Friday, October 10, 2008

Paying the "experts"

I don't always agree with Washington County Commissioner Bracken Burns. In fact, sometimes I disagree with him vehemently. But one thing is undeniable. The guy is quotable. A recent example of this came at a meeting in which the commissioners were asked to approve a $41,000 bill for a company to inspect construction work at the county airport and submit some plans to the Federal Aviation Administration. More than $37,000 of that amount is for the company to supervise the move of a utility vault from the airport safety zone. Said Burns, "It's going to cost $37,000 to watch someone do that? I'll watch. How in the hell could it cost $40,000 just to watch that happen? That's just crazy. I may take some time off and go to engineering school." Well said. His comments came back to me Wednesday when I was putting a story on the front page about the possibility of giving the city farmers' market, now held in a city parking lot, a permanent location as part of a renovation of the old railroad station at the foot of South Main Street. The state is going to spend $43,000 on a feasibility study to see if this can happen. So, again, we're spending what I consider to be a pretty good chunk of taxpayers' money - yours and mine - to have somebody look something over. Have we gotten to the point where we have no one in our community or county with the necessary level of expertise to handle this sort of thing, maybe even donating that expertise for the common good? I can't believe that we don't have a local contractor or engineer who could saunter down to the foot of Main Street, take a look-see and report back on whether this project is possible. But, no, we'll spend more than $40,000 and Lord knows how much time wallowing in consultation and bureaucracy.



Blogger Ellipses said...

As a consultant, I have to say... I love the graphic :-)




October 10, 2008 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

I'd do it for half that money.

October 10, 2008 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Scott Beveridge said...

The money will be well spent if it helps to restore a great building that looks like crap. It's a cool idea to turn the train station over to a farmers market that is the best thing to happen to downtown Washington in the 10-plus years that I have worked in the city.

October 10, 2008 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Not to rip on the farmers' market, but it's been a pretty rotten 10 years if it's the best thing to happen downtown in the last decade. And I don't think anyone's griping about the proposed project, itself. The issue is spending $43,000 in tax dollars to study whether it can be done. I think that determination can be made much more cheaply - for free, even.

October 10, 2008 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Every year, the powers that be here in Richmond send a delegation on a weekend trek to another city in which a river plays a prominent role. (Richmond has a river running directly through the downtown - the only city in the country that has Class V rapids.)

These delegations, numbering up to 20 people, have been to cities like Pittsburgh and San Antonio, to name a few. All of this is done at the expense of taxpayers under the guise of doing research to see how other cities maximize the benefits of having a river in close proximity. Each year, the delegation brings back a laundry list of great ideas. Meetings are held, press conferences tout the wonderful findings, and developers begin drawing up plans for wonderful projects that would put the James River at the forefront of this city. And then the power players, the ones who really run this city behind the scenes, find dozens of ways to prevent the proposed developments. The result is a gorgeous river running through a semi-developed riverfront community that looks abandoned more than it does developed. The point is that I can sit right here at my desk and come up with at least 20 ideas to make the river here a viable source of revenue, but getting those ideas into place likely will never happen. These studies are a waste of time and money. They should make sure the property is safe and move forward. It shouldn't take money or a committee to figure that out.

October 11, 2008 at 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't the city Planning Commission and the Zoning Hearing Board review the plans for such a thing? They know the city codes and ordinances and should be able to determine if the building, the parking and any other issues confronting such a move would be feasable. And they work for free..

October 11, 2008 at 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What parking?

October 11, 2008 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Good point. What parking? At W&J field maybe? Park on the street and make the intersection there worse than it is? I love the idea though. It could end up having a lunch crowd like some other cities. Fresh food and maybe a glass of area bottled wine. But be sure the area can handle it.. But don't pay some consultant a ton of money to tell you that..

October 11, 2008 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

What about the limited parking back behind the YWCA? I wouldn't park down at the field for what is essentially out door grocery shopping...

What about that big loading dock/parking lot looking thing on the opposite side of the tracks...?

I'll take a looksie for $1,000...

I'll give you the answer for $42,000 :-)


October 11, 2008 at 8:17 PM  

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