COMMENTARY | When it came to deciding whether and how to continue its instantly infamous bus stop project, the Grants Pass City Council could have been good citizens of the United States, or of Grants Pass, but not both.
The Daily Courier tells us that Council had asked Staff to come up with a way to build bus shelters using only the already-approved $388,000 in federal CMAQ funds. Staff presented the Council with three alternatives: Build five shelters with three or four artworks with the $388,000 and $42,500 in city money already budgeted in 2008(?) for the project; kill the project and cut a check to the feds for $80,600 already spent on preliminary engineering; or use only the $388,000 and build all five shelters, with only one artwork.
Those at the meeting learned that this apparent miracle was accomplished by eliminating the contingency funding and doing most of the artwork engineering in-house. It is normal to include a large contingency fund in any project, as most projects take longer and cost more than expected. If the contingency funding is needed after all, the artwork would go first, then one or two of the shelters.
So, the least we could build these bus stops for would be nearly $78,000, if all goes well. If not, it could end up being right back up nearly $100,000 apiece for four shelters, or even higher for three, since only $60,000 of the extra $150,000 was actually eliminated (four out of five artworks budgeted at $75,000); they appear to have dropped $90,000 in contingency funding.
Half the Council wanted to kill the project, pay $80,600 for our mistake in starting it with a vague idea rather than a thought-out project, and perhaps start over, going through the Federal Transit Administration rather than the Federal Highway Administration, which would allow us to do the engineering in-house. Mayor Murphy broke the tie and killed that motion.
The other half favored option three: use only federal funds and drop all but one artwork. Mayor Murphy broke that tie and passed it.
Those who wanted to kill the project were afraid that the per-shelter costs will continue to climb; without those contingency funds, they likely will. They wanted shelters that provide shelter from more than noonday sun and downpours. They also fear the response of the public to such costs, and believe that they should be good stewards of all public money, federal, state, or local.
Those who wanted to finish it said that they didn’t want to make the citizens of Grants Pass “pay $2.85 apiece to protest federal rules” that made the project cost so much.
The Council could save federal money and kill bad publicity, but cost our citizens some money; or they could save Grants Pass money and spend federal money outrageously. They were split evenly; our Mayor chose to serve Grants Pass first.