We have received the County’s response to our Public Records Act request for the documents associated with the Board Chambers Remodel project, a months-long project which then-CEO Carmel Angelo spearheaded on grounds that post-Covid significantly increased security provisions were required in the Board Chambers.
The County’s response or our request prompt and at no cost, despite some recent local media concern about the County’s new Public Records Act request process.
We already knew that Ms. Angelo ordered a pair of high-cost high-tech $30k metal detectors for the Board chambers. But we were surprised to learn that the CEO and her staff had also specified that all the half-panels separating the public from the Board and Staff were to be reinforced with special 3.5- inch thick bulletproof fiberglass ballistic armor, molded in behind the new regular paneling. The manufacturer, “Total Security Solutions,” says their special armor is designed for convenience stores, gas station counters, and, ominously, “judge benches,” where the risk of armed encounters is present: “Fiberglass structural armor is designed to progressively delaminate as a bullet penetrates. The hard surface and toughness of the material cause the bullet to distort and flatten. As the bullet penetrates, the layers of (fiberglass) reinforcement within the laminate pull apart in a controlled manner such that the energy of the bullet is dissipated within the laminate. More energy is consumed as the bullet penetrates the high-strength glass fibers. No spalling occurs.” Not only is this ballistic glass expensive, but it’s much more time consuming to cut to size and install, requiring special tools and expertise.
It’s hard to tell from the County’s documents how much the ballistic panels themselves added to the total cost of this profligate project. But it’s obvious that the entire project — which CEO Angelo grandly entitled the “Board Chambers Security Improvement Project” — was gold-plated from top to bottom, and reflected a level of paranoia, public contempt and disregard for public funds out of all proportion to any possibility of harm to county leadership.
It appears that the new ballistic half-panels are intended to give the Board and staff a place to duck behind when a disgruntled citizen opens fire. Or maybe as cover for when they return fire.
Besides removing everything and re-installing the chamber floor, carpet, new walls and half-walls and furniture, the project also involved removing several rows of seats from the front of the public area to push the public back a few feet further from the Board and staff and separate them from each other. Transparent Plexiglass panels were also installed all over the place to, presumably, keep your germs and grenades from reaching anyone else.
The contractor for the job was Cupples Construction of Ukiah who ended up billing the County roughly $286k for the work. We did not receive a copy of the bill from the Fort Bragg architect who prepared the fancy detailed plans for the work. Nor do we know how much staff time was applied to this grotesque project which took much longer than the two months originally planned.
The overall project including the design and planning and other overhead costs was budgeted for $370k. We don’t know if that included the two $30k metal detectors but we doubt it because they were agendized and probably purchased separately.
There’s no evidence the Supervisors themselves had any say in the project or its design — they were never even allowed into the Board chambers or their offices during the period when it was discussed, planned, designed and installed.
This kind of grandiosity has permeated most facilities projects that CEO Angelo took over during her 12 year tenure. We remember her revealing remark at a Measure B meeting a few years ago when she explained that County facilities projects are comparable to a private individual building a $50,000 kitchen.
This blithe disregard for cost is reflected in all the big facilities projects the County has undertaken during CEO Angelo’s reign, including the jail expansion now overrunning by millions of dollars, the Crisis Residential Treatment house which cost almost $5 million, five times what it should have, and the laughably expensive demolition and rebuild of the Whitmore Lane Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF) now on track to cost over $20 million, among others.
When it comes to its employees, Mendo takes a tightwad stance, keeping wages down and positions vacant for as long as possible with minimal concern for whether work gets done or not, while keeping employee reps at a distance with an expensive SF law firm doing the negotiating — in secret.
But when it comes to facilities, however, Mendo spares no expense, then brags about how wonderful their overpriced projects are. They are always presented to the Board as a done deal for rubberstamping. And nobody, least of all the five church mice allegedly functioning as supervisors, is allowed to interfere with or discuss these royal designs until they’re way past any chance of savings, economies or budget restrictions.