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Editorial: Remodel of city hall a perfect example of waste


This news story was published on February 6, 2012.
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by Matt Marquardt –

I’ll be blunt here, people seem to like that.

The remodel of city hall is a joke and the idea needs to be abandoned immediately.

I will tell you why.  The city budget is tight and there is little or nothing in there for road paving, a basic necessity the city is obligated to provide, and city hall is set to raise taxes and water rates this year and for years to come.  The budget will not improve; the state government will be rolling back commercial property tax rates and that will hit Mason City hard.

Now this latest boondoggle has been dreamt up, $76,500 and maybe more with cost overruns to move people around at city hall.

There is absolutely nothing “lean” about this remodel.  I sometimes think our city hall leaders have way too much time on their hands and have way too much fun thinking of ways to waste money making themselves look important.  New walls will not make you more effective in serving the citizens; if they do, you were doing something wrong in the first place.

One of the main components of the remodel would be a room just for the city council to use.  Well I can solve that problem for the cost of a plastic name plate.  Take the mayor’s name off the door to his office and open it up for the council and mayor’s use.  This is a pretty good size office with a locking door; it has only a desk with a computer on it and a round table for people to sit at and chat.  It is easily accessible to the public.  A part-time mayor who can’t vote is no more important than a city council member; the mayor does not need his/her own office.  Or, put the human resources person in that office; put the space to use.  The council has made it clear they will not use this new office anyway; Jean Marinos campaigned on the premise of letting staff handle everything (see her debates with Max Weaver), and Travis Hickey says he “could care less” if he got an office (see video).

I have also been told that staff at city hall are uncomfortable due to the extreme heat and cold throughout the building; why not start addressing that need?  $76,5oo may not solve the problem altogether, but it is a start towards a fund that could do a more thorough remodel later.

If you have to move people around for efficiency, then do it.  Make do with what you have, tighten your belt, get creative, the rest of us do.   You are setting a bad example with this wasteful project.  The money would also be better spent on the water fund, which City Finance Director Kevin Jacobson said is in trouble.  He informed you that you can spend the money there (see video).  It is a few drops in the bucket but you have to start somewhere.

John Lee and Alex Kuhn had the sense to question this project on January 31st; Travis Hickey has learned the dollars can be spent elsewhere; Scott Tornquist admitted the recession is still lingering in Mason City; let’s see if they will stop the waste and move these dollars where they can better serve the taxpayers.

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47 Responses to Editorial: Remodel of city hall a perfect example of waste

  1. Bushpilot Reply Report comment

    February 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    How about putting those funds towards closing the exits and stop cars from turning off the highway between Bonanza and Target. Nothing like cruising down the highway with traffic stopped in the right lane. Nothing like driving the frontage road and having highway traffic turning into those intersections…fix it!

  2. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    The weasels den saloon.
    Backdoors bottums up bar.
    Turncoats tavern.
    Not as easy to come up with good ones as yo mama jokes but am sure this looser will provide at least two more years of good entertainment.

  3. Larry Reply Report comment

    February 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Bull Puckey-A manufacturing engineer could handle the remodeling on his coffee break. As a manufacturing engineer and a general contractor i absolutely guarantee this could be done much more efficiently and a lot faster and cheaper than contracting it out.

  4. so sick Reply Report comment

    February 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    it’s “could’nt care less” if he could care less then he cares…

  5. yo momma Reply Report comment

    February 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    anymous u get annoying

  6. UWriteThis? Reply Report comment

    February 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Your editorials sound a lot like your articles, poorly researched and completely blind to the truth.

    • Echo Reply Report comment

      February 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      The editorials must be good you keep coming back and reading them.

  7. Just Wondering Reply Report comment

    February 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    When will the Mayor/Council Members realize that Mason City is NOT a big city like Minneapolis! They raise the taxes and spend money like we are this big city and the population can’t afford it. The jobs available in Mason City (very few) are mostly retail or food service, No wonder none of our children want to stay here or come back after college. It seems to me that the Mayor/Council want Mason City to be the Bigger, Better, More Expensive MEDFORD! All shopping and food with no decent paying jobs

  8. MC Bystander Reply Report comment

    February 7, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Is this why Tom Meyer left? Could he too see that this current city gov’t was going to sink this town like the rest of us could? Maybe after spending a little time with the “CAPTAIN” and “GILLIGAN” he too knew it was time to abandon ship. Oh how I wish this was only a 3 hour tour!

    • MC Bystander Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      correction: the Skipper and Gilligan

  9. big time betty Reply Report comment

    February 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Bookmeyer has always had the three main puppets, Hickey, Solberg and Turnquist..now he has Marionis which will be all he needs. How sad these council people ignor their districts and what the citizens have expressed

  10. Larry Reply Report comment

    February 7, 2012 at 10:58 am

    If they are going to do this (and they probably are) why don’t they just assign one of the engineers that are currently on salary the project and save a ton of money. This is what engineers are supposed to do. Everytime the city has a project they want to sub-contract it and then they pay the contractor’s profit. How stupid.

    • hhhhhmmmmm.... Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Larry, Business 101. The engineers have day-jobs, let them do their job so you have less to complain about! Just because one has a mechanical engineering degree does not make one a licensed electrican (and the project will require a licensed one). General and sub-contractors are specialty contractors qualified to do the work. Besides, why would you want someone from the city doing it, the schedule would drag on and the cost of money over time would not be as beneficial to the taxpayer. Additionally, everyone complaining (previous articles) about Henkel getting this work does not understand how the public project bidding process works. It HAS TO BE transparent at the proposed dollar amount. If they break this project’s scope of work down to multiple contracts under the minimum dollar amount (last I understood it was $25k) for public bidding THEN and ONLY THEN I would worry about a possible “behind the doors deal”. THAT DOES HAPPEN! Trust me. But I am not saying it will happen here. Just be leary of it!

  11. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 7, 2012 at 6:00 am

    What you are seeing is the result of a child’s tantrum. I didn’t get my CES project so you are all going to pay. Could change the name of city hall to the weasels den saloon.

  12. Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    I am sorry to report that I was told tonight by a high ranking city hall politician that this remodel project is “pretty much a done deal.” I will not name the person at this time in the hopes that he/she will reconsider and stand up to business as usual at city hall.

    What is most shocking and disappointing is that the budget has not even been voted on yet, nor has a public hearing been held.

  13. jack pot jack Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Hopefully this new council will prove their mettle and turn this remodeling farce down. I doubt it but we’ll see if they have any spine at all.

  14. big time betty Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    To spend any money on unneeded cosmetic changes in City Hall at this time is unwarented. Where is the famous lean initative Bookmeyer talked about? This is a ego trip, nothing more.

  15. Joe Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I was at city hall last week paying my $100 a month water bill and I looked around at our city hall and it looked just fine, esp. for a small town of 28,000 population. I mentioned this to the lady taking my money and she got quite defensive, saying how it was “Really Needed”. Also, a few weeks back, our fiscal finance director, while driving his “New Camaro” almost ran into my wife and I in the Mills Fleet Farm parking lot, clearly he was at fault. Then he followed us for blocks, yelling, shaking his fist and flipping us off. All this with his young son in the car. WTH?

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      So now the public should have veto power over what kind of personal vehicle City employees drive?

    • wow Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 7:49 am

      Maybe he should have to re-apply for his job…

    • Echo Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      If what you say is true come forward and complain to our city administrator. I am sure the employees of the city have a code of conduct for actions off work hours. The administrator not wanting to make a decision would ask the council to hire a lawyer from Waterloo or Des Moines to look into this and make a decision for him but at least you would have some solution.

  16. Publius Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Mason City is full of potholes and assholes. Fix the damn roads!

  17. Echo Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I believe we should eliminate the city administrator saving us tax payers over 150,000 a year and put that money toward the water fund. The people need water not an over paid administrator.

    • MC Bystander Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      I agree. The administrator job is a waste of taxpayers money, especially with this one. If I remember right, when the idea of the city having an administrator 20+ years ago came about, the general concensus of the public by questionairres was that we didn’t want or need one. Now we have an overpayed, non decision making (on his own), media threatening administrator who obviously is working for a select few and not for the good of the majority. This city ran just fine if not better with just a mayor for many years. I believe we should go back to a full time mayor, preferably after the current one is voted out.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      Then who would provide day to day administration for the City? You do realize you are advocating that the CEO of a 250+ employee enterprise be eliminated with no replacement?

    • MC Bystander Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 6:24 am

      It should be who I said in my first post, a full time mayor. This city ran just fine for 80+ plus years without an administrator with just as many employees if not more. Each city dept has already very well paid dept heads that are suppposed to be overseeing the day to day operations of their dept’s. The council hired them to do that and if they cant trust them to do so without having to hire an overpayed, non decision making (on his own), media threatening administrator then the council has to look at their dept heads again. How many cooks do we need in the kitchen?

    • anonymous Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      So, then what you are saying is that you want to put Bookmeyer in charge?

    • Echo Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      This city was better off when we were ran by a strong mayor form of government. Look at what business’s we have lost in the last 15 to 20 years all while we were under the administrator form of leadership. The citizens know whats best for their city and if the mayor who is in charge is a failure then they will vote him out of office. What do we have to lose by firing the administrator we have already lost all the good paying jobs. Now its time to save 150,000 dollors eliminate the administrator position.

    • MC Bystander Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Once again, if you were to read my first post completely I would prefer that it wasn’t our current mayor. When the current term for the mayor is done, the people should pursue getting rid of the administrator position and hiring/electing a full time mayor. just a thought.

  18. Joke Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Matt you are on your toes that’s for sure. People forget EVERYTHING is on tape or recorded. Numbskulls. Get some girls in there to fix it up and move around. They could Get it more efficient for sure if that’s what they are after. Sorry They want prestige.IN MAson City? omg. Move some place that has it council. Bookmeyer needs an office like we all need a water rate increase. They are setting future taxes for their kids do they forget that? Why do they want their kids paying more? NuMBass

  19. fyi Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Just so you get the truth. The $76500 is with a contingency meaning bid it at 60,000 not to exceed 76,500. Folks don’t you remember Max two years ago saying he wanted that shiny brand new fire truck. That way when there was a fire on the 5th floor of the shalom towers the city could use it to save her. Matt good question to ask since you are good at asking the hard questions. What will the 60,000 save the taxpayers if it was put to the water fund? Can you find that out and let us know? Thank you. I am pretty sure you would still have an increase.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      fyi: Please read my editorial carefully. I NEVER said there would be no water rate increase. I said the city needs to start somewhere turning this fund around. $76,500 would be a start.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      fyi: Your statement is not true, I have the video to prove it. The $60K was Trout’s estimate. Mr. Cramm then estimated it (likely) higher to the tune of $76,500; it could be higher or lower depending on how things go.

    • Please check your facts... Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

      fyi,

      You ARE correct. The rough estimate of probable cost from Bergland & Cram INCLUDES a contingency fee of $15,000. It also includes a 15% General Conditions line item of $8,000. The estimate, without lighting switches and main area carpet was $53,800. Add the contingency and general conditions fees and you get the grand total of $76,500.

      This information is all available from City Hall.

  20. A Johnson Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Its a shame that Marquardt is obviously working harder on the budget than the mayor and this council. What a waste of money with people broke and businesses suffering downtown.

  21. Taxpayer Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Balance definition: a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.

    Raising taxes doesn’t match the definition BALANCED BUDGET !!!

    Wake up City Council – all of us little people aren’t STUPID like you think we are.
    IT’S ABOUT THE HAVE’S & HAVE’S MORE in this city. Always has & always will be that way in Big Trouble – River City… with a capital ‘T’.

  22. Taxpayer Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I’m confused… How can they call it a BALANCED BUDGET when they are raising taxes. BALANCED to me ‘Is No tax increase’. Seems to me they talk out both sides of their mouths…

    All our other surrounding communities can progress with BALANCED BUDGET that are truly balanced with NO TAX increased… QUIT WASTING our MONEY!!!

  23. Sandy Reply Report comment

    February 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I understand if they want more privacy dealing with HR issues ok put it in a office away from the public. I was told their was no privacy and everything was in the open for people to see and hear. I went today to pay my water bill and asked them where the HR office was. It is in the back away from public. I guess I’m confused. I also heard council members say they were not sure how much they would use a office at city hall. So why are the tax payers spending 60,000?

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      The HR Department is in an ofice with a glass wall. If you can’t get in right away, you have to wait in a chair next to the Mayor’s office. If you are there to file a complaint against your boss or discuss other private business you have no privacy. Personnel files are also stored out in the open next to the Mayor’s office. The HR office needs to be in a more private space.

    • Sandy Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      All I am going by is what I was told. I asked them where the HR office is and the young lady pointed behind where you pay the water bill their is a hallway behind there with offices in it. If I’m wrong I stand corrected but here again that is what I was told.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      February 6, 2012 at 9:56 pm

      That is where the office is but the wall is glass and anyone standing at the water billing counter can see right in. The HR secretary is using the office now, but when the new director starts she, and all of the confidential stuff she works on will get moved out to the desk next to the Mayor’s office that is currently vacant. Anyone can walk up to that desk and see confidential information. If the City gets sued because some employee’s health info was viewed by someone and fed into the rumor mill, the City will pay more than $60,000 in damages.

    • Anonymouse Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 1:04 am

      Drapes or a gallon of paint would block the window wall and give privacy.

    • cerwin Reply Report comment

      February 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      @ anonymuos. That building is full of emptie rooms so why is it they can’t use one thats emptie to discuss the issues. If you see someone sitting by the mayors office, what do you assume they are there for? when Tom Meyer was there these issues were handled in his office not down there. Thats an idea use his empty office and save 60,000. Or did that turn into a beer cooler

  24. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 5, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    The voice and concern of us “little” or unimportand people will make as much difference as throwing peas at a wall hoping to break through. The dumb asses up there will do what ever they want but when the “bleep” hits the fan, its allways us left to pick up the crap. I wish we could have enough time on our hands to sit at every meating. But working two jobs taking care of kids im happy to have enough time to drink a cup of coffee in peace ( if that). Theese people are PUBLIC officials they represent the whole town not just the privileged few or their own pockets. All theese years we went without a back up fire truck. Now when the economy is in the crapper they want to spent money like its going out of style. They have absolutely no touch with reality. Embarrassed to even live in town with this kind of leadership. Peace out.

  25. asmanda Reply Report comment

    February 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    why not spend $60k or 100K (which it would end up being) on the remodel, the stupid asses spent money money on stupid ass stuff now. the hell with a new fire truck, or why fix the roads or sewer. no lets spent more money on stuff that WE DON”T need

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      February 8, 2012 at 12:37 am

      God forbid there is a fire at your place, and one of the trucks breaks down. There are good reasons the replacement ladder truck is needed. Reliability and safety are the first and foremost reasons.