A Remodeling Nightmare
Paul Rechnitzer examines the Bonner County courthouse remodel
Since the sun is always shining somewhere, it can be said that things are not always bad. It may be a stretch to say this, but not having a bypass has enabled me to observe the Egyptian-like developments on First Street at what we call the Bonner County courthouse. The outward changes are fascinating. For a while I thought we were going to have a new gabled roof, perhaps in the Norman style as in Spokane.
Then all that changed as new walls went up, obviously creating new interior space. Fences went up and fences went down. The monument to hysteria (or is it diversity?) disappeared. And that is what could be seen from the road. All these exterior changes in the name of asbestos removal!
There is a lesson here. Have to wonder what the final exam is going to look like. But I forget that it is taxpayer monies paying for a renovation gone amuck.
Creating things has always been one of the joys of my life. Whether it be making a concept come alive or building a new home or adding a new service station to the landscape, there is immense satisfaction in bringing into being an object of value. It can be something that hangs on your wall or something into which you drive your John Deere. It really doesn’t matter the purpose or the scope.
However, before starting any project, it helps to have a budget. This reminds me of a quip attributed to Sophie Tucker when discussing her life. She said famously, “ I have been poor and I have been rich and rich is better.” So it is with building projects. A couple times I have come up short and believe me, not coming up short is better.
If you have problems making up your mind, you need to get a grip before you start a project. Changes are a deadly rite. If you believe the right to change your mind is a virtue, then a building project can be a mine field. A mine field, for those who are not acquainted with the term, is a parcel of ground sown with explosive devices. That they are planted at random is what makes the situation tricky. So is building without a plan or budget. So is remodeling without a firm plan and budget. Limits are good and limits are bad. Sort of like a pointed gun.
Once in the mine field, the problem is to get out alive. When you start building or remodeling, the problem is always how to get the job done without being killed. The devil is in the willingness to make changes. Once the project is underway the current is flowing. It can’t be stopped easily because you really don’t want to and because the change is so very logical, Since the project is underway, you just keep going.
The on-going remodeling of the Bonner County courthouse is a mine field. When you start a project of that magnitude, you are like an old film star going into the plastic surgeon’s office. Where do you start and when do we quit? No wonder some old movie gals are unrecognizable.
Our new/old courthouse has soaked up so many of our tax dollars as the Commissioners try to figure their way out of the mine field that we will need a guided tour of the new/old structure. We are now in the fifth stage and change order #23. The shortfall is 2.5 million
What is hard to understand is why, when they found the first “mine,” they didn’t stop to reappraise the situation. Now, I don’t know any more than you do. All I know is what I have seen and read about in the Bee. What I understand is that when the Commissioners found themselves in the mine field they re-grouped around the unanticipated costs of remodeling as opposed to building a new courthouse. I heard that the unbudgetable costs of renovation/expansion, etcetera would be less than a new building, estimated to cost a mere 6 million bucks.
Now the only way to make this reasoning reliable would to have had a valid bid from a contractor. (You can imagine what would have been involved in getting the electorate to stand still while this idea was massaged.) So justifying the uncertainties accompanying asbestos removal by comparing that to an unplanned courthouse doesn’t make any sense.
As the renovation/remodeling/rebuild program proceeds, the cost of that unplanned courthouse has risen to 8 million and change. It is unbelievable that the Commissioners could delude themselves into this kind of reasoning. I can only assume that when you are working with monies taken from tax payers you don’t have to think too hard. Nothing worse than a headache created by a monetary shortfall. It must have been the hunt for loose change that prompted the Clerk to explode. That there might be a stash here or there is alarming.
If you don’t get the minefield analogy, fault me. If you care about how your money is spent, get concerned. Planning can be a painful and tedious affair but so is traversing a mine field. You don’t have to think your way through but it beats not doing so.
It is going to be interesting to see how the blame is spread around. When the bypass is opened, I won’t be reminded what a mess looks like. Now that is a mixed blessing!