12 Days of Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis; Day 7 - Davis' Aquatics Center Starts With Swan Dive, Ends in Belly Flop


December 8, 2016 |  


In six days from today, Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis will leave office. In honor of his last 12 days in office, we will take a look back at some of the most memorable aspects of Davis' tenure.  

Next Monday night, just 48 hours before Mayor Gary Davis leaves office, the City of Elk Grove will be holding a meeting on the long-planned Civic Center. Originally envisioned to have a City Hall designed by the late, world renown architect Zaha Hadid as its centerpiece, the Civic Center instead might some day be anchored by a facility that will have been strongly influenced by Davis.

The facility we are referring to of course is the Elk Grove Aquatics Center. Much like the bold, original design for City Hall submitted by Hadid, Davis' vision was wrapped in the glory that his, our, aquatics center would put the City on the map and make Elk Grove a serious competitor to host the U.S. Olympic swimming qualifying trials over more established locations such as Stanford University. 

The problem Davis soon discovered was that while the City had money set aside to pay for the facility thanks to onerous Mello Roos fees paid by residents in  Poppy Ridge, Laguna Ridge, and senior citizen property owners in Glen Brooke, it was not quite enough. There needed to be another revenue source to fund Davis' dream of having a diving pool and platforms of up to 10-meters and a long-course 50-meter Olympic-sized swimming pool.

To solve this problem, there had to be another revenue source to help fund Davis' desires. Readers may have forgotten, but Davis, who was enabled by the City Council, seriously considered bringing in a contractor to not only operate the Elk Grove Olympic facility but to build and manage a water-themed amusement park. Seriously.

After giving the idea of placing a noisy, traffic inducing amusement park in the middle of what was supposed to be Elk Grove's "crown jewel" of a neighborhood serious consideration, the City Council scuttled the idea. It seems on their own the Councilmen could not figure out it was a bad idea to put an amusement park in the middle of what is said to be Elk Grove's premier neighborhood, but they soon heard loud complaints from nearby residents ridiculing the absurd idea.

Of course, during this whole amusement park phase Davis and his cohorts discovered that while they had some funds, they were short of the cash needed to build the world class Olympic aquatics center, and furthermore, they lacked the expertise to operate the facility. 

Regarding running the facility, Davis and the City reached out to the Cosumnes Community Services District. The CCSD, which has long experience in such matters, told the city thanks, but no.

In Davis' dogged pursuit to fund, build, and operate the facility, the City also put out a request for proposal, and they received one response and man, that turned out to be a real doozie. The proposal, and contract the City entered into with the now defunct P3 International and its principal, Jeroen Gerrese, turned into yet another debacle for the city.

P3, which was awarded a $695,000-plus contract to design the aquatics center, secure funding and select an operator failed to deliver. Not surprisingly The City and P3 ended up in ongoing litigation

In a subsequent City Council meeting after relations soured between Davis and P3, Gerrese noted the trouble the City will have securing financing for the facility. Gerrese said that in his quest to secure funds, underwriters told him given the City's lack of experience in this type of operation, and the revenue projections versus high operating costs, Elk Grove would be paying junk bond-type interest rates of greater than 12-percent to get Davis' shrine built.
While Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis fiddled around chasing
a Olympic-sized aquatics center, nearby Southgate
Recreation and Parks District made progress on their
community-centered $17 million aquatics facility just
north of Elk Grove. 

In August, 2015 Elk Grove City Manager Laura Gill noted that the City had received three bids for a RFP floated for the Aquatics Center, and all they all came back $6 million over budget. (watch video here).  

While this was all going on, another government entity, nearly Southgate Recreation and Parks District was planning, designing, funding and ultimately building their aquatics center just across Elk Grove's northern border. While the City said they were aware of Southgate's plans, there was never any mention of those plans or the implications at numerous meetings or in staff reports.

Interestingly, while both projects started at about the same time, according to Richard Lincoln of the Southgate District, construction of the aquatics center is scheduled for completion by mid-April with a target opening by early summer, 2017. Elk Grove's progress has been limited to planting a sign on their site for the last few years saying this will be the future location of the Aquatic Center. 

The handling of this proposed aquatics center is emblematic of Davis' tenure as Mayor. The Mayor has made lots of proposals, none of which, not one, have come to life.

Unlike Southgate who operated within their budget, established a facility to serve the needs of their residents and not chase some delusional goal of landing U.S. Olympic swimming qualifying trials, Davis and Elk Grove has never left the pool's starting block.

To use another sports analogy, Davis is like the batter at the plate who is always swinging for the fence. As is typical, that batter usually ends up popping out or striking out instead of getting the home run. 

Any successful baseball manager will tell you that a bunch of base hits is what wins games, not the solitary homer.








    




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