Thursday, November 03, 2005

Milking the Cash Cow

Max S. Hayes High School in Cleveland's rapidly gentrifying Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood was slated for a 27 million dollar "make-over", paid for by the capital improvement tax money which Clevelanders approved several years ago.

For two years, big teams of consultants and architects, from Middough Consulting and Braun & Steidl Architects, roamed the halls, meeting with administrators, instructors, and advisory groups. Drawings were submitted, and resubmitted. The consultants came back and told us that what we wanted to have redone couldn't happen... there was not enough money.
The too-small gym would have to remain too small, and wish list items were eliminated.
Finally, the remodeling schedule was announced. We were advised to get ready to start packing up our classrooms on the third floor, because the construction crews would be starting on the top. I began to clean out my store room.
At the end of May we were told the remodeling was being put on hold. The start of the 2005-06 school year would be back-to-school as usual.

Yesterday, our principal announced to department heads that the school was not going to be remodeled. He was told it would be cheaper to build a new school than to remodel this one. There is no new location picked out. The consultants suggested it could even be built in our current parking lot.
Incredulous as to why it took these companies two years to figure out how much money the remodeling would cost, as compared to a new building, I began having visions of a big cash cow named "Max".
I asked about plans for the new building.
The principal blinked and said, in all innocence "I think they are just going to use the plans they already have for this building."

I'm guessing the dear man has not had much experience with building contractors.

Does somebody besides me sense some chicanery going on here?

I remember that a capital improvements oversight committee was convened as a watch dog group for this money. Does anyone know what happened to them? Who was on that committee? Do they ever really meet? Are they even paying attention?
Are the records of the consultant fees public? How much money will be left for a building and a new site after the architects and consultants are paid off again?

Do I see some very creative project management going on here, or is it just business as usual in Cleveland?


catfood said...

MB, the Bond Accountability Commission folded, maybe around six months ago (?), due to lack of funding. Just poof, like that, no big public warning.

Not that they did very much.

marybeth said...

Lack of funding?

I'm guessing a lame dog was picked by the fox to watch the henhouse.

When the public didn't bother to ask the commission questions, or even notice when they missed a meeting or two or three, they probably just stopped having meetings altogether, and were considered irrelevant by the mayor's office, because they were.

How many millions of dollars did that bond make available for capital improvements?
With no accountability, how much money will actually be going into building new facilities and how much is being frittered away on "consulting fees"?

I'm going to break with my usual caution and post a rumor here that has been circulating among the faculty for a couple of years now:

If and when the west shoreway becomes a boulevard, Max Hayes (with it's magnificent views of the lake, Whiskey Island, and downtown) will be closed, due to financial problems in the district. The trades program will be absorbed by Tri-C Metro's Unified Technology Center. The consultants will have spent much time searching for new sites, and drawing up plans...lots of billable hours. They will first pick a location that will be rejected by the neighborhood block club, and then repeat the process...more billable hours. Eventually Max Hayes will be forgotten by the public, new town houses will be built on the site, and nobody will remember the original twenty seven million dollar alocation of tax dollars.

Mati said...

Yes, the views are magnificent, and the location convenient.

So let's build a school with offices and apartments on top - hell, a penthouse. Shared high-performance systems (geothermal?). Make the gym a shared amenity, open to the outside before and after school hours, and charge for extended-hours membership, as so many universities do. Turn the cafeteria inside out - a food court that retails to the neighborhood on the street side.