Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rebutting the WOW argument

Just to be clear upfront ... I know Art Ordoqui, I like Art Ordoqui and I consider him to be a valuable colleague. All of that said, I take exception to some of his arguments regarding WOW.

Not only does Ordoqui's assertions directly contradict the stories of those involved with the community visioning process, but it also is factually at odds with Kent Kilpatrick from Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services.

In 2004, the county contributed $48,000 for the park - as well as $140,000 for infrastructure. Kilpatrick told me that the average park in the community costs $75,000 to $100,000 to build, and that the averague annual maintenance cost for those county-built parks is $1,000 per year. In four years, then, the typical park, at the most, should cost the community $104,000 in construction and maintenance.

This park will cost taxpayers $106,000 after four years thanks to an unprecedented $58,000 repairs bill due to poor planning, shoddy construction and inadequate materials. If you factor in the $140,000 in additional taxpayer expense from 2004 for infrastructure, its liability to the public soars to close to a quarter of a million dollars (to say nothing about the $278,000 in private funds that had to be raised).

In addition, Kilpatrick said if this was one of the county's parks it had built, he would hypothetically recommend just starting over due to the maintenance costs.

Yes, this is a larger park. Yes, this is a cool park. Yes, kids love it.

But, as Nicki noted, this is something that was not listed highly on the list of the community's recommended SPLOST projects ...

We all participated in the community visioning process in which we allocated funds to resources and so on. And the top priorities never included WOW. If I recall properly, the top priorities were always dog park, skate park, and either frisbee golf or zero-rise water play area. WOW was never in the top three. Which makes a lot of sense, because WOW is cool, but is not really as novel as depicted. For example, there is a public playground just a mile or two away. Whereas the other facilities would be unique (everything but frisbee golf, which I think was never seriously considered because there are several others).

Yes, this is a nice park, but it's something that a relatively small group of people desired to be built, and the decisions they made have saddled taxpayers with an outrageous repairs bill (regardless of the amount of wear and tear the facility has weathered due to high usage).

So, while I'm glad to see that the Friends of Southeast Clarke Park is willing to be a 'strong partner' with the community with regard to WOW and that it 'supports its efforts' to address the maintenance concerns, it's also important to recognize that sort of misses the point.

And the point is that this whole thing is their fault.

The Friends of Southeast Clarke Park should be responsible for at least half of the maintenance costs - if not all - because they opted to circumvent the SPLOST process, they opted to use Leathers & Company and they settled for a substandard product that now merits close to $60,000 in repairs.


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