We were disappointed with the sarcastic and downright snotty letter to the editor in answer to concerned taxpayers from Jim Mastin, chairman of the Mendocino Transit Authority and the MTA’s general manager Bruce Richard about the proposed $22 million new administration building and bus facilities for MTA. Mastin wrote, “Too bad great, forward-looking projects face opposition from those who don't take the time to learn the answers.”
It seems to us that these taxpayers did take the time and didn't like what they found out. We also read the 30-page plus MTA study on how necessary the new facilities are and where to get the money for them. The MTA board a couple of years ago decided to make carbon neutrality a new major focus of its mission — laudable. Also, as we see, a good way to secure funding for a new administrative building.
The letter from Mr. Mastin tells us that this new center would mean an “adequate” office building with “an ADA accessible public meeting room” which he notes is not currently available. Interestingly, this new meeting room — and all of the new administration offices — are on the second floor of the new administration building. So, of course, now an elevator is required.
Adequate office space?
The study shows office-space growing from 1,087 square feet to 6,342 square feet, while projected administration staffing will go from 8 to 11. The “adequate” space includes not only a large board room and “training” space, but another, smaller, conference room. It has 11 offices, including a large corner office for the executive director, plus a separate office for the marketing manager, another for the financial and personnel manager, space for four administrative assistants, a receptionist, a separate office for a coordinator, another for an administrator and even a “future office” for somebody. It also has a kitchenette (although there is a full kitchen with dishwasher downstairs) an audiovisual room and a place for “chair/table.” Presumably storage. Then there are a bathroom each for men and women, plus a “library/filing” room, a copying room, a marketing storage room and another room for training materials. Adequate indeed. Now let's look downstairs at the transportation operations floor (transit ops now uses 1,117 square feet and this floor will expand that to 5,555 square feet.). A full kitchen, a break room, a “quiet room,” a fitness room, full showering facilities with lockers, a “small” conference room, a copying room, a janitor's room, a uniform room, seven offices (including one for a “future supervisor”) and a vestibule.
“Adequate”? Far more, we think, and expensive.
The study estimates the cost of this administration/operations center will be $414.16 per square foot. We checked around on-line for estimates of the cost of office space construction and found that as of 2010, a two-story office building in New York City costs about $230 per square foot. So on to another point in Mr. Mastin's letter. Responding to the taxpayer who pointed out that the money MTA spends on this is our tax money regardless of whether it comes from the federal government, Mr. Mastin wrote, “Yes, you and I do pay for federal grants with our tax money. Apparently [the complaining taxpayer] would rather pay for those grants and let Los Angeles spend the money, stimulating the Southern California economy instead of ours.”
Nowhere in this MTA plan, or in the mission statement or goals outlined very explicitly in it, do we see any mention of a commitment to using local labor, local materials, local anything (although they do mention in their goals to encourage other government entities to bring high-paying jobs to the county). The study itself was produced by: Transit Resource Center in Florida; Maintenance Design Group in Colorado; RNL Design, also in Colorado; TLCD Architecture in Santa Rosa; Winkler and Kelly in Sacramento and an organization called Amari and Associates which doesn't apparently have a website but which we are willing to bet is not in Mendocino County. So while we will hear from MTA that “We have to take the lowest bid wherever it comes from” and “there's no one local who can do this work,” please, Mr. Mastin, stop implying that this project is going to mean a $22 million injection into our local economy. Much of it probably won't even end up in California.
We think planning for an all electric bus system is fine. We think planning for the future is fine. We think wanting to reduce one's carbon footprint is fine. What we don't think is fine is to proceed with these things during an economic recession as if money grows on trees.
Nowhere in this study does MTA address what it will do with all the money it claims it will save producing three times the energy it actually needs with its new solar powered administration center. Will that money go back to the Ukiah Senior Center where MTA will reduce senior van transportation by $24,000 this year? Will it go back into routes that it is reducing now? Telling the taxpayers that you are planning to spend $22 million for a top-of-the-line bus system years from now while cutting bus lines and hiking prices today makes it hard to believe all this will be necessary.
— KC Meadows. (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
PS. Jim Mastin is a candidate for Fifth District Supervisor.