News

Public-safety building cost jumps to $81 million

Finance Committee members advocate exploring split financing strategy as they race with inflation

Without turning to the public for support, the cost of a new public safety building would jump to $81 million, not including interest payments over 30 years, the new Palo Alto Finance Committee learned Tuesday night.

Construction inflation has pushed the cost of the building -- to be located at 2785 Park Boulevard -- to $69 million by the time construction could begin by April 2009, according to a city staff report.

But with debt financing, the cost jumps to $81.2 million, Deputy Administrative Services Director Joe Saccio wrote in a report.

The city would also have to pay about $5 million in interest annually for 30 years, resulting in some service cuts, City Manager Frank Benest told the committee Tuesday.

The city is considering financing the public safety building using "certificates of participation" (COP) after a preliminary poll showed the needed two-thirds of voters are unlikely to approve a bond to pay for the new 50,000-square-foot building.

COPs are a financing technique that would funnel city money through a city-managed non-profit organization, which would offer certificates to investors.

The police facility, currently located behind the Civic Center, is considered too small and outdated, it doesn't meet standards for evidence collection and storage and it would be vulnerable during an earthquake -- as would the emergency dispatch center and an emergency operations center in the City Hall basement, where city computers also are located.

Rather than financing the entire public-safety building with COPs, the four-member committee expressed interest in paying for the public safety, as well as a new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, with a combination of bond money and COPs.

The two projects should remain wedded, Councilman Greg Schmid said, expressing an opinion echoed by other committee members.

"I would like to find a way both projects get rewarded and one project doesn't get guaranteed funding at the risk of the other," Committee Chair Jack Morton said.

If the city split the cost of both projects with residents, perhaps both would pass, sparing the city from the commitment to costly interest payments, which could be risky, Councilman Yiaway Yeh said.

Burt said his preference would also be to draw on some bond funding, but he remains pessimistic the community would support a public safety bond.

"My inclination is to try to find the revenue for COPs to try to get the job done," Councilman Pat Burt said.

"I'm torn between what I wish were the case and what I think is the case. Going to voters for the police building is going to be problematic."

Burt said he had heard that some community members thought using COPs was a strategy to circumvent the public. Actually, it is option that directly results from a minority of residents expressing disapproval of a bond, Burt said.

City staff members provided a list of potential sources for the interest payments, which could range from $4 to $5.2 million per year, depending on financing options and the contribution of "one-time" money initially.

Shaving the city's budget reserve could free up $3.6 million immediately, City Manager Frank Benest said. Other money could come from a business license tax, renting the current Police Department space, an expansion and move of Anderson Honda, the recently passed hotel tax increase and the Stanford Shopping Center expansion, among other options, the report states.

Money could also be drawn from the potential lease or sale of the city's 8-acre portion of the Cubberley Community Center site to Foothill College for a proposed education center, Benest said.

According to the staff's estimates, nearly $3 million of the interest payments could come from the expansion of the Stanford Shopping Center and construction of a new hotel.

But that troubled several committee members, who asked for future lists to exclude money dependent on the shopping center's expansion.

"That puts us in a situation of conflict," Schmid said, adding that he would have trouble negotiating over a development if the city was already dependent on its revenues.

For upcoming discussions, the committee asked staff to break out money that would come from the shopping center's expansion.

And the uncertainty of some of the sources, such as the business tax or Anderson Honda's expansion. also troubled several council members.

Benest also said $1 million could come from cuts in city services.

The payments could strain the city, committee members acknowledged.

"I have major anxieties that we are basically imposing upon ourselves a $5 million drain," Morton said. "That's the entire library budget we're talking about."

Committee members asked for a list of programs and services that could also use the $5 million.

Burt suggested setting a cap on the cost of the building. Public Works Director Glenn Roberts said the city molded the project around the basic needs of the department, rather than planning for extras.

"A price cap, if it's set too low, will defeat the whole purpose of the facility," Roberts said.

Roberts also said that construction inflation remains troubling and adds about $600,000 to the cost of the project each month.

Instead of passing the issue on to the full City Council, the committee voted unanimously to discuss financing the public safety building again at its Feb. 5 meeting.

Comments

Posted by Billion * Billion = 10**18, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:08 am

We should wait till the building costs $1 Billion to build.

Billion here, billion there - why should it matter - we are Palo Altans at the bleeding edge - we must lead by example.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2008 at 7:49 am

Do not worry...If they tell you 81 million..It will cost. 1 Billion anyway..If you wait until it should cost 1 billion then, get ready to cough up 1 trillion...
And who else gets a house? Lets see, the first group that had to flee the city went to Colorado{Ariel} Then the second escaped to So Cal to spread Palo Alto's manage and destroy plan...


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:31 pm

"The police facility, currently located behind the Civic Center, is considered too small and outdated, it doesn't meet standards for evidence collection and storage and it would be vulnerable during an earthquake -- as would the emergency dispatch center and an emergency operations center in the City Hall basement, where city computers also are located."

Can someone please tell me why:

(a) Palo Alto has to store crime paraphernalia (a.k.a. evidence) on the most expensive real estate on the planet, and

(b) Our fair city keeps its emergency ops center in a building which is known to be unsafe in an earthquake, instead of moving it to a safe alternative site immediately. Dumb. It's like New York City putting its crisis ops in the World Trade Center, which Mayor Giuliani did with famously disastrous results. Aren't we supposed to be smarter here at the head of Silicon Valley?


Posted by Jen, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 16, 2008 at 12:33 pm

$81M??? For what? This is outrageous, and NO WAY will people vote for this. What will it have - designer cells and gold plated urinals? Let's get real on this or this project is DEAD.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Not with my money. Vote NO.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Hire John Arillagga of Stanford Stadium fame to supervise this building and Vance Brown to build it. That stadiumcost $100M and was done fast. He could bring in this project in half the cost and time. In fact, hire him to run the city.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm

At some point, the citizens of Palo Alto are going to wake up to the fact that there is a realistic solution to the police and library issues: Shut down the Downtown branch library, then build a new police station on that site. Keep the police cars parked at the current police garage. Shut down the Opportunity Center, and use that space for police department administrative functions, including evidence storage. This latter solution would eliminate the magnet effect of the OC for downtown bums, thus reducing police requirements (as well as the size of the new police building). Then turn the College Terrace library into a volunteer coffee shop/reading room/meeting room. Then turn Mitchell Park library into a community center (no library, and no remodel). Then build a single main library, at the current main library site, one that we can be proud of.

To top it off, as Kate suggests, let John Arillagga run the entire thing. Then name the main library for Arillagga.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Here we go again: Naysayers who have held capital improvements up for YEARS, now facing the consequences of that delay - i.e. construction inflation. When will our policy makers realize that listening to the voices of "NO!" have painted our city into a corner.

Here's a guarantee: keep listening to the kind of sentiments raised on this thread (prior to this post), and Palo Alto will end up a laughing stock, with a shell for services, outsourced municipal employees that don't give a damn.

It's time to bite the bullet NOW for these expenditures, before we're completely out of reach for improvements, or have to seriously compromise our service provisioning - which is just what the libertarian, government-hating naysayers in this forum have angled for since they came to town.

Realize that these very vocal voices are NOT representative of a community that wants great library, public safety, recreation and educational services.

We can do better than those who only know whining, negative criticism, playing defense, and ultimately - retreat. We're better than that!


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:02 pm

The town does not need to spend $80-$90M for a palace for the police. This town does need a new police chief who can look at the next twenty years and come up with a reasonable resource need for the palo alto police and then overlay that over the current facilities.

All of the "got to haves" that this current plan has included are simply the dreams of some friends of ex-council members looking for a "legacy".


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 6:15 pm

We need it. Build it before it will cost more.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2008 at 8:13 pm

The estimated costs for the public safety building has changed multiple times over the past year, that it doesn't give me alot of confidence that the project will be able to meet the budget.

Just imagine if the "$50 million" bond had been passed in 2006 or 2007; the city would have a big embarrasment on its hand.

This is not the first project that hasn't met it's cost projection - look at the storm drains.

If this need is very urgent, then the city does have a mechanism to fund the project - dedicated funding from existing or current revenues. If it's truely $5 million/year, that represents 4% of the city budget! surely the city can prioritize 4% of its budget to meet this urgent need.


Posted by Moved On, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2008 at 9:54 pm

It's very interesting to read the Orange County Register local section. Almost every day there is news of some city constructing or expanding a library, building skate parks, new soccer fields, new municipal facilities, etc.

And these aren't especially wealthy areas. Average home prices of 5-800k.

Can anyone name the last major improvement the City of Palo Alto has built with its own money? (Stanford paying for soccer fields doesn't count.)

No need to put a cover on the crab pot. The other crabs always pull back the one trying to escape. What has this great city done over the last thirty years?


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 16, 2008 at 10:31 pm

One thing that I find difficult to understand is how the "inflation" associated with building this facility jives with the downturn in construction that has taken place, at least in residential houseing.

My hunch is that costs for building "commercial/industrial" projects is following a different trajectory than is residential housing in the US. There also is a huge amount of construction taking place outside the US--I have seen it myself first hand in Beijing and Shanghai the last couple of years, so this likely is having some bearing on it as well. (BTW, growth outside the US is a major factor in why oil prices are so high, and likely will stay this high or higher.)

That said, it would seem that work of this sort would not suffer right now from a scarcity of labor or contractors to perform it, given the current state of affairs in the economy, but there does not appear to be much if any favorable impact to the City around this. Maybe someone has a plausible explanation, but it is not obvious to this writer.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Paul, Concrete production, steel fabrication, materials dependent on petroleum are in high demand - in some cases extreme demand and general labor-related construction costs (often sensitive to local economy trends).

That said, why are we shying away from a necessary infrastructure build? We have o build the public safety building. It's time to get creative. This is easier said than done, but that's what strong leaders are hired/elected for. Let's get going.


Posted by I Support the PD, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 16, 2008 at 11:43 pm

I've said this once and I will say it again. I fully support the PD. They need a new building!!!! Can you image if there was a huge earthquake or a major disaster?!?!? I wouldn't be surprised if the current building that they are in is the first to go down. These are the people who we call for help, but you aren't willing to help them? It doesn't make much sense to me. Give the PD what they need…a new SAFE building.


Posted by Property Perspective, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2008 at 12:52 am

I believe that Bill Gates (Microsoft) spent around $54 million dollars to construct his "green" home, and he has a nice view of Lake Washington. The assessed value of his home in 2002 was around $113,000. His property taxes well exceed $500,000 a year. Waterfront property has a higher tax rate.

The property prices in Medina, WA are equal to(or exceed) those in Palo Alto.

I think we got ripped off on this parcel - Next to railroad tracks, and the other problems associated with this site.

Why are commercial property realtors and developers always so mean to our city?

I am looking them up and keeping a list. I will make sure never to business or associate with them.

We need a new police building, there is no doubt about this. Perhaps the people who have cheated us will get to spend some time here.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 17, 2008 at 7:45 am

Shame on City Council for buying this land before it even consulted the residents if we want to build a new police station there. Those that want a new police station need to stop trying to create hysteria in the community. All of a sudden the current police station is going to be the first building destroyed in a disaster? When was this decision made??? What facts is this conclusion based on? My guess, using common sense, is that the decision was made when the City Council and Police Chief decided that a new Police Palace might be possible, if they could just scare the community enough. If the information presented to us by City Council is correct, then all of our city services will stop in the event of a disaster. Shouldn't the entire City Hall be rebuilt if, as City Council will have us believe, that building will be the first to fall?

Don't be fooled. Say NO to a new police station, aka, public safety building.

Start insisting that the police do their job and remove aggressive homeless from our streets. Enforce the law and stop trying to scare the public into funding a new police station.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 17, 2008 at 7:51 am

I do support the new public safety building in concept. And materials are in high demand outside the US, as I observed in my earlier posting.

I remain troubled that the estimates continue to go up at a double digit rate, even when the economy is slowing down here. Much of the material required is produced in this country, surely it is more economical to acquire and use it here, as opposed to exporting it to Asia, or for us to bring these types of things in from off shore.


Posted by Charles Wolf, a resident of Atherton
on Jan 17, 2008 at 10:26 am

Palo Alto's manage and destroy plan. - LOL

That is true, there are far more examples of waste and destruction than efficient and reasonable use of TAXPAYER money.

Why do you people in Palo Alto elect such incompetent people?



Posted by James, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm

> Can you image if there was a huge earthquake
> or a major disaster?!?!?

We had a huge earthquake in 1989 -- and the current police station/fire department headquarters were not affected. In fact, it's difficult to remember how the Police/Fire Department actually contributed in a meaningful way to the post-event response.

Power was out all over town, but the police and fire people were not involved in restoring those services. Certainly the police were out and about with a "show of presence", but there was so little damage to the town that there really wasn't much for them to do.

What about an even larger earthquake? Suppose a build with a couple hundred people were to collapse? Anyone seen an emergency plan that demonstrates what the PA police would do as first responders? Or the fire department? And how would having a "new building" actually change any of the post-event activities of the police/fire departments?

We did have a major disaster in 1998, when the Creek overflowed. While the police were involved in a number of ways dealing with this, there was no danger to City Hall and there is little reason to think that having the police headquartered in a palace (at the time) would have changed their actions/re-actions one iota.


The argument about a "huge earthquake/disacter" just does not hold any water to justify this over-designed white elephant.




Posted by Builder, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 1:10 pm

> I remain troubled that the estimates continue
> to go up at a double digit rate

Construction estimation is not an "exact science", as their are too many unknowns that the contractor/builder has to deal with. Generally, every project has at least a 15% contingency fee built into the estimate. Even then, there are times that builders lose money because of events that simply are not foreseeable.

China, and to some extent, India have become huge consumers of raw construction materials. There is little reason to believe that they are going to stop building aggressively in the near future. The US is competing for steel from foreign countries, and certainly because of lame-brained environmentalism, our petrol-fuel imports are in demand from China/India also.

And then there are the rapacious labor unions -- that would rather see a company go out of business than come to terms with what "global competition" means in terms of realistic wages and benefits.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 17, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Builder,

Thanks for your comments, I appreciate what you say and am sensitive to the moving target that people in your line of business deal with when it comes to estimating a project. My dad was a cost engineer at Bechtel his entire career, but I think he lived in simpler times.

Part of the challenge here as I perceive it is that the "delta" is a great deal more than 15%, more like 60%, as was the case recently with the storm drain work as well. What is going on that estimates are off by such a large order of magnitude? I think that the people who are working on behalf the City on these projects are doing their best, but something seems flawed when things are that different in less than two years' time.

I also wonder how other municipalities are dealing with this sort of thing. There have been examples cited of projects in nearby places which cost considerably less, but what I would find instructive is not only how they got what they did for the lower amounts they spent, but also what they did to address this rapidly changing cost situation as their projects were under way. As difficult and frustrating as it is to get these reports of the cost estimates going up before a project is undertaken, it pales in comparison with the dilemma it poses once the work begins, the heat really will get turned up at that point.


Posted by Bobby, a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I've heard that there is a "Palo Alto premium" in bids for projects in Palo Alto because 1. Palo Alto is so demanding in what they want, and 2. They are not sensitive to price as much as other cities.

I know a local architect who did several small projects for the city. He says they were the most wasteful clients he ever dealt with. An example: instead of doing several concept sketches as bases for discussion - before narrowing down the project and choosing one, the city wanted full drawings and specs for each of the alternatives the architect wanted to present. This tripled the fees. THe city (you taxpayers in Palo Alto) paid up.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm

There's probably some truth to Bobby's statement. The biggest mistake made on the Public Safety Building was to suggest it go for public approval in the first place. What citizen should have the right to put a halt infrastructure necessary to maintain essential public safety? We just should have built the thing, damn the consequences from the vocal minority in this town, who delight in creating fiscal havoc, to protect god knows what. (most likely, their ability to keep whining).


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Not so DEMANDING on the WEB SITE?? Just $$$$$$$ lost...Add it to the stack..


Posted by Fire the Fireman, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Yeah, Fireman, like you never made a mistake


Posted by Builder, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 5:53 pm

> My dad was a cost engineer at Bechtel his entire career,
> but I think he lived in simpler times.

Most definitely.

> I think that the people who are working on behalf
> the City on these projects are doing their best

There might be some real disagreement here. People who work for the city tend to be 8-5 types, with no sense of "ownership" that can be compared to that in the private sector, where people lose their jobs when projects turn sour. This example was demonstrated in spades during the 2001 CA Energy "meltdown". The PA utility operates on a premise that things should be static in order to reduce the volatility on customers, many of whom are becoming elderly and living on fixed incomes.

The idea of "riding the Spot Market" was not something that they were comfortable with, or capable of doing. As such, the PA Utility tends to purchase contracts that provide stability of price, but not necessarily the best price.

As to projects like the Storm Drains -- there were many claims made by Larry Klein and his "minions" at the time of the last vote on this fee/tax increase. Klein is no engineer, and he had a lady at one of the dog-and-pony shows who claimed that "pot holes" in Palo Alto streets were caused by the "lack of storm drains". (Although she gave no proof.)

One of the problem with the City is that it has small engineering staffs, and tends to outsource most of its engineering to consultants/contracting houses. There is nothing wrong with this, and probably a good idea--until it turns out that someone on the City Engineering staff has to absorb the work and becomes overwhelmed/befuddled.

Even though the City created a "Storm Drain Advisory Committee", they staffed it with people like Larry Klein's campaign manager, who is not an engineer. The lady who claimed that pot holes are generated by the lack of storm drains got a seat too. These people may be "good people" -- but what do they know about running municipal construction/public works projects?

The plan for the storm drains was supposed to involve at least another engineer for a year or two. Maybe the City was able to locate someone who was competent, maybe not. At any rate, it would seem (without an audit of the project), that there aren't enough people making decisions on the city's part to get this work going in the time frames that matched the estimates.

This Storm Drain project is an example of a city project that is overdue a good audit. While this auditor is not likely to get within in a light year of this project for auditing sake, the city manager is certainly within his right to hire an outside construction audit firm to review progress and future of this project.

Most engineering projects can be decomposed into a series of milestones and deliverables. Engineering software packages allow project manager/leaders to enter estimated dates and then when actual dates arrive, those dates can be added to the time-line. If actual dates begin to exceed estimated dates, a new time-line is computed which provides the project manager some idea when the project will actually be finished.

An Audit would look at the time lines to see how many of the dates have been met and how many have not. If the due dates are the cause of estimation errors, then the project Audit would point that out. If there missed dates come from lack of material availabilities, and cost increases based on a world competition, then those reasons would be called out.

An outside audit is certainly needed in order for the taxpayers to understand what's going on in the administration of this project.



Posted by Davey, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 17, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Builder makes a good point. And the comparison to the storm drain fiasco should strike terror into PA taxpayers looking at the Police Building costs. Though putatively well-vetted, the storm drain cost is now costing (at last report) about twice what the estimate was when the project was approved (only two years ago).

Without reform of the processes in town, we may well be looking not at an $81 million Police Station, but at a $160 million meltdown.

The city is going to ask for (at last count) $50 million or so for a Library Bond.

Applying the same multiplier to that as to the storm drain also, we could be looking at a cool quarter of a billion dollars to finish these projects in a couple of years.

Where will we ever get the money to fund city retirees pensions and health benefits when that happens?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Gee, Davey why not shoot foro a Billion-dollar overrun while you're at it. Keep delaying this project, and we will se continued cost increases. Build it - NOW!


Posted by Willy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2008 at 6:11 pm

> Build it - NOW!

There is little demonstrated need for this building.


Posted by Davey, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 17, 2008 at 6:20 pm

The Build it Now person misunderstands the issue. It's true that construction costs are rising (right now at least), making estimation problematical.

Here in Palo Alto, we have a much more worrisome issue: the system for public works is so broken-down, that regardless of general construction cost variations, we can have no reasonable confidence in the people running the system, or the system itself.

We need to get the system for planning and building of public works projects under much better control before considering major new projects like the Police Building. We can't afford 100% overruns on a project of this magnitude. That's what we had with the storm drains, and we haven't changed one thing since then as far as how we get things done.

Rush headlong into a panicked "Build it NOW" mode, and we almost certainly will make big financial mistakes.

Let's reform the process first. That's a prudent way to spend our money.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 17, 2008 at 7:04 pm

When the reports started coming out last year about the changing costs related to Storm Drains, there were some of us who asked, what is going on, do we need to assess what is behind the disconnect between the original estimates and what we now face? I don't know to what extent such an assessment has taken place, but as others above suggest, perhaps an audit of how we are handling these matters in Palo Alto, and a review of making sure we have robust processes and tools in place before we take on a couple of other large, complicated and sorely needed projects.

There was someone some months ago who said that even if he was persuaded about the merits of projects such as these, he was uncomfortable that the City could bring them in on time, on budget, and on spec, and he cited the storm drain experience as an example. I believe it is important that the voters and community have confidence that these projects will meet such objectives. It has been a long time since we have had major projects of this magnitude done here, and understanding and instituting the best practices to assure these projects' success is an important consideration.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 17, 2008 at 8:05 pm

"regardless of general construction cost variations, we can have no reasonable confidence in the people running the system, or the system itself."

Translation: " "We" want to run the city", because...well....just because"


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:31 am

I can't wait until our city is sued by some plaintiff who loses a case because we were unable to properly store and handle evidence. After about $30M worth of litigation, the whiners on this thread will holler about city incompetence. Catch 22.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2008 at 8:07 am

Fire the fireman;
Made lots. made some big ones. Tried to say soory when I did.
Was accountable and responsible when I did... Tried to make them better when I did.
Never lied to the whole world about them. Never tried to cover them up and hide from them. Spineless
Never cost the citizens millions. Never got paid big money to keep making mistakes. Never had my property tax paid while I made these mistakes. Never had anyone say.. Well keep making these mistakes and when you are gone and made good money and a big retirement all your mistakes will be forgotten. Never tried to sell to the public that it was not a mistake you{the public} are just stupid or too pickie.
My mistakes never cost someone there lives or homes, Never became a safety hazard that the Firefighters and citizens had to live with.
Smoke get in your eyes???


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2008 at 8:21 am

Mike
I do not see people saying.I will do it or let me do it.

The people, most{Not you} have had enough. They just want it to be done well? They want it finished and they want it to work and not cost 3 times what they promised. They want what they paid for not, half of what they were told they would get. No scams,no cover ups, No we will just go around the people's voice.. Thats all..

Common sense... Oops that's a bad word for you and some others.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2008 at 11:09 am

Fire the fireman

So you go to the bank, where you think your money is safe. They told you it was. Promised.
Look at your statement and find most of it is gone.. You say ok no problem. I will get more from the tax payers. They will not care or I will just not tell them.
The teller offers you a toaster to cover the missing money and you are happy? Oh and only one slot of that toaster works.
The teller informs you that the person who was taking care of your money has lost huge amounts all the time. You are not the first one. She then tells you not to worry that person will be gone one day. So this makes it ok for you?
Maybe the teller should be passing out common sense???


Posted by Naive, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:52 pm

maybe i'm too short sighted... how many people will be working in this building? the city website says 169 personnel in the police dept. so, if i do my math... that's $480,000 per employee "office". yeah, so there's equipment, records, evidence, blah, blah, blah. the number still seems WAY out in the stratosphere for a police station... either that... or it seems like a luxury resort by the train tracks... close to an underpass that floods? hmmmmmm.



Posted by Naive, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm

and at $81.2M it's $1624/sq ft.!
yikes!



Posted by Rethink-The-Matter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:59 pm

> can't wait until our city is sued by some
> plaintiff who loses a case because we were
> unable to properly store and handle evidence.

1) This is not going to happen.
2) This police chief has allowed this situation to occur. After the Santa Clara Grand Jury identified a number of deficiencies in the PA property room administration, this Chief has done very little to clean up the situation except run some pictures of what seems to be totally inept management practices in the property room.
3) There is no evidence that the City Manager held the Police Chief accountable for the poor performance of the Palo Alto property room.

The Grand Jury suggested that several of the smaller cities pool resources and create a joint property/evidence facility somewhere in the county so that low-cost storage in a secure place could be acquired by the smaller cities--like Palo Alto. This Chief's response--"it a'int gonna happen"!

The idea that the police would fail to manage property so that it became of participant in a "30M law suit" over property room practices implies that the police do not understand how to manage property. If for some reason they needed to store property in a more secure location, or for some other reason, would they not ask for help from another jurisdiction? If the answer is NO! .. then it's pretty clear how incompetent the Chief who made that decision would be.

There is no reason that all of the property needs to be stored in the police station. Sunnyvale has two police property storage areas, Palo Alto can too.


Posted by Do-The-Math, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 1:03 pm

> that's $480,000 per employee "office".

This is true, but it's important to also divide this number by the life-time of the office being built--say by 30 years. That would bring this number down to $16,000 per employee per year.

The cost of public safety is getting to be very high. This $16,000 would easily bring the cost up to/over $200,000 per year per employee this year. Since we have seen a doubling of the city's budget over the past ten years, that number will be jumping to upwards of $400,000 per employee in a decade or so.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2008 at 3:54 pm

I believe dividing the functions in different sites, and even locating a branch emergency commo center out of the area should be considered. We no longer have to put all our eggs in one basket to manage them.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2008 at 5:11 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Larry Klein was right when he said it was a mistake to put important infrastructure rebuilds to a vote. I agreed with him then, and I agree with him now. It's about time that policy makers took control of this city, and do what they were elected to do. The latter task is *decidedly* not to kow-tow to even the insider-whiners (there are plenty of those, just look at a CIty Council meeting, any time).

We need leadership, and vision, and executable planning. We need to GET GOING, and leave the whiners behind.

Build the police station, NOW.




Posted by Alyssa, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2008 at 6:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 6:17 pm

> as these whining citizens remain safe in their homes

We have the US Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and National Guard to thank for that!

> We need leadership, and vision

One possibility that has yet to be examined sufficiently is to look at combining the police and fire departments for Mountain View, and Los Altos with Palo Alto together. While there was some preliminary attempts to consider this some years ago, the discussions came to no end. Rumor had it that the key "players" were too ego-saturated to listen to what the others were trying to say, so they all took their marbles and went home.

Before spend $100M on an unneeded police station, there needs to be a fully considered set of alternatives for Palo Alto Public Safety needs. For instance, surveillance cameras would provide a certain amount of security for people in public areas, such as downtown and the Caltrain station that is not being providing at the moment. This Police Chief has ignored surveillance cameras--claiming that they do not work--while other cities have employed them to various levels of success. The LA Police have been utilizing small, portable, drones which officers can carry in the trunks of their cruisers which can be used to sweep and area from above, looking for suspects of an on-going criminal incident. This police chief has refused to consider these devices.

The following is about a new generation of "driverless cars" that could be on the market within a decade:
----
Web Link

GM Researching Driverless Cars
Jan 6 06:25 PM US/Eastern
By TOM KRISHER

DETROIT (AP) - Cars that drive themselves—even parking at their destination—could be ready for sale within a decade, General Motors Corp. executives say.
----

While the idea of automated vehicle control has been around for a while, it is clear the level of sophistication in robotics, wireless communication and software is putting society ever closer to being able to turn the driving over to a computer. Maybe it will happen in ten years (or less), maybe not, but there is a serious possibility that we won't be needing as many (or any) traffic cops in the future. So, has this police chief provided Palo Alto any sense of how many traffic cops we'll need in the future?

Every "vision" that this police chief has demonstrated to date has been to look backward .. and even then, she has not been able to produce a very clear rendition of what she is seeing.

This public safety building is simply a boondoggle to hand a $100M to the building industry. Public safety will not be improved -- this police chief has, to her credit, admitted that in public.

If this city council does not have the courage to actually dig into this matter, then the residents of the town will have to. A full analysis of our public safety needs is long overdue. This should be completed before listening to this police chief any longer.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Bill, I suggest you run for City Council, or better yet, apply for admission to the Police Department and work your way through the ranks, to Chief. That way we'll have some faith in your opinion.

Until then, I think our Public Safety is better handled by the professionals.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 19, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Hmmmm. Was going to say something. Then saw that I had forgotten to qualify as being able to garner any faith in my opinion. I didn't run for City Council. I didn't join the
police force.

Mike, how about you?


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 19, 2008 at 3:01 pm

I'm not so foolish to believe that my opinions in an online forum qualify me for management. That does, however, appear to be the belief of some here.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

> I'm not so foolish to believe that my opinions
> in an online forum qualify me for management.

There are many in this community who actually have been managers in the Silicon Valley, the Military and in corporate environments around the world. Those experiences, in fact, provide them more than enough background to comment on city manager, public safety management and a host of other times--such as opinion in an on-line forum.


Posted by Sammy, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2008 at 4:28 pm

I have a lot of experience paying taxes - way more experience than I would like in fact.

I think that gives me the right to comment on things that might involve the city attempting to extract even more out of my bank account than they already to.

If you give City "experts" the sole right to determine how much tax money they "need" to provide services, you'll quickly find there is no upper limit to this amount.

This police station seems to me like one more case of overweening excess on the part of our city government. I hope I don't need Mike's permission to offer this opinion.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Sounds like that common sense thing again???Goes a long way ...


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 19, 2008 at 5:58 pm

"There are many in this community who actually have been managers in the Silicon Valley, the Military and in corporate environments around the world. Those experiences, in fact, provide them more than enough background to comment on city manager, public safety management and a host of other times--such as opinion in an on-line forum."

Comment? Yes. With accuracy? Doubtful.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2008 at 5:59 pm

> Comment? Yes. With accuracy? Doubtful.

More typical gibberish.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2008 at 12:08 pm

It's shameful that upgrading evidence storage and a seismic dispatch center is held hostage to private parking, conference rooms and a private gym. Staff are the Naysayers refusing to solve the public-facing problems until they get a fat slice of pie for themselves.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm

"It's shameful that upgrading evidence storage and a seismic dispatch center is held hostage to private parking, conference rooms and a private gym"

Do you risk your life on the job the way public safety personnel do? Do you even have a clue what kind of physical and psychological toll something like that can take?

And you're begrudging private parking, a gym, and conference room? It costs money to keep your home safe every day.

Just because our police do such a great job of keeping us free of crime - to the point where many take their services for granted - doesn't mean that they should be kept working in the current pathetic facility. Go take a tour, and get back to us.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Mike;
Stop it with the""Do you risk your life on the job as public safety personnel do"" PLEASE!
You did not. I did!
I and many others felt that the City and Ruben only made it worst. And now,a very little better.
If you cared or the Leaders of this city did. There would be no 100+ pages of safety and operational issues with the 2 Transprt Engines. Yea the ones the citizens paid for that they do not have. That the city did nothing about? And many others safety issues never dealt with. Do you want a list ,,again?
And who takes who for granted... Lets see 20 years in the Fire Department, 12 as a Paramedic. And my issues??


Posted by RIP, a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Fireman,

Just do your job. Oh wait, you quit your job. Sour grapes?!?


Posted by fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2008 at 8:06 am

RIP;

Did my job..Until it became too much of a joke!!!Find out the whole story.

The lack of safety issues, the lack of true leadership, The lack of following the law and so much more is/was part of what caused what happened to me.
The people who have been doing there jobs are not the problem.
The people not doing there jobs are, causing the problems for all. Making it hard or imposible to get the job done.
You should be asking why and what, not trying to make judgements with out the whole story.
Sour grapes or Mismanagement of this city funds,safety and future with great effort to mask or keep the truth from the public. All a long with these people making personel gain and profit at the cost of the citizens FUNDING,services and SAFETY?
Why try so hard to keep the truth from the public???


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm

"Why try so hard to keep the truth from the public??? "

2007 Palo Alto audit:

1) most Palo Altans are happy with their city's management;

2) Palo Alto is in very good fiscal condition, compared to its neighbors

When all is said and done, there is a lot of hot air spewed about city operations.


Posted by RIP, a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2008 at 3:36 pm

"until it became to much of a joke". Then why did you try to "come back"! I'm confused?!? Still sounds like sour grapes.


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2008 at 8:34 am

RIP;

I will first be able to give you my story. Remember as an Employee you get to see first hand what is going on.
Then you read or see a report or excuse from the City's leaders,department heads and you say, What a bunch of lies and BS excuses.
But if you say something or try to get the truth out to the piblic watch out. Open season.
I will make avalible all the information I have avalible then. You can connect the dots, if you want to know the real truth.

Everyone does make mistakes. Try and put yourself in someone elses shoes.
Try to look at what the mistake was, What did making the mistake cost?,who did it hurt. How was this mistaked dealt with..{COVERED UP or lied away}
I will put any and all mistakes I made against Emily's 15 year history? against all the million dollar mistakes made by Ruben and the rest of the trash that hold positions in this City.Hopefully you will be able to find these people out for yourself.

Then make the judgement was my treatment fair. Do you want your City dealing with its Employee's in this type of manner. Would you be a member or want to work for business or City that works this way? Wound you run your business or City this way?
And remember this is only my story, there are many others..
Then see if the treatment/punishment was fair?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I suggest everyone vote NO on the bonds for this fiasco. Everyone needs to slow down. Let's evaluate this issue in detail before any money changes hands.


Posted by Richard Placone, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 4:47 pm

I suggested to the Blue Ribbon Committee that studied the need for a Police Building, that they consider leasing a bilding at the Stanford Industrial Park for this purpose, a number of which have been vacaent for several years. I have one large and very beautiful building in mind that would accommocate the PD and more if the enitre facility were leased. My experience in leasing long vacant buildings to construct medical facilites when I had my own company is that owners are often willling to make major concessions to help defray tenant build-out costs so as to get the building rented. My guess is that the vacant corporate buildings in the Park still pay leasing fees to Stanford. I was told by the BRC that such a building would not be earthquake proof. Not likely to be true, since most buildings these days have to meet earthquake standards, and moreover, part of the tenant imporvements would be retrofitting the building, or portions of it to meet higher standards. Again, my estimate was that this would cost the city less and that the costs could be met out of current revenues. What I asked the committee to do was to at the very least study the matters and see if this was a real alternative. Given the opposition to this project's cost, I still think this is a reasonable alternative and that such a study should be undertaken. If it doesn't pan out, then we should proceed with other "out of the box thinking" to come up with a more cost effective alternative, a number of which have been suggested in these posts. Instead of one upmanship, which seems to go in in many of the posts on this and other issues, some of the better ideas should at least be give serious attention. Does anyone here object to getting a police building at a lower cost with more efficeint results?

Richard, resident of Barron Park.


Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 26, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Richard, the studies have been done; the Blue Ribbon Commission (with tons of community input) has spoken; our police professionals have weighed in.

Certificates of Participation may ease the burden. It's a great idea.

Why open the Pandora's box yet AGAIN, as construction costs continue to go up? We need to build this thing, now.

the only other options are structural reorg of our police dept. to a regional department - sharing other municipal policing - or combining police and fire, as in Sunnyvale. Are you prepared for that battle?


Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2008 at 10:11 am

Mike;
Sunnyvale has a much lower level of service provided to the Citizens.
The Emergency Medical/Fire services are not very good. For a number of reasons.
Firefighters are not Police, Police are not Firefighters.

Diferant jobs.. Do one well not two poorly..
You can paint an orange red... It will never be an apple...


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