News

Atherton election: Pro and con views on civic center measure

What's at stake

In a special, mail-only advisory election June 6, Atherton voters are asked whether the town of Atherton should supplement private donations with the town's available non-dedicated general funds to build a new civic center.

In 2012, Atherton voters approved Measure L, which said the town should pay for the new civic center with mostly private funds.

Below are opposing views on the June 6 ballot proposal, Measure A.

--

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Yes on Measure A

By Rick DeGolia and Alex Keh. Rick DeGolia is a member of the Atherton City Council. Alex Keh is a member of the Atherton Rail Committee who lives near the Town Center site.

Atherton desperately needs a new Town Center and has needed one for more than 20 years.

Atherton's facilities are deplorable and have reached the end of their useful lives. They include a condemned structure and non-compliant police and emergency facilities. A new Town Center is necessary to deliver essential services to our residents and enable Atherton to hire and retain top- quality staff.

Click here for a resident-created video to see how bad our facilities are.

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Atherton's focus has been to fund these new facilities primarily with private donations. A resident organization, Atherton Now, has raised approximately $7 million from generous Atherton residents.

Throughout these fundraising efforts, many residents expressed their belief that public funds should pay for public buildings. Therefore, it is appropriate to use public funds to partner with our private donors.

Atherton's staff estimates that an additional $18 million is needed to build the police and administration facility and complete the significant site work. Measure A will allow Atherton to prudently use non-dedicated, unrestricted and available public funds to supplement the private donations to this project.

For the first time in decades, Atherton has an extremely strong financial position. This should continue as our revenue is mostly based on the property taxes that Atherton residents pay.

The new Town Center has been designed responsibly and thoughtfully with input from hundreds of residents. Many alternatives were carefully evaluated throughout the process.

The new police and administration facility is highly efficient, better organized, code-compliant, and has approximately the same operational square footage as there is in current facilities.

Just think about our employees. They work in crowded, crumbling facilities and trailers that are in horrible condition. We need this project to insure that we can continue to hire and retain high quality staff.

The new Town Center is a one-time capital expense that will reduce our longterm costs. Retrofitting, renovating and maintaining these 30- to 90-year-old dilapidated structures to meet current codes would be far more costly than building the proposed facility.

Atherton''s Town Council unanimously approved a prudent funding plan for the Town Center that requires no new taxes, maintains all current reserves, retains all approved pension liability reductions and capital improvement projects in the pipeline, including important drainage, bike lane and park improvements.

None of these important projects are sacrificed by allocating funds to the Town Center. Any unexpected costs related to the project or otherwise will be openly vetted with the entire community.

Some may question why a new library is included in the Town Center project. The Atherton Library has historically been a part of Atherton''s civic center. The library is a stand-alone project, fully funded with separate library funds.

Building the police and administration facility at the same time as the library maximizes construction efficiencies and reduces the town's portion of the shared site costs and impacts.

The Town Council has unanimously agreed that this Town Center project is the most important capital improvement project for our community. This is why the City Council unanimously agreed to sign the argument in favor of Measure A on the June 6 ballot.

Yes on Measure A has been endorsed by hundreds of Atherton residents, including nine former mayors.

William Grindley, a former planning commissioner and an author of the 2012 Measure L (which required the Town Center to be built primarily with private funds), says: "A decade ago, I finished Atherton's space needs study to replace its inadequate facilities. The situation has worsened and costs have risen: both will continue. Council's proposal is a rational response that will result in a Town Center that Athertonians will be proud of."

This is the most important project Atherton has ever undertaken. It is long overdue. The design phase is now complete and has been paid for with private donations. Now we need to build it.

Please watch your mail for your Measure A ballot and return it by mail or drop it off in the Atherton post office ballot box no later than June 6.

The Yes on Measure A campaign is hosting a public meeting on May 17, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Event Garden at Holbrook Palmer Park. Come learn more about the new Town Center project.

Please vote yes on Measure A and togther let's build this new Town Center with no new taxes.

--

No on Measure A

By Smith McKeithen and John Ruggeiro. John Ruggeiro is a former vice chair of the Atherton Transportation Committee. Smith McKeithen is an Atherton resident and a retired Silicon Valley executive.

The new Atherton Town Center was formulated and designed on the basis that it would be financed primarily by private donations. Seventy-four percent of Atherton's voters endorsed that concept in Measure L. With this assumption in mind, the proponents of the new Town Center, including the current City Council, green-lighted an extravagant complex, now projected to cost over $50 million.

Unfortunately, Atherton Now raised less than $7 million of its $25 million target. If you or I fell that far short in funding a house purchase or renovation, we'd scrap, delay or radically re-scope the project. But our town's administration and council are pushing full steam ahead to finish the project with no thought of cutting costs.

Recent documents show that this is being accomplished by shifting funds away from needed – already identified (in professional studies commissioned by the town) – capital and operating projects, and making assumptions about refunds from the state that are not guaranteed.

At the same time the council is considering incurring millions in debt by using "certificates of participation," which are bonds by any other name, but are designed to avoid the necessity of getting two-thirds voter approval from us, the taxpayers.

Even though we are far away from a final estimate of the project's costs, and well before putting the project out to bid – which will no doubt come in above projections in today's super-heated construction environment – Measure A would give the town an open checkbook to pay for this project.

The town's latest funding plan reveals that it will finance the project from these sources:

• Current unallocated funds totaling $12.5 million, including general funds in fiscal year 2018 of $8.1 million and capital improvement funds of $4.4 million.

• Expected future funds totaling $14.17 million, including library "surplus" funds in fiscal years 2018-2022 of $6.32 million; anticipated (but "not guaranteed" as noted by the city manager at a recent budget session) ERAF refunds in fiscal years 2018-2021 of $4.1 million; and redirected tax dollars from the general fund in fiscal years 2019-2021 of $3.75 million.

The grand total is $26.67 million.

It is important to note that since more than $14 million of the above is not available now, the facts speak for themselves the town will have to borrow the money (probably without seeking taxpayer approval) to finance the project on the current calendar, using the expectation of future funds to secure some sort of debt instrument.

Remember that all of these funds – call them "unallocated," "anticipated," "refunds" or "surplus" – originate with our property and parcel tax dollars. Also remember that spending these funds for the Town Center will come at the expense of already-identified but, likely purposefully, "not in the pipeline" drainage, street safety and other projects.

The Town Center project will hobble the town's ability to pay for basic services and upkeep for years to come, and/or force us to go into debt.

In 2008 Portola Valley opened its own new town center including not only a new town hall but also a library, community hall, maintenance building, corporate yard and a variety of playing fields. Private donations financed approximately 85 percent of the $20 million project, which the architects reported was completed roughly 7 percent under budget. Portola Valley did not raise taxes or take on any debt.

If Atherton's new Town Center project is to proceed, it is obvious that two things need to happen: the $50 million design should be scaled back to a reasonable size and a reasonable cost; and a new, more community-inclusive fundraising campaign should be initiated that goes beyond the single mailer sent to Atherton residents last fall.

The town needs to readdress the design, which includes overly large spaces; excessive and costly "net zero" energy features that will not only increase construction costs, but also lifetime operational costs; and unnecessarily redesigned streets.

Before we mortgage our future and sacrifice implementing key infrastructure projects, we should step back and ask, "Is this the right approach?" Send a message that you think it is not. Vote no on A.

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Atherton election: Pro and con views on civic center measure

Uploaded: Wed, May 10, 2017, 3:42 pm

What's at stake

In a special, mail-only advisory election June 6, Atherton voters are asked whether the town of Atherton should supplement private donations with the town's available non-dedicated general funds to build a new civic center.

In 2012, Atherton voters approved Measure L, which said the town should pay for the new civic center with mostly private funds.

Below are opposing views on the June 6 ballot proposal, Measure A.

--

Yes on Measure A

By Rick DeGolia and Alex Keh. Rick DeGolia is a member of the Atherton City Council. Alex Keh is a member of the Atherton Rail Committee who lives near the Town Center site.

Atherton desperately needs a new Town Center and has needed one for more than 20 years.

Atherton's facilities are deplorable and have reached the end of their useful lives. They include a condemned structure and non-compliant police and emergency facilities. A new Town Center is necessary to deliver essential services to our residents and enable Atherton to hire and retain top- quality staff.

Click here for a resident-created video to see how bad our facilities are.

Atherton's focus has been to fund these new facilities primarily with private donations. A resident organization, Atherton Now, has raised approximately $7 million from generous Atherton residents.

Throughout these fundraising efforts, many residents expressed their belief that public funds should pay for public buildings. Therefore, it is appropriate to use public funds to partner with our private donors.

Atherton's staff estimates that an additional $18 million is needed to build the police and administration facility and complete the significant site work. Measure A will allow Atherton to prudently use non-dedicated, unrestricted and available public funds to supplement the private donations to this project.

For the first time in decades, Atherton has an extremely strong financial position. This should continue as our revenue is mostly based on the property taxes that Atherton residents pay.

The new Town Center has been designed responsibly and thoughtfully with input from hundreds of residents. Many alternatives were carefully evaluated throughout the process.

The new police and administration facility is highly efficient, better organized, code-compliant, and has approximately the same operational square footage as there is in current facilities.

Just think about our employees. They work in crowded, crumbling facilities and trailers that are in horrible condition. We need this project to insure that we can continue to hire and retain high quality staff.

The new Town Center is a one-time capital expense that will reduce our longterm costs. Retrofitting, renovating and maintaining these 30- to 90-year-old dilapidated structures to meet current codes would be far more costly than building the proposed facility.

Atherton''s Town Council unanimously approved a prudent funding plan for the Town Center that requires no new taxes, maintains all current reserves, retains all approved pension liability reductions and capital improvement projects in the pipeline, including important drainage, bike lane and park improvements.

None of these important projects are sacrificed by allocating funds to the Town Center. Any unexpected costs related to the project or otherwise will be openly vetted with the entire community.

Some may question why a new library is included in the Town Center project. The Atherton Library has historically been a part of Atherton''s civic center. The library is a stand-alone project, fully funded with separate library funds.

Building the police and administration facility at the same time as the library maximizes construction efficiencies and reduces the town's portion of the shared site costs and impacts.

The Town Council has unanimously agreed that this Town Center project is the most important capital improvement project for our community. This is why the City Council unanimously agreed to sign the argument in favor of Measure A on the June 6 ballot.

Yes on Measure A has been endorsed by hundreds of Atherton residents, including nine former mayors.

William Grindley, a former planning commissioner and an author of the 2012 Measure L (which required the Town Center to be built primarily with private funds), says: "A decade ago, I finished Atherton's space needs study to replace its inadequate facilities. The situation has worsened and costs have risen: both will continue. Council's proposal is a rational response that will result in a Town Center that Athertonians will be proud of."

This is the most important project Atherton has ever undertaken. It is long overdue. The design phase is now complete and has been paid for with private donations. Now we need to build it.

Please watch your mail for your Measure A ballot and return it by mail or drop it off in the Atherton post office ballot box no later than June 6.

The Yes on Measure A campaign is hosting a public meeting on May 17, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Event Garden at Holbrook Palmer Park. Come learn more about the new Town Center project.

Please vote yes on Measure A and togther let's build this new Town Center with no new taxes.

--

No on Measure A

By Smith McKeithen and John Ruggeiro. John Ruggeiro is a former vice chair of the Atherton Transportation Committee. Smith McKeithen is an Atherton resident and a retired Silicon Valley executive.

The new Atherton Town Center was formulated and designed on the basis that it would be financed primarily by private donations. Seventy-four percent of Atherton's voters endorsed that concept in Measure L. With this assumption in mind, the proponents of the new Town Center, including the current City Council, green-lighted an extravagant complex, now projected to cost over $50 million.

Unfortunately, Atherton Now raised less than $7 million of its $25 million target. If you or I fell that far short in funding a house purchase or renovation, we'd scrap, delay or radically re-scope the project. But our town's administration and council are pushing full steam ahead to finish the project with no thought of cutting costs.

Recent documents show that this is being accomplished by shifting funds away from needed – already identified (in professional studies commissioned by the town) – capital and operating projects, and making assumptions about refunds from the state that are not guaranteed.

At the same time the council is considering incurring millions in debt by using "certificates of participation," which are bonds by any other name, but are designed to avoid the necessity of getting two-thirds voter approval from us, the taxpayers.

Even though we are far away from a final estimate of the project's costs, and well before putting the project out to bid – which will no doubt come in above projections in today's super-heated construction environment – Measure A would give the town an open checkbook to pay for this project.

The town's latest funding plan reveals that it will finance the project from these sources:

• Current unallocated funds totaling $12.5 million, including general funds in fiscal year 2018 of $8.1 million and capital improvement funds of $4.4 million.

• Expected future funds totaling $14.17 million, including library "surplus" funds in fiscal years 2018-2022 of $6.32 million; anticipated (but "not guaranteed" as noted by the city manager at a recent budget session) ERAF refunds in fiscal years 2018-2021 of $4.1 million; and redirected tax dollars from the general fund in fiscal years 2019-2021 of $3.75 million.

The grand total is $26.67 million.

It is important to note that since more than $14 million of the above is not available now, the facts speak for themselves the town will have to borrow the money (probably without seeking taxpayer approval) to finance the project on the current calendar, using the expectation of future funds to secure some sort of debt instrument.

Remember that all of these funds – call them "unallocated," "anticipated," "refunds" or "surplus" – originate with our property and parcel tax dollars. Also remember that spending these funds for the Town Center will come at the expense of already-identified but, likely purposefully, "not in the pipeline" drainage, street safety and other projects.

The Town Center project will hobble the town's ability to pay for basic services and upkeep for years to come, and/or force us to go into debt.

In 2008 Portola Valley opened its own new town center including not only a new town hall but also a library, community hall, maintenance building, corporate yard and a variety of playing fields. Private donations financed approximately 85 percent of the $20 million project, which the architects reported was completed roughly 7 percent under budget. Portola Valley did not raise taxes or take on any debt.

If Atherton's new Town Center project is to proceed, it is obvious that two things need to happen: the $50 million design should be scaled back to a reasonable size and a reasonable cost; and a new, more community-inclusive fundraising campaign should be initiated that goes beyond the single mailer sent to Atherton residents last fall.

The town needs to readdress the design, which includes overly large spaces; excessive and costly "net zero" energy features that will not only increase construction costs, but also lifetime operational costs; and unnecessarily redesigned streets.

Before we mortgage our future and sacrifice implementing key infrastructure projects, we should step back and ask, "Is this the right approach?" Send a message that you think it is not. Vote no on A.

Comments

Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 10, 2017 at 8:22 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 10, 2017 at 8:22 pm

We need a new Town Center.

The residents of Atherton should pay for our own Town Center rather than expecting someone to donate it to us. We are not an impoverished community seeking handouts.

Vote for Measure A now - and then debate renewal of the parcel tax when that comes up on a future ballot.


Huh?
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm
Huh?, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm

Voting yes on Measure A means there can be no debate on a future parcel tax because the money will have already been spent. Sorry, with due respect, your statement doesn't make sense to me. Needing a new town center is not the same as needing a new $50M town center. I think most Atherton residents are smart enough to realize this. It's not all or nothing.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 10, 2017 at 10:17 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 10, 2017 at 10:17 pm

The balance required is not $50 million but $18 million and the Town CAN finance that from current revenues.

Vote for Measure A and then debate the longer term issues when the parcel tax comes up for renewal.

***

Where are our elected Town Council members on this discussion?

Why do they stand silent?


long time resident
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 11, 2017 at 3:38 pm
long time resident, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 11, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Dear Neighbors,
The fact that the current leaders on the Town Council unanimously recommend voting Yes on Measure A along with nine former mayors and many, many residents should sufficiently assure us,the town voters, that this is an important, long over-due capital improvement which is needed to prudently move forward into the future for the benefit of the whole community. It has received more than ample review and analysis. We are voting for Measure A and hope you join us!


Kendall Ryan
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm
Kendall Ryan, Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Here are some facts:

The Town asked residents if they supported a new Town Center if paid for by donations. We said, "YES".

The expectation was set that the private donation campaign would yield $25M. It yielded $7

A design was established based on the expectation of donations somewhere near the target amount.

Now we have the original design (modified somewhat) that is way too expensive. And Atherton taxpayers will be paying for it for many many years. The Town will have no choice but to continue and even increase the parcel tax to pay for the Town Center and tens of millions in road and drainage improvements.

The issue is not as Peter Carpenter frames it when he says we should not expect the Town Center to be donated. This is exactly what we should expect because the Town Council itself set that expectation. Now that expectation cannot be met, so the project should be scaled back.

Carpenter also the gap is "only $18M" and that the Town can finance that from current revenues. This is just not true. Financing it depends on current and future revenues, some of which depend on the State behaving in a predictable way. Millions will be diverted from road and drainage improvement projects that we crucially need.

Most us in this Town have either built or remodeled our homes. We have all learned from experience two facts about construction projects: 1) Bids are always higher than we are expecting, and 2) actual project cost is always higher than the contacted price due to change orders, extras, etc. Why do we expect this project to be different?

Yes, we need a new Town Center. But we do NOT need the one that our Town Council wants us to pay for. It can be scaled back. It can be done for less. We need to encourage our elected officials to spend our tax dollars more wisely. Vote NO on A.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2017 at 5:30 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 11, 2017 at 5:30 pm

I have just received and read my ballot and voter information. There are only five people, the Town Council, listed in the arguments in support of this measure.

How does the average voter know who else supports this measure?

Who is going to respond to the very reasonable questions being raised by posters like Kendall?


MLK
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2017 at 7:43 pm
MLK, Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2017 at 7:43 pm

To "Long Time Resident":

The fact that "the current leaders on the Town Council unanimously recommend voting Yes on Measure A along with nine former mayors" is a very good reason to think twice. If you've been living in Atherton for a long time you will remember many years of fiscal mismanagement.

I agree with Smith McKeithen and John Ruggiero that we need a new town center, but a $50 million project is over the top. The town center in Portola Valley is beautiful at half the price. Perhaps we can do better.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2017 at 7:59 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 11, 2017 at 7:59 pm

I recall that when Atherton had parcel tax elections a group of citizens would be the very visible and outspoken advocates.

In the case of Measure A where is that same strong citizen leadership?

Where is our elected Town Council?

The Town itself cannot be involved in electioneering but our leaders themselves should be, as individuals, actively participating in this discussion.

Have they thought about their responsibility if Measure A fails?

An all mail ballot depends very heavily on the the turnout. In a low turnout election Measure A will fail because the opponents WILL vote while supporters frequently will not bother.


long time resident
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 11, 2017 at 8:50 pm
long time resident, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 11, 2017 at 8:50 pm

MLK:
We recall well about some of the actions of past administrations. In this case, however, we think that the Town has responded properly by listening to the input from the citizenry. It altered and downsized the project to what many residents view as a utilitarian and suitable size. It meets the needs of today as well as addresses the future.

Regarding the Portola Valley Town Center, we recall that a very substantial anonymous donor not only gave big bucks to the project but also helped oversee that the project be completed ahead of schedule and under budget. It would be great if we could be so lucky!


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2017 at 9:16 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 11, 2017 at 9:16 pm

"It would be great if we could be so lucky!"

NO it would not!

We as citizens have the responsibility to pay for our government and we should not be banging a tin cup expecting someone else to do it for us "poor" Atherton residents.


Newbie
Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 11, 2017 at 10:37 pm
Newbie, Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 11, 2017 at 10:37 pm

Can anyone tell us who donated the funds that have been pledged? Are these donors somehow strong arming the Town Council to go with the design they like? Shouldn't residents know this?


Huh?
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 7:38 am
Huh?, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 7:38 am

Peter says:

"The balance required is not $50 million but $18 million and the Town CAN finance that from current revenues."

Let's keep in mind one thing a lot of people seem to lose sight of in "boom" times. The economy is cyclical. We've had surpluses and stock market gains for quite awhile now. The economic situation is going to look a lot different pretty soon, if history has been any guide. (Yes, I am calling out the word "current" in your quote above).

"Vote for Measure A and then debate the longer term issues when the parcel tax comes up for renewal."

Again, this is really a "trick", as if Measure A is passed, the money will have been spent. The only discussion there can be after this is do we default on debt or not.

"Where are our elected Town Council members on this discussion?"

They all seem to want to spend the money based on the ballot initiative.

Peter, now I have a question for you. The opponents claim the proposed $50M Town Center is overblown, you say it's not (by your support). It at least seems to be a subjective issue.

But the one objective data point, the town center in Portola Valley being built for just $20M – that's 40% of the proposed cost in Atherton, let alone what the $50M will likely mushroom into – seems to indicate the opponents are correct, and we are, before we are even getting started, operating under a proposed plan that says our town center should cost 2.5 times as much. Not to mention the Portola Valley taxpayers didn't spend a dime on that town center.

Why doesn't that indicate to you that the $50M plans are way overblown? It does to me. Shouldn't it to you?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2017 at 7:38 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 12, 2017 at 7:38 am

I did donate a small amount to this project and I do think that the Town should build something as least as large as the current design simply because the new building will have to serve our community for at least fifty years.

But I can guarantee Newbie that the Town Council does not listen to me.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2017 at 7:42 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 12, 2017 at 7:42 am

"The February 2017 Cost Estimate prepared by Mack5 (an independent cost estimator) for the Design Development phase is $37.3 million (Library, City Hall, renovation of historic Town Hall - does not include corporation yard remodel). The construction estimate at the Conceptual Plan phase was $42.9 million. It has been refined as the project evolved."

"The $14.9 M Library portion of the project is fully funded by Library revenues. This leaves approximately $22.3 million remaining. The Town has approximately $2.9 million in authorized funding approved under the ballot measure for the remainder of the project plus any accumulated donations from Atherton Now."

Web Link


long time resident
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 9:10 am
long time resident, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 9:10 am

Huh-
It might be beneficial to note that the Council and community leaders took into consideration your good points about the "boom" times and the cyclical nature of the economy. Peter Carpenter also makes an important point in that the Center needs to serve the community for at least 50 years and hopefully more. Thus, we think it is important to provide a design that will be efficient and useful for that period of time. The population of Portola Valley in 2014, when their Town Center was built, was 4.570 versus 7,147 in Atherton in 2014. More interesting however is the fact that the total cost of the project in Portola Valley was reduced from their agreed upon expenditure due to the expertise and generosity of a major donor who helped oversee the project while it was underway. With this in mind, the cost difference between what Portola Valley ultlimately incurred in 2014 because of their big philanthropic gift and what today is estimated for Atherton is not such a substantive difference when one considers the current increase in the cost of construction since 2014.




Huh?
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 9:17 am
Huh?, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 9:17 am

long time resident, I draw different conclusions from your post. The doner who oversaw Portola Valley wasn't a magician. If he got it done for $20M, even with some years of inflation (albeit with near zero interest rates during the intervening time), if the town's vendors are saying $50M, that's a red flag to me that already costs are getting inflated and the $50M is just the tip of the iceberg. In other words, right from the start, the town is using resources that can't manage costs effectively and efficiently. It will only get worse.


Just listening...
Atherton: other
on May 12, 2017 at 9:38 am
Just listening..., Atherton: other
on May 12, 2017 at 9:38 am

All this talk about Portola Valley - I think it is important to note that the Portola Valley Town Center includes a community room, a city hall (8 offices, a small lobby and a conference room), and a library. It DOES NOT include a police station. The Portola Valley City Hall houses about 8-10 staff (no police). Atherton's building has to house about 40-50, including a fully functional police station.

The $50 million price tag being bantered about includes about $18 million in a fully funded library. Take that off the top and you have $32 million left for the Council Chambers, Administration, Planning, Building, and Police. So we're really comparing a $20 million dollar project built in 2008 that's half the size and about 1/5th of the need against a $32 million project 10+ years later for likely twice the size and 5 times the need - not to mention all the speciality needs for a new police department building.

That's a ridiculous comparative.


long time resident
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 10:36 am
long time resident, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 10:36 am

Just Listening: All of your points are well taken and make perfect sense! We couldn't state it more clearly. Additionally, as you mention, the $50,000 million figure being bantered around is also inaccurate. It is a misleading statement.

Atherton Residents, is time to vote Yes on Measure A and not prolong this important project any further.


Wait...
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2017 at 11:41 am
Wait..., Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2017 at 11:41 am

We've been told for a long time that if we outsourced the police, it would have no impact on the cost of the town center because the sheriff would still assign officers to Atherton who would need space.

Why did it not work that way for Portola Valley?


long time resident
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 1:05 pm
long time resident, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Wait: All we know is that if you ask anyone in unincorporated Menlo Park and Portola Valley, two communities served by the sheriff's office, you will hear that it takes forever for officers to arrive on the scene because they are always out of the office scattered throughout the county.


Marilyn
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm
Marilyn, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Anyone who wants to know who has donated to the Civic Center project should go to Atherton-now.org.

Web Link

Interestingly, our most generous donors are Atherton's senior residents. They have taken the time to TOUR our run down facilities, ATTEND design meetings and CONCLUDE that the proposed Civic Center is needed immediately. MANY thanks to these loyal Athertonians who are grateful for this town and to the folks who serve and protect it.


JBCHAM
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 3:21 pm
JBCHAM, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Marilyn, I hope that you are not suggesting by you post that citizens of Atherton who oppose Plan A are not "loyal Athertonians" and do not appreciate this town and those who serve it. I believe that is incorrect. Reasonable people can disagree.


Huh?
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm
Huh?, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

1. Why isn't Peter Carpenter listed a donor on the Atherton Now website?

2. Well, well. When the police contract came up for renewal, we were told "it's not like we would save much money by outsourcing…after all, we would still need to build a new town center to house sheriff's deputies. It's the same either way." Now the line is "how could you possibly compare the proposed $50M Atherton town center to the $20M Portola Valley one. They don't have their own police department!".

Another good example of how (like the parcel tax that was promised to be abated last go-round if the town had a surplus) promises and justifications become very fungible, just like the "no new taxes" promise on the current town center will be.

3. I think I know why the council members aren't coming out of the woodwork on this issue, Peter (although they almost certainly are reading this). They don't want to answer questions posed from the public such as:

RICK DEGOLIA OR ELIZABETH LEWIS, do you promise you will not ever advocate for increased taxes? Are you that sure that the town can pay for all of this with existing funds without ever raising taxes? In other words, are you that sure (and you'll put your money where your mouth is) that the opponents are wrong?

I'd bet quite a bit that neither of them (nor Lemperes, Wiest, or Widmer) will make that promise. They don't want to be subject to the tough questions here.


Rick DeGolia
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 16, 2017 at 8:55 am
Rick DeGolia, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 16, 2017 at 8:55 am

Huh? and Peter: I can't speak for anyone else, but my lack of comment is a matter of time and attention. Your blogs are just not where I spend my time. That isn't a judgement, it's just the truth. This is a forum that a few participate in and maybe a few more read, but it is very time consuming to address the issues in this forum.

With respect to the substance, we were told "it's not like we would save much money by outsourcing...". I have no idea where this supposed quote is from but it's wrong. We would save significant dollars by outsourcing. Everything isn't about saving money. It is about wise investment and good decisions. Atherton residents clearly want our own police department and we are willing to pay for it. I believe that a significant amount of motivation to oppose Measure A is from those that don't want our own police department. That is not a prevalent attitude in Atherton.

On the issue, of taxes, the Council has approved a funding plan that includes no new project-related taxes, ie no bond or other tax or fee to build the civic center project. This isn't hyperbole. It is a pledge from me. I don't make that lightly. I hate taxes as much as you and I consider any government required fee unrelated to a direct service to be a tax.

On this project, we had three choices when Atherton Now failed to raise the funds that they targeted: build the library now and wait on the police/admin facility until we raised the needed private funds; support a bond measure that would tax residents $10-15K per household over 10 years or use the unallocated surplus funds that are intended for capital improvement projects to complete the most important capital improvement project in our history. Either of the latter two decisions would require seeking the consent of the residents to modify Measure L. I believe that we chose the best solution for the Town. We will continue to seek to raise money privately. We know that some donors have said that they will donate if Measure A passes because then they know that we will build it. We'll see if this is what the residents want. I think that this is the right investment, the right strategy and the right time. We (taxpayers) benefit from doing this at the same time that we build the new library because of the construction efficiencies. THIS JUST SIMPLY MAKES GOOD SENSE.

With respect to design, we have an excellent very utilitarian design that Atherton can be proud of. If there is an error it is that we opted not to allow for any growth. We are replacing in one building what we currently have in 10 different crumbling facilities. Look at the quality of the channel and fencing barricade that we built on Marsh Road. That was the biggest capital project (by cost) in our history. It is getting awards for the design and it was very cost effective. The same will be true of the civic center.

Finally, the issue that no one has addressed is our need to replace our current facilities in order to hire and retain top quality employees. Their working conditions are so bad. Go and take a tour. Creating new, electronically savvy, modern facilities will give Atherton an edge in hiring and retaining employees who have to travel many, many miles to work here. Every local municipality has this challenge, and it is going to get much more difficult as time passes. I honestly believe that this facility is not extravagant in any way. Check out the cost estimates for replacing Menlo Park's library or Palo Alto's police station. Our design is excellent and very utilitarian. This is the right thing to do and this is the right time to do it.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 16, 2017 at 9:01 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 16, 2017 at 9:01 am
Huh?
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 16, 2017 at 11:12 am
Huh?, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 16, 2017 at 11:12 am

Rick, appreciate you coming here to respond. You say "no new project-related taxes, ie no bond or other tax or fee to build the civic center project."

I just want to clear this up. If other items, like drainage, that were going to get paid for in the absence of the civic center will now require an extra tax, it's a bit disingenuous to say no taxes for building the civic center. It's just labeling if the taxes appear elsewhere.

That's why I asked for a very specific pledge: "do you promise you will not ever advocate for increased taxes?"


Rick DeGolia
Atherton: West Atherton
on May 16, 2017 at 1:29 pm
Rick DeGolia, Atherton: West Atherton
on May 16, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Huh?, that is a very fair question and you are absolutely right, it would be disingenuous to generate a tax to do additional drainage work that would have been done except that the unallocated surplus was diverted to build the civic center project. I would not support that. I stated it as"no new project-related taxes, ie no bond or other tax or fee to build the civic center project" not to be coy. Specifically, we will need to approve an extension of the parcel tax because that pays for our road repairs and some of it supports the police department. I would not support an expansion of the parcel tax. In my opinion an expansion of the parcel tax would violate the principal, but not an extension. I will support an extension of the parcel tax in the form that it is in. I believe that a four year extension is all that we will need.

Staff is also processing an analysis that has been going on for more than a year to update our business license tax. That is not a big revenue item, but it would change the current business license tax to be more in line with other communities. That concept will be vetted with all interested parties. It would require a vote of the registered voters in Atherton and it wouldn't go on the ballot until November 2018. I am not saying that I support it. I didn't support it in the form that it was previously presented to the council. It would be a tax on firms working in Atherton and I hope that you will weigh in on it.


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