Why are we having an election to consider a nonexistent ADA complaint, about which our Mayor Sam Kooiker lied? In fact, he invited the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make a “courtesy inspection,” then he “negotiated” an agreement—that has not to this date been signed by the DOJ. There is NO agreement in existence, NONE. You can go online, to see the Mayor admitting that he initiated the telephone call to the US Attorney, then tries to hide the truth behind a flood of words. Click here to see for yourself, the comments start 54:50 into the video and at 1:08 the Mayor again references his call to the DOJ local Civil Rights Office.
Why are we rushing to comply with a non-existing contract which the supporters of the Civic Center expansion are using along with exaggerated numbers and supposed time frames as a scare tactic to generate votes for a new arena? While saying they are propagating messages to debunk misconceptions about the proposed expansion, actually they are spreading their own misleading misinformation.
Let’s look at the dire warnings about the Barnett Arena, beginning with the estimated cost. Proponents of the expansion have argued that it would cost at least $70 million (and sometimes even more) to remodel the arena for ADA, but the truth is that they are combining an estimated $35 million ADA cost with the estimated $35 million cost to update and upgrade the Barrett Arena to exaggerate the cost. You can see the actual estimated cost for ADA repairs on the Opinion of Probable Construction Cost document (yellow highlights were added by this blog). The document lists two estimates: the lower at $32,744,121 and the higher at $34,437,602. Before some ridiculous “contingencies” the lower estimate is barely over $23 million—and a closer look at the basis for the $23 million estimate reveals that even that number seems exaggerated.
For example, some of the items list “LS,” for lump sum, as the “Unit”—including one of the largest, Civil / Utilities (Allowance) at $500,000. This means that these items have been merely estimated. As a contractor, we always considered those to be SWAGS (super wild ass guesses).
We get to the $70 million price point when we add the estimated “order of magnitude” SWAGS of $30,640,659 for general repairs and updates (click here to see the estimate), far beyond what is necessary to address the ADA violations. Look at the estimate and you will see that it includes sound system upgrades, a kitchen remodel and expanded storage, stage equipment, sport flooring, and a stage and back stage addition. The $70 million would get us a brand new arena, for uses which might or might not be in our citizen’s best interest.
The next alarm is the claim that if we don’t approve the plan as presented to us, we won’t have sufficient time to complete the repairs required by the DOJ settlement—a settlement that has not to this date been signed by the DOJ. Even if the Mayor’s “deal” did exist, look for yourself at the required actions listed in “Attachment A” of the supposed DOJ settlement.
These actions can easily be completed with a separate design and bid contract within the next twelve months. They must be completed by the deadline whether we build a new arena or not—building another arena during that timeframe just complicates the matter.
We have also been told that remodeling the Barnett Arena may take five years and that we could lose—forever—the events that would, supposedly, have to relocate. That is ridiculous.
First, the timeframe: Five years to complete the repairs listed in Attachment A of the unsigned settlement? No.
Second, there is no reason why the parts of the construction process that might close the arena cannot be carried out in a carefully phased manner during periods that the arena is not in use or is least in demand. We remodeled our airport without shutting it down for five years, surely we can find a way to make the required changes with minimal impact on events. City’s own TSP report says you can do in phases.
In other words the Kooiker administration has started us on a path to spend $180 million in taxpayer dollars and lied about having ratted the city out to the feds to get the ball rolling. There was no formal federal action until the Mayor caused it. Outrageous.
We have gone from a nonexistent ADA complaint costing $32,744,121, to a long story that since we’re at it we ought to spend another $150 million to build some seats we might not ever be able to fill.
Time to stop and regroup. We can create a plan to make the repairs outlined in a suggested DOJ settlement for minimal cost, phased in a way to have little or no impact, in a swift manner—there is no reason to drag it out.
Then, separately, let’s have a discussion about a new plan that will address the Civic Center’s legitimate needs—one that we can afford. We need a public discussion that balances the Civic Center plan against other possible good uses for that kind of money over the next 30 years.
I am very troubled by what is happening, dishonesty is apparent. Why? Who gains? Who is paying the cost of the propaganda and publications of the “vote yes” effort?
For a long time I really didn’t fully appreciate what it meant to need handicapped access—while I understood that it was important I had never had to use it. Then I did—for nearly a year. Months of a rented wheel chair, walking with a walker, or on crutches, or with a cane have changed my view. Months of being unable to stand or navigate difficult steps, or even make turns in a hallway, enhanced my recognition of the need for an early solution to accessibility problems at the Civic Center.
This blog would appreciate hearing from those of you who have had difficulty accessing the arena. Please tell us about your experiences. What has inconvenienced you most? What do you think should be addressed first? If this is really about ADA, let’s keep it about ADA and take care of the needs of the people of this community first—and swiftly. We can complete the other repairs in the needed time frame, but what do you think needs to be done first? What is holding you back from utilizing and enjoying our Civic Center?