal conservatives.” Further, they lack a backbone to simply say no to staff requests on change orders. “DIRFT” is an expression we use in industry which stands for “do it right the first time.” Contractors dealing with the city of Mission Viejo can low ball RFP’s to get their feet in the door and make real profits on change requests that happen on probably every project this city undertakes. The public only learns of these “change Orders” when they appear on the “Routine Consent Calendar” when it is too late to do anything about them. A side note. Up until recently we were permitted to address these “routine” items but that right was removed by the majority earlier this year. We can’t allow members of the public to make us look bad with valid concerns where staff and council may be forced to respond. Oh yes, we can give up our three minutes of public comments to address them but that keeps the door closed for any interaction with staff. The council cannot take any action on public comments, nor can we request staff reports except in an emergency like an earlier landslide.

Our ongoing expansion of the Norman P. Murray Senior and Community Center has been a high profile CIP. A project that initially was projected to cost around $3 million continues to run deeper in red ink. Even former city manager Dan Joseph recently contacted me to express his concern of our runaway spending.

Downloaded directly from our city web site is the following Agenda request. Notice that this is the 14th change order to one of the contractors. What excuse can staff provide to explain why we failed to DIRFT? Fourteen changes are inexcusable. Note: We did receive a $3 million Grant to offset some of the costs.

Agenda Item #17. Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center Expansion (CIP 994)

Recommended Action: (1) Approve Change Order #14 to Douglas E. Barnhart, Inc. in the amount of $415,908 for additional construction costs for subject project; and 2) approve Change Order #3 to PETRA Geotechnical, Inc. in the amount of $15,250 for additional geotechnical services for subject project; and 3) Adopt Resolution 07-XX amending the Fiscal Year 2007-08 Budget to increase estimated appropriations for the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center Expansion Capital Improvement Project (CIP 994).

What are they adding you might ask? Partial listing:

Ventilation Changes $3,639
Addition of millwork in existing building lobby area and offices $61,548
Removal and replacement of all flooring in existing building $87,975
Sealing of concrete floor prior to installation of sheet vinyl in existing building $58,435
Addition of CMU block sealer to service Yard area $4,529
Electrical fireplace $1,478
Site furniture (no details provided) $64,273

Folks. Rather than provide a detailed listing on every item, by now you should see the picture. First. We knew that this expansion was an add-on to our existing building. Either someone was incompetent and failed to acknowledge the need for these items in the original design or we are just being sloppy. Is it possible that the architect, who was part of the original design Task Force, or the contractor failed to tell us in advance on the need to include some of these line items before the Contract was initially issued?

Wait. In time the city will report that this is another CIP that was completed on time and under budget.

About Larry Gilbert