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City commissioners to decide whether to order audit of Rock Chalk Park processes

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City commissioners will find themselves in an odd position tonight: They’ll get to decide whether they want one of their more controversial projects of the last several years to be audited.

More specifically, they’ll be asked to decide whether they want their city-hired auditor to more closely look into the Rock Chalk Park recreation center project.

Each year, City Auditor Michael Eglinski brings forward a list of topics for city commissioners to consider for performance audits. This year, at least three of the topics on his list for consideration are related to the controversial Rock Chalk Park recreation center.

Eglinski has proposed an audit of the processes the city will use to ensure fair prices are being charged for the estimated $12 million worth of infrastructure work taking place at the Rock Chalk Park site in the northwest corner of the city. If you remember, the city deviated from its bid policy and is allowing the infrastructure work to be built through a no-bid contract with a company led by Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel.

The city has said it will review all the invoices for the work related to the infrastructure, and compare them with market prices to ensure that the costs aren’t inflated. But exactly how the city will do that isn’t entirely clear. This audit would examine some of those processes.

Eglinski has put this topic on his list of seven that he is suggesting commissioners give serious consideration. Eglinski has a larger list of topics that he said are probably lower priority items, but deserve consideration as well. Two of those topics have tie-ins to the recreation center. They are:

• A review of public-private partnership practices. The recreation center is one of the larger public-private partnerships in the city’s history. But this topic also could review some other high-profile projects, such as the proposed hotel development at Ninth and New Hampshire streets and The Oread hotel in the Oread neighborhood. Both of those private projects received significant assistance from City Hall.

• A review of the process for reviewing and approving incentives such as tax increment financing, transportation development districts, tax abatements, and industrial revenue bonds. The Rock Chalk Park project is expected to receive about $40 million in industrial revenue bonds. But perhaps the biggest incentive the project is receiving is the city is set to pay for essentially all of the roads, streets, sewers and other similar infrastructure to serve the track and field, soccer and softball complex that is part of the Rock Chalk project. Those facilities will be privately-owned by a group led by Fritzel. Kansas University will lease the facilities.

Eglinski — who reports directly to the City Commission, rather than to the city manager — is asking commissioners to choose four to five audit topics for him to work on this year. Here’s the complete list of seven higher priority topics that he’s presenting to commissioners:

• Recreation center construction invoice controls;

• Barriers to the city adopting additional performance measurements systems for services provided by City Hall;

• How the city can or should control the amount of fats, oils, and grease dumped into the city’s sewer system;

• A financial indicators report for the city. Eglinski annually completes this report that compares Lawrence’s finances to those of other cities.

• An examination of the police department’s workload, examining the claims that the department needs about 30 additional employees.

• A review of the condition of the city’s sidewalks and the community’s efforts to maintain sidewalks.

Eglinski also compiled a list of 28 other audit topics that he has considered. They include audits of: cable television franchises; capital planning and budgeting; cash control testing; condition of public buildings; downtown parking; vehicle and equipment conditions; financial policies; flow of traffic; finances of the Eagle Bend Golf Course; cost accounting methods for the solid waste division; municipal court workload; funding of outside agencies; the parks and recreation department’s fee waiver policy and scholarship program; the performance of the city’s parking fund; the condition of pavement markings in the city; payment card industry data security standards; process for reviewing and approving economic development incentives; public private partnership practices; purchase card transaction reviews; record retention policies; reliability of the city’s population forecasts and estimates; risk assessment survey of department and program managers; safety and workers compensation; solid waste rate structure; span of control analysis; vehicle and equipment replacement; water conservation.

Commissioners will discuss possible audit topics at their 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight at City Hall.

Comments

justforfun 1 year, 5 months ago

OMFG Now were gonna audit the processes the city will use to ensure fair prices are being charged for the estimated $12 million worth of infrastructure work taking place at the Rock Chalk Park!!!

This is getting too funny!!!

irvan moore 1 year, 5 months ago

mr. eglinski sounds as if he thinks the best interests of the city are part of his job, thanks

kernal 1 year, 5 months ago

wilbur, what does Eglinski working with Funkhouser in the past have to do with this? I've worked for jackhats in the past, but that doesn't necessarily make me one.

Bob Forer 1 year, 5 months ago

The problem with getting an outside auditor is that it costs money. If Mr. Eglinski does the audit, it won't cost the taxpayes as he is already paid a salary. Don't know what to think on this one.

workinghard 1 year, 5 months ago

This will be interesting. If the city says yes to the audit, one could assume the commission is confident that they made the best decision in the best interest of the taxpayers. No on the other hand means they have something to hide or are not sure whether they made a mistake and were too hasty to agree to everything.

Phil Minkin 1 year, 5 months ago

There hasn't been a process less transparent and more fouled up since the downtown mall snafu. Let the auditor jump in and try to untangle all the backroom, wink and a nod deals that brought us to this boondoggle. I don't think a deal this bad for Lawrence could have been done without intent to rush it by without prying public eyes. Let's find out the truth.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 5 months ago

Hire an outside auditor then they will get into all of the nuts and bolts of what is going on.

lawrencereporter 1 year, 5 months ago

A city manager or a city commissioner dealing-above board with the public should welcome an “independent” analysis of the payment process details in their development agreement. Likewise an independent audit of direct and indirect payment to all parties involved.

Junction City didn’t get independent analysis until too late after damage was done, Mayor went to jail – a developer went to jail and the city manager left.

Costs for an independent audit a fraction of the other consultants paid for this City-Fritzel project.

Link to Junction City story: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/feb...

1 year, 5 months ago

Here is an opportunity for the city commissioners to prove the claims that this project is and was transparent. And if it wasn't, then here is an opportunity to make it a teachable moment. I call that a win-win. Leslie Soden

pizzapete 1 year, 5 months ago

Why wouldn't we want to audit the expenses of the recreation center? It's better to do it now before the money is spent. Twenty five million dollars is a lot of money to trust someone with without any oversight. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry. I don't see why that wouldn't apply here.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Do you think there should be a citywide vote on a new rec center?

If you agree, please sign the petition below that calls for the City Commission to put the rec center project to a public vote in April:

SIGN PETITION HERE

http://www.change.org/petitions/city-commission-city-of-lawrence-public-vote-on-the-public-financing-of-the-regional-rec-center

jack22 1 year, 5 months ago

The city is fortunate to be working with a guy like Fritzel. There isn't any oversite needed with someone like him. If it turns out he violated any codes or cut any corners he can just pay us a fine of $50,000 or some other sum that he feels appropriate.

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