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Keep an eye on parks spending

An open letter to the Troutdale City Council

At the Oct. 11 Troutdale City Council meeting, Troutdale Community Development Director Rich Faith told the City Council that the Sunrise Park parking project would now cost $60,000 more than the original project cost estimate of $150,000. When Mr. Faith was asked where the extra money would come from, his response was that the city had $900,000 in parks funds that could be used to make up the difference. Then he said, with stunning nonchalance, that he basically guessed at the original estimate.

Yet the City Council was silent as a mouse after Mr. Faith admitted he pulled the parking lot project estimate out of thin air. (Councilors Glenn White and Norm Thomas were not present at this meeting.) How could there be no concerns about an increase of almost 50 percent? Now another project will go on hold to make up the $60,000. How many other projects will have these kinds of increases? How many other projects will go undone because of the lack of concern about how costs are arrived at?

There is a clear track record of our city's lack of accountability in creating accurate project estimates and keeping projects within budget.

The city couldn't demolish Troutdale's old sewer treatment plant because it ran out of money constructing our new sewer treatment plant. We were told that our rates would decrease over the years with the new plant. Rates have never decreased, but only increased by City Council vote. And the old sewer treatment plant is still a blight on our city.

Troutdale's new parks maintenance building was budgeted at $700,000 but was an amazing $500,000 over budget. There was not much discussion as to the reasons for the overruns before approving this 71-percent increase. The City Council just swept this under the carpet. This building was not supposed to be built until the old sewer plant was sold, according to the urban renewal project plans.

The Troutdale Centennial Arch was supposed to cost $80,000, but ended up costing more than $350,000 (a 438-percent increase). This was supposed to be built by private funds raised by the Historical Society, but now the cash strapped city of Troutdale is paying for it. John Wilson asked the City Council by email to wait until the economy got better before constructing it.

Since the construction of the parks building and arch, the City Council is taking increased funds from its reserves in order to make their budget balance.

In private business someone would be held accountable for letting any of these extremely high cost overruns happen. Our question to the City Council and the city staff is this: What are you going to do to hold yourselves and the city staff accountable for this obvious lack of stewardship of taxpayer money?

Robert Canfield and John Wilson have both served on committees in Troutdale and Canfield is a former Troutdale city councilor.