Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Clown show continues...

Couple of things noted during intermittent viewing of last night's town council workshop:

1. Andy Upham, self-described man of detail and fiscal micromanager, admitted that his initial cost estimate for renovating the basement of the library was off by 25%. After consulting with Gray's CEO, his lordship now puts the renovation cost at $200,000, up from $160,000. I will have more to say about this project at some point, but for now let me just state that Upham's new number is also a crock. The man is not a construction professional and clearly has no idea what he's doing. His figures are based entirely on a severely outdated 1999 RS Means Construction Cost Data guide from which he has selectively compiled cost categories. Until his recent discussion with Paul White, Upham apparently never discussed this project with anyone even remotely connected to the construction industry. Yet he (and Foster) INSISTED his original estimate (which is on the sidebar at right) was sufficiently accurate to justify proceeding at full speed. Myself, I
don't think this thing can come in at much under $300,000, and with Upham at the helm its a disaster waiting to happen.

2. Upham's ignorance did not prevent him from making it clear that the proposed GPLA engineering review of the library basement renovation was an unwelcome intrusion. The man is probably terrified of what the professionals will say about his plans. Its much easier to just force the thing down the throats of uninformed taxpayers. Upham did, however, make it clear he wants GPLA to raise and contribute a boatload of money for this fiasco -- he just doesn't want them to have a say in how its spent. And did I mention that at last Saturday's budget workshop, Upham also proposed charging first-time-ever library fees for all users in order to pay for his opus?

3. There's almost nothing Gary Foster won't do to score partisan political points, even if its at taxpayer expense. For some time, Foster and Crane have been going on about the Dirigo Health program's impact on insurance costs for town employees. At the beginning of last night's workshop, our council chairman informed us that he had asked Mitch Berkowitz to provide him with data about the program's impact from the Maine Municipal Association, through which the town gets its insurance. Foster declared that the information Mitch obtained proved that Dirigo accounted for a 3% increase in insurance costs. Except for some brief derogatory chitchat, there was no further discussion of this information or any indication why it was relevant -- except as a way to knock Govenror Baldacci during an election year.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about the Guv or Dirigo, Foster's naked partisanship should raise a troubling question: is it now OK for taxpayer-funded town employees to spend time looking up information that is used exclusively for partisan purposes?