Selective Amnesia – Who Pays?

well-1008977__340There’s a story on KeysNet.com about another county project gone off the rails:  Rising cost of new Upper Keys jail complex annoys county commissioners.  The project was originally estimated to cost $15 million.  The taxpayers are now looking at $30 million.  The reactions from the various commissioners are interesting as always.

Comm. Danny Kolhage:

“Remember the infrastructure sales tax is not a bottomless well,” Kolhage told staff.

Well, he must have had temporary amnesia when he approved $43 million in change orders for the Cudjoe Regional project.  I’m glad he finally remembered that, yes, taxpayer money is a limited resource.  Not that this realization will do the taxpayers much good at this late stage.

Comm. Heather Carruthers:

Commissioner Heather Carruthers wondered, “So when people give us costs, we should just add 50 percent to it?”

Staff is only following her lead.  Like Kolhage, Carruthers also has a perfect track record on Cudjoe Regional change orders.  She voted “yes” on every single one.  Again, this sudden urge to question over-spending does nothing to recover the millions in tax money squandered on Cudjoe Regional with her blessing.

Comm. Sylvia Murphy:

Murphy said planners should have quoted the project’s full estimated cost “and let us all hit the deck at the same time.”

“Be more transparent with this money,” she chided.

Yes.  She’s the only one who’s making any sense.  She was also the first to actually vote “no” on a Cudjoe change order.  If the others had followed her lead, maybe they could have reigned in the cost of that project.  The commissioners need the full picture if they hope to make good decisions on behalf of the taxpayers.  But they have to require it of their staff and enforce that requirement.  Grumbling about it and then voting “yes” accomplishes nothing.

The Upper Keys jail is on the way to becoming another failed project – a project that far exceeds the budgeted cost.  There is no question that there is a systemic problem with the way the county handles capital projects.  The real question is what will the BOCC do about it?

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