Public Watchdog.org

Cop Shop Spending Blocks Further Reduction In Tax Levy Increase

12.03.12

Tonight’s Park Ridge City Council meeting agenda has at least on item worthy of some taxpayer interest. 

The first scheduled item is the Council’s vote to sustain or over-ride Mayor Dave Schmidt’s veto of the $290,170 purchase order for the design and construction of “Phase I” of a police station improvement plan – which we understand consists of a 1,500 square foot “outbuilding” (at a cost of approximately $165,000, not counting the allocable “soft” costs, furniture, equipment, etc.), a parking lot to hold 18 cars ($69,000) and a 600 square foot bike corral ($12,000).  According to Chief Kaminski’s report, the entire cost of Phase I will be approximately $360,670, but only the $290,170 P.O. was vetoed.

In his veto message given at the 11.19.12 Council meeting, Schmidt rightly pointed out that “the City currently has well over 6,000 square feet of vacant space in other [City-owned] buildings, the majority of which is in the former Public Works Service Center” at Greenwood and Elm that, until a few years ago, had been leased and operated by NICOR.  But, in our opinion, Schmidt let the Police Chief’s Advisory Task Force off the hook way too easily for exploring only “one possible solution” to certain problems with the current cop shop.

Since that Task Force was established in February 2010, ostensibly to assist Chief Kaminski in community reach-out to improve the reputation of the Police Department in the wake of the Ekl Report, the Task Force members have focused much of its attention on the cop shop’s physical plant.  And in the same way everything looks like a nail to a hammer, the Task Force seems to view construction as the solution to almost every “problem” with the PRPD. 

As best as we can tell – and despite Chief Kaminski’s claim that “I think the Task Force really spent a lot of time looking at the alternatives other than building a new facility or buying new property” – we can find no shred of evidence that the Task Force ever seriously looked at the City’s other available space before recommending the $1.1 million construction plan that will begin with Phase I.  For example, we can find no mention whatsoever of any evaluation of other available City space in the 75-page report produced by the Task Force last year, “Cost Effective Strategies to Address Risk Factors at the Police Facility.”    

Irrespective of the soundness of Schmidt’s arguments for using space the City already has instead of building new, we don’t expect three aldermen on this Council to sustain his veto. 

Which brings us to the second scheduled item of interest: the property tax levy increase.

The Council is scheduled to pass the new property tax levy increase which, at 2.15%, will be the lowest increase in at least 10 years – by more than an entire percent!  The irony is that the levy increase could drop all the way down to around 0.4% by the Council’s sustaining that veto and saving the City’s taxpayers the additional $290,000. 

But we’re guessing that’s way too radical for aldermen who seemed to be so mesmerized by the plans for Phase I that they could barely manage any questions of Chief Kaminski or the Task Force members each time this project was discussed, like: “Have you thoroughly evaluated all of the available space the City currently owns?” and “If not, why not?” 

With 6,000 square feet of space already available, spending $290,000+ (actually $360,000+) on 2,100 square feet of what amounts to storage space – and 18 parking slots – seems like both bad tax policy and bad management.

Or just another hammer looking for another nail.

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

PD-

” Irrespective of the soundness of Schmidt’s arguments for using space the City already has instead of building new, we don’t expect three aldermen on this Council to sustain his veto “.

Why don’t the citizenry email their respective alderman and pose the question directly to each of them ? If we have the space, and it’s paid for, why wouldn’t we use it ? The $ 300,000.00 beans could certainly be applied somewhere else if we were so hell bent on spending it.

This really grinds my gears. Folks from the Center of Concern for instance, for example purposes only, are so vocal when their contributions are trimmed from the city, but why wouldn’t a gang like that show up and scream and shout about this wasteful proposed expenditure ? This is a lot of money that needn’t be spent. Make do with what we already have, and spend the taxpayers nickels on things we need, not things we want.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We suspect a big part of it is that, after all these years of the ever-growing gvernment and the nanny-state mentality, many people no longer believe that tax, borrow and spend can sometimes be a zero-sum game. If people are told loudly enough and long enough that government can provide everything – whether it’s guns AND butter, or cop shop additions and community group funding, etc. – they turn their brains off and actually start believing the entitlement hype that every “want” is a “need.”

Dear Ald. Knight:

You know what to do, right?

Regards,

5WT

Have you thought about running for City Council? Seems you’d have more influence there than on the Library Board.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks, but this editor likes the Library Board just fine. Plus this blog keeps him busy enough for the time being.

I along with Ms. Sandrik (who asked some questions about re utilization of the existing building) were the only non-chief’s task force members who spoke during the veto override vote. I was disappointed to hear the committee members frame the question at hand in such a narrow way I.e. if you vote against the project you are insulting us and our police officers. Instead of looking at it from the perspective that there is pushback because the citizens are battered by the financial crisis and are overtaxed. I don’t think anyone questions the fact that the working conditions at the police facility are far from ideal or that the volunteers of the task force didn’t dedicate many valuable hours. The issue here is whether, given the city’s financial situation both current and future, we can afford to spend more and tax more.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You nailed it, Mr. Milissis. Too bad those Task Force members don’t wield their taxpayers’ hammer with the same zeal they wield their spenders’ hammer.

If you don’t like how the police are framing (no pun) the question now, you’d really have been freaked the last time this came up a few years ago. The cursory public meeting was held at the no-parking Public Works building in frigid weather and every seat in the audience had a behind swathed in blue; complete with holstered weapon, as the nervous aldercreatures debated the necessity for a Taj Mahal. This ain’t nothin’ by comparison.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We well remember that (just like we remember platoons of teachers occupying school board meetings when their contracts are being voted on). That gutless City Council rubber stamped the new cop shop and rejected then-ald. Dave Schmidt’s request for a referendum, but resident Joe Egan and his intrepid band of petition circulators put a referendum on the ballot that the voters slammed. To try to thwart Egan, then-ald. Frank Wsol and his fellow alderpuppets came up with a deceptive cop shop referendum to put on the ballot at the 11th hour, but that failed, too.

Don’t forget Frimark sending a policeman to stop someone from collecting signatures on the sidewalk in front of Oberweis!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another arrogant coward, just like the Park Board and Staff that “knows” what The People want but only wants to hear from 682 survey respondents rather than the 8,000+ voters who can be expected to go to the polls in April.

Do you think female Police Officers should have adequate locker rooms? Do you think present mold is suitable for first responders? Could you pass a home inspection in Park Ridge with conditions like this? Is the police station ADA compliant? Saying NO is easy, but there are real issues here. Please take them seriously.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It all depends what “adequate” means, and what “adequate” would cost. We’ve read through the entire Task Force report, Cost Effective Strategies to Address Risk Factors at the Police Facility,” and as we pointed out in our posts of March 14 and 16, 2012, it’s a disingenuous mess, filled with factually unsupported/undocumented opinions and conclusions, and deceptively incomplete information (e.g., only the first page of a four page letter from the Illinois Dept. of Labor to Mayor Schmidt dated 5/5/11 re air quality).

But if the so-called mold “infestation” is so bad, why hasn’t the City been cited by OSHA? Irrespective of OSHA, why has it been allowed to exist for so long; and why is its remediation being put off for three years while the City wastes money on a bike corral? Similarly, if the police station is required to be ADA compliant, why hasn’t the City been cited for the violation?

And as we’ve noted repeatedly, if the evidence storage area is so compromised, why hasn’t the Chief (or his predecessor) been able to point to even one instance where the size and condition of the current police station: impeded or jeopardized the investigation and prosecution of any crimes; or significantly compromised the safety of the people of Park Ridge; or resulted in any actual financial liability for the City.

Editor- Those are good questions. Just because PR has been cited, doesn’t mean the points aren’t true and valid. Do you think the Police Station exposes the city to law suits?

EDITOR’S NOTE: First, the only lawsuits we’ve heard about are the ones that have resulted from officer conduct, not from the condition of the station. Second, if the Police Station exposed the City to lawsuits, then its insurer certainly would have been demanding changes or jacking up the rates – neither of which we have heard about. So our answer is an unqualified “no.”

1. I don’t expect first responders to be exposed to unsafe conditions. I don’t want any employee of mine or of Park Ridge working in gross conditions. As I said, it wouldn’t pass an inspection by a licensed inspector if the property was for sale.
2. From all accounts, the women do not have a private locker room. (That’s beyond “not adequate”).
3. Regarding lawsuits and evidence: Just because something hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it won’t. Risks are clearly there. As a taxpayer, I can accept this known cost, vs unknown ( this cost combined with lawsuits and lost evidence. )

EDITOR’S NOTE: 1. If you don’t want employees working around mold, then you should be raising hell about how the Police Chief and his Task Force – and 6 members of the City Council – not only have been letting those employees endure mold exposure for the past several years, but care so little about those employees’ health that they have put building a bike corral and a new evidence storage room ahead of mold remediation.

2. From all accounts (including two photographs on page 26 of the Task Force report), the women’ DO have a private locker room. Better get your facts straight, even if you have to get them from the Task Force.

3. “Just because something hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it won’t” is such a ridiculous and intellectually bankrupt comment that, by making it, you have just branded yourself an idiot. Or maybe it’s an imbecile? Or is it a moron? And, yes, we are calling you names because in cases like this it wastes less of our time than dealing with your stupidity point by point.

Personally, I’d like our city to think ahead and assess obvious risk, or fix something that’s broken. It’s not a crazy thought.

Regarding #3…R.T.- Your intolerance to any thought beyond yours is hilarious. Don’t be so insecure. It’s not becoming of a board member appointed by the Mayor. I’m not offended though, just enlightened by your wisdom.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We subscribe to the policy that difference is to be encouraged, ignorance deserves instruction, but the only cure for stupidity is intolerance because nothing else works. As Einstein said: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

So no need to be offended: it’s not really your fault.



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