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Splash Park opens, followed by council inquiry into park being way over budget –
Unauthorized funding from city’s capital projects covered cost overruns!

Credit: City of Yelm
  • Story highlights
  • Final Splash Park cost of upgrades and the splash pad was $1,005,359, yet the 2019-2020 budget for the project had been $641,984, or $363,375 over budget.
  • Splash Park overruns were underwritten by re-allocating $363,375 in city street, water and sewer capital project funds.
  • Councilors Carmody and DePinto noted the council was not consulted on the overruns nor the re-allocating of capital projects to cover the overruns, lacking transparency.
  • Council has sole responsibility for funding the budget and capital expenditures.
  • Where is Mayor Foster’s oversight to ensure the council IS the singular funding authority for city of Yelm capital projects? Sorely lacking at best!
  • Did Public Works Dir. Bedlington’s superiors direct him to enact the cost overruns?
  • The Yelm Municipal Code clearly states oversight of city regulations being followed falls first with the mayor and then his city administrator.
  • Even the NVN did not give the city a “bye” on this one. Read more

On July 19, 2019, I wrote City Administrator Michael Grayum the following, “Would you please provide an explanation to me for publication to Yelm Community Blog readers why the Splash Park is reportedly a quarter of a million dollars+ over-budget and detail the city’s plan to cover those overrun expenses?”

Mr. Grayum’s response, “I don’t have a comment at this time and personally wouldn’t characterize it in such a negative or inflammatory way. As background, there were definitely some lessons learned about how the total costs of a project can be better understood in the budget and communicated by some Council members and Public Works and Finance employees when the budget was prepared, vetted, and adopted by Council.

“Council members on the finance Committee were fully briefed by the Public Works Director and the project manager at their last meeting. The best resource for you and YCB [Yelm Blog] readers would be to attend the briefing on the final costs and cost allocations to help understand the big picture and briefing the Finance Committee received about the revenue (grants and other sources) and the total investments made for the playground and splash pad, which staff proposed be provide (sic) to the entire Council at the August Study Session. The committee members concurred with that recommendation and that is our path forward.”

Turn’s out my question was bang-on, though the cost overrun amount I mentioned to Mr. Grayum was low. The August 6, 2019 Study Session confirmed the Splash Park overruns were underwritten by re-allocating $363,375 in city street, water and sewer capital project funds, all without providing an update to councilors, according to Councilor Molly Carmody. Both Carmody and Councilor Joe DePinto stated the council had not received a budget update since the council’s March 2019 project bid approval of $443,000. 

Further, sail shades in the park allocated in the 2018 budget by line-item have not been installed, the city reports they had to make some cuts to accommodate other projects, so scrapped the sail shades without asking council, moved money from that line item to other unidentified projects, and again without asking Council.

Public Works Director Chad Bedlington reported the city acquired about $544,600 in grants to fund the splash pad portion and new play equipment (a $305,019 federal Community Development Block Grant and $239,590 from the state capital budget), plus the aforementioned $363,375 in city street, water and sewer capital project funds. The final cost of the park upgrades and splash pad was $1,005,359, yet the 2019-2020 budget for the project had been $641,984. The difference is the re-allocating of city project funding = $363,375.

Councilors Carmody and DePinto admonished Public Works Director Chad Bedlington as follows:

Carmody: “I think that the entire council deserves to know how much money you’re spending on these funds. And you didn’t come to council and ask, and we didn’t authorized this. Any kind of budget amendment needs to be voted on by council.”

DePinto: “It was a lot more money than we were told … It’s a good project though … We just need to learn from our mistakes. I just wish the method was a little more transparent.” DePinto noted the Finance Committee learned just over a month ago about the Splash Park costing over 1 million dollars.

Councilor Carmody requested at the August 13th council session an answer “regarding the over-budgeted Splash Park and playground equipment [discussed at the Aug. 6th Study Session]. I wonder when we’re going to be seeing a request for a budget amendment for council to vote on?” Mayor Foster’s uncommitted response was, “We’ll get the answer to you as soon as we know.”

Mayor Foster’s response was tepid at best in saying staff will do a better job of forecasting future projects to the council and public. Foster ran a campaign of being more transparent, and he has repeatedly been just the opposite, as covered here several times.

Bottom line: The city’s legislative branch is the city council, which has the responsibility to allocate funding for city projects as Carmody and DePinto recognized! City Hall leaders MUST get that they have a responsibility to ensure the city council has oversight and is consulted on expenditures. The council should put constants on city expenditures, as an example, anything over $25,000 MUST go to council for approval, since Mayor Foster is not providing oversight of the council’s role.  

One has to wonder if Public Works Director Bedlington’s superiors directed him to enact the cost overruns. After all, we’ve witnessed City Administrator Grayum having been thrown under the bus several times, the most recent with the mayor not sharing his role in working with UFO Fest organizer Jayne Cameron. The council was thrown under the bus for not being informed the mayor signed a contract for a deed in lieu of foreclosure on 640 acres. And former Finance Director Wolf was thrown under the bus having been recommended to find another job prior to an independent investigation being concluded, results which were inconclusive.

“Splash Pad Now Open”

“The moment many families have been waiting for is finally here – the Splash Pad at Yelm City Park is officially open!” quoting the August 6, 2019 city release.

Read more

Posted by Steve on August 14, 2019 at 12:01 am | Permalink

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