Thursday, October 16, 2008

Skaters, Council At Odds Over Park Cost

Skate park design exceeds budget by $200,000, prompting uncertainty

By Nao Braverman
Skateboarders and local citizens were disappointed and outraged to learn that the attractive skate park design presented to them at a Planning Commission meeting was probably too good to be true.
Council members and city staff confirmed at Tuesday night’s regular council meeting that the state-of-the-art park that Site Design Group presented to local skateboarders on Oct. 1, was not within budget.
While Site Design Group representatives maintain that they had created a design to meet the city and Skate Ojai’s $360,000 cap, the design that was presented at the Oct. 1 Planning Commission meeting had included some bonus features which would add up to around $200,000 more than the city and Skate Ojai had to spend.
Site Design Group’s lead designer, professional skate-boarder Kanten Russell, said in an interview that he had gotten the impression somewhere that the community was really excited about the project. He understood that Skate Ojai might be able to add some in-kind donations and raise more money in the future. Running on that notion, the firm had included some more costly elements, in case some additional funds and volunteer labor were added to the mix.
But if there were two designs presented to the Planning Commission earlier this month, as Site Design Group claims, vocal members of the public only saw one, and the more expensive one at that.
Members of Skate Ojai were miffed that they hadn’t heard about the fiscal discrepancies earlier, and had already presented the design to donors.
“Two weeks ago we were presented the design for Ojai’s skate park, and there was no talk of a problem at that meeting,” said Chet Hilgers, president of Skate Ojai. “I have an obligation to over 1,500 people who dug into their wallets for this park.”
Hilgers said he was called to a meeting early Tuesday morning where city manager Jere Kersnar instructed him not to speak to the city attorney, city council members or city staff regarding the subject until it had been scheduled for discussion.
Council members were also taken by surprise.
“You said that $350,000 would be more than enough,” said Councilwoman Carol Smith to Skate Ojai. “So I am angry, and I have no idea who OK’d this $550,000 number.”
Mayor Sue Horgan said that the City Council needed an update on the issue. However she wondered why, when members of Skate Ojai were invited to participate in a scheduled skate park discussion to be added to Tuesday’s agenda, they had refused.
Skate Ojai member Judy Gabriel explained that she was told that the meeting would be about taking elements that donors and local skaters are counting on, out of the park design.
“We don’t want to do that given the situation,” she said. “The kids and our donors have already seen this design. Now that we are in this position we are trying to see if we can get in-kind donations to build the park that was presented.”
But while Skate Ojai seems to be counting on in-kind donations in the form of volunteer labor, Horgan said she is still unsure if the city can legally accept such gifts.
The 1931 Davis-Bacon Act requires that anyone working on Public Works projects be paid no less than the prevailing wage.
But city attorney Monte Widders said that there is an exception to the law that allows volunteer laborers to work for free, for city projects, and (501) 3c nonprofit organizations, such as Skate Ojai. The only problems that might come up are if a concrete company offers to donate concrete, he said. Then the company employee who delivers the concrete would likely not be paid prevailing wage. But there are a number of ways to get around such an issue, he added. For example, the owner of the business could pour the concrete himself, and not get paid.
Horgan said she had asked Widders to prepare a written analysis of the issue so that the City Council could understand it.
Members of Skate Ojai who felt they were being accused of instigating the more expensive skate park design, argued that they had not even been invited to participate in the city’s negotiations with Site Design Group, let alone dictate the park’s price.
“The city contracted the designer, yes, Skate Ojai has been invited to some of the conversations, but we were not allowed to be involved in the contract,” said Gabriel. She added that there was nothing in the contract, drafted by city staff, that requires Site Design Group to build to the $350,000 budget.
“That is not good management,” she said.
Horgan reminded Skate Ojai that the City Council and members of the community had the same goal.
“I am sorry we are in this position and we need to find a way out because we owe it to our kids,” she said.
A special council meeting is scheduled for this Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers to discuss financial issues the skate park is facing.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

For as long as folks have been selling things to other folks, salespeople have known how to squeeze and work the parents by
appealing to the kids. Don't car salesmen like to wheel out a car that has more options than the parents asked for, betting all the while that, after having seen the truly tricked-out deluxe version of the car, the son or daughter for whom the car is being purchased will throw a fit if the parent says, "Oh, we can't afford all of those extras. Can't we just see the basic model we originally asked for?" The salesman knows full well that the parents didn't want to see that car with all of the extra goodies attached, but he also knows that the kid will probably hammer away at the parents and that the parents just might give in, resulting in a much bigger commission for the salesman and the dealership.

Anonymous said...

Wow, my kids wish anonymous 9:42 was their parent!

Anonymous said...

"Wow, my kids wish anonymous 9:42 was their parent!"

If I understand you correctly, then your kids would be confusing 9:42's awareness of a certain behavior with an endorsement of that behavior. The comment was neither an endorsement nor a condemnation, but rather just a thumbnail sketch of what might possibly be taking place.

Anonymous said...

Many real estate agents, until recently, made serious dough claiming Ojai is an artistic community. An "Art Colony" where creativity abounds. I see that on occasion. I think some of this legendary creativity needs to be applied to the skate park. Skate Ojai has done fantastic work and they have raised a lot of money to get this thing done. They've even gotten donations of material and labor for building the park. For their efforts, they appear to be being jerked around by the city and slowed or stalled at every turn. It seems to me that we need a good old fashioned Barn Raising...uh, I mean Skate Park Digging.

What, can't be done?

You can't do that?


We are somehow forced to hire a multi-million dollar company called SITE Design Group, ltd. to tell us how to build a hole in the ground with rebar and concrete? A company that isn't even from Ojai, much less the Ojai Valley. They are headquartered in Solana Beach, CA over 180 miles away.


I'll direct you to The Story of the San Pedro Skate Park Association:

A group similar to Skate Ojai, only they didn't have nearly as much money. They did have the exact same obstacles placed in front of their dreams though.

"skateboarders in this Los Angeles Harbor district took matters into their own hands after trying for years to get the local powers that be to build a community skatepark. Out of frustration, they set their eyes on an underused, out of the way, eyesore of a spot under the Harbor freeway, right across the street from the bustling shipping terminals of the Port of LA."

Here's some video of what's become of what they built without money--just will and creativity:

They didn't even have a lease on the land!

We can't do the same thing?


Don't we have the creativity?



Anonymous said...

Sorry the links don't seem to work. At least you can copy and paste them.


Anonymous said...

spk? aren't you the guy who tried to recall the city council? whatever happened with that?

Anonymous said...

That's all you have to say huh, Anon. #7. Do you ever have the overwhelming feeling that people are calling you stupid behind your back?

Anonymous said...

The budget is right on target, yes additional options were asked to be "Priced out" for consideration. Remove these and the park that came at $543,972 is = $360,881, thats pretty close to the $361,000 money that was actually raised. The real problem is the Mayors statement of having the developer "Hurry" and buy the city out of the Skate Park lease. See the Ventura County Star editoral 10/20/2008 about the candidates. The other problem has been the consistant hurdles the City continues to throw at SKATEOJAI. Now its the labor law, we have many (279) non_profit's in Ojai that will benefit from this DISCOVERY and allow volunteers to bring down the costs of Public Work projects. The City and Sue are running out of excuses.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the latest comment comes from a Skate Ojai member who doesn't understand what 9:42 is saying. How about sticking to the original plan and the design that is within budget. Why would Site Design present a plan that cost more than $180,000 over available funds, seems like a waste of time and pretty stupid. If Skate Ojai wants a skate park, get the money and build it on your own land without the city's involvement. Then you don't have to whine about not getting it the way you want it. If you want the tax payers money to pay for part of the skate park, you have to accept their terms. Take it or leave it.

Anonymous said...

Shut up yuo stuped jirk

Hot Carl said...

Build it and they will come.

demand civility and respect said...

10/27, 9:24 - is that following comment policy? please tell us why you are so upset and what side of the issue you are on. do you not want a skate park?