Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Evaluating the True Cost of Delays

More Straight Talk


It often has been stated that government is sometimes its own worst enemy. That can be true with regard to a lot of issues. The same, too, can be true about bureaucracy no matter where you find it -even in the private sector or our own personal lives. After all, we are only human, and will always be imperfect at best. 

Those of you who know me, understand that I like to have a cup of coffee almost every morning and enjoy being around folks. You see, I like people and like hearing what they have to say. It’s not important that I agree with you, or you with me, but I do enjoy hearing your take on issues and listening to your opinions. I think if we took more time to listen, we might come up with some solutions to solve some of those problems bothering us the most or help someone in need.

A couple stopped me this morning and questioned me about what had happened at the city council meeting the evening before. “Stef, did they decide to finally fix the fire station last night?” I smiled and said they had taken a step forward and were getting close. We exchanged a few other pleasantries and continued on our way. 

I was going to write my column about something entirely different today, but got to thinking about their question and what involvement I had over the years with the fire station debate. You see, we started talking about this six or eight years ago. At the time, I had the privilege to sit on a small three-person committee to look into the issues plaguing the station. We came up with some reasonable suggestions for dealing with those issues, and they would make their way through a maze of bureaucracy and would end up going nowhere. Fast forward to today, and that trip to nowhere will probably end up costing us a lot more, due to our delay. 

I recently read a article by a non-partisan group regarding a study they had done about delays in approving infrastructure projects a few years ago. These approval processes can take up to a decade or longer to obtain authorizations. Those projects initially could have cost approximately $1.7 trillion to accomplish, but now would cost $3.7 trillion, including the costs of prolonged inefficiencies and unnecessary pollution and other issues.

Of course, a lot of those delays can be attributed to those promoting themselves and their agendas by flailing away in front of cameras or in hearings created only to promote themselves and fill rooms with hot air. I sometimes think we should apply the same limitations on our political leaders as we do the public when they come forward. 

A review of the trillion-dollar stimulus package passed in 2008/2009 showed only 3.6%, or $30 billion, had been spent on infrastructure projects five years later in 2015. What a waste to have so much of it tied up in administrative, legal and overhead, leaving the potential for doing good in a stagnant pool of inefficiency.

As I look back on the mistakes made regarding replacement of the aging and deficient building at Mackle Park, I am ashamed. Our continued delays in replacing that building eventually cost citizens the true building they deserved. By the time the doors opened on the new facility, it already was undersized for the needs of the community, and that was a shame.

It is unfortunate that we have failed to learn the historical lessons regarding costs associated with not being deliberate and focused in dealing with these infrastructure issues, and the costs directly attributable to the delay in addressing them and what the public didn’t get due to inefficient processes and delays.

The desire by some in 2019 to revisit the Veterans’ Community Park Master Plan will indeed cost taxpayers a considerable amount of money due to the delay. The park should have been completed by now and at a cost considerably lower than anticipated. Instead, we ended up spending another $100,000 to tell us what we already knew and delayed the work for another two years.

The same applies for the replacement of Fire Station 50, not only for the cost, but for the deficient quality of living space for our employees from whom we have asked so much during these trying times.

Yes, there is nothing we can do about the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but there was something we could have done regarding the time it has taken to make the proper planning decisions. That lack of planning has had a cost to taxpayers, and we have to pledge to do better as we move ahead.



One response to “Evaluating the True Cost of Delays”

  1. Teri Sommerfeld says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful evaluation of the “delay” mentality. I have observed inexperienced leaders justifying their lack of planning and delay of action because they fear the “unintended consequences.” I think I have heard reference to “unintended consequences” ad nauseam recently. Pro active planning and decisive action decreases the potential for “unintended consequences.” Having no time sensitive guiding objectives, plan or legitimate budget leads to delay and then the games begin and the “unintended consequences” mantra becomes the defining justification for lack of action. In reality, “unintended consequences” occur because of the decision to not act.

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