Parks Admits: No Basis for Dollar Figures

The Berkeley Parks Department now admits that it has no hard basis for the astronomical cost estimates for park bathrooms that Parks boss Scott Ferris submitted to Berkeley City Council on April 4. The admission came in a formal response to a Public Records Request I filed with the City a week ago.

In his April 4 submission to a special City Council work session, Ferris estimated that park restroom renovation, replacement, and new construction would cost just shy of $10 million.  New restrooms in Cesar Chavez Park and seven others would cost $800,000 for each restroom, according to Ferris.  Here is the relevant section from his paper:

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On April 8, I filed a Public Records Request with the City of Berkeley citing these figures and asking “for each document that relates or refers to one or more of these cost estimates; for example, engineer reports, contractor bids, market research, correspondence, emails, and any other document of any description.”  

On April 17, I received the following email from a senior staff member in Ferris’ department:

Dear Martin,

The City does not have any documents that respond to your request for “… engineer reports, contractor bids, market research, correspondence, emails, and any other document of any description” related to costs for restrooms.

Roger Miller, Senior Management Analyst, Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department

No engineering reports.  No contractor bids.  No market research.  No correspondence or emails.  No document of any description to back up these numbers.  In other words, Ferris made them up.  The Parks boss manufactured these numbers, without support from any engineer or contractor and without looking at the marketplace.  And Ferris apparently thought nothing of submitting this fabricated data over his signature to his boss, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, and to her boss, the City Council.  

If you thought that the post-truth era of alternative facts was confined to the White House, meet Scott Ferris and the Berkeley Parks Department.  How many other cost estimates in Ferris’ report are concocted in the same trumped-up manner?  How about $250,000 for “planning” a bathroom and a storage shed at the Gilman Fields?  How about $900,000 for “planning” to repair the pier — not to actually do any work on it, but for “planning”?  More than $4 million of Ferris’ current cost projections for infrastructure have this same balloon-like quality.  

How much longer will the City Manager and the City Council put up with this kind of lazy and deceptive management?  Especially now that taxpayers have raised the stakes by voting the $100 million T1 bond money? With this new money, it’s high time for the city to seek new management.  



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