Some of us are skeptical about building construction projects that are proposed at town meeting. I didn’t become cynical overnight. It took a few years of watching projects move through the system to get that way.
Of course there’s the Railroad Station. To this day I’m not sure if that was caused by deceit or ignorance. I’d like to believe that it’s just that rose colored glasses are provided as part of the benefits package to town officials and employees.
But here’s one that I can’t get past. Two years ago, Article 21: Handicapped Accessible Restroom at Public Safety Building. $90,000. That’s singular – restroom. Go into the lobby and it’s right there, a $90,000 bathroom. Even one of those US Government issue $600 toilet seats doesn’t quite explain it.
So I got up at town meeting and asked why a bathroom costs $90,000. There’s no jacuzzi, not even a shower. The explanation was that they were using the highest estimate. I pressed on. The Town Manager said that was what the architects recommended and there was a large contingency.
So when asked directly at town meeting why the cost was so high, he stuck to the story that it was just a bathroom, but that the estimate included “reconfiguration” of the remaining space.
That wasn’t entirely true. In fact, it wasn’t remotely true. What they did was put in a bathroom and then install a climate controlled evidence room. I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t have a proper evidence room at the police station. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t tell us that money is being appropriated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act so that you can build one. There’s a lot more to the story including mismanagement of an energy improvement grant, but that will come another day.
While researching the $90,000 bathroom story, I revisited Article 19 that same year. Remember that $110,000 we spent on BMH two years ago? One of the items listed was a fire alarm system. This year, fire alarm system is listed again, with a quote of $20K from 2010. So either the estimate for repairs was low by 18%, or the money was spent on something else not on the warrant. Also listed was repairing and replacing windows and window sills. I don’t see where any windows got repaired except for the ones replaced in the back wall which was another separate item in the warrant.
So when you hear the sincere plea for $200,000 to fix all the big problems in BMH, you can either ask for a pair of those rose colored glasses, or look at the track record.