Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 10, 2013

Editorial: Taxpayers deserve truth about splash pad

So where to start?

Traverse City’s splash pad project was so thoroughly botched that it is hard to know where an analysis should begin. A city report about what went wrong is filled with enough failures, errors of judgment and red flags to derail a dozen such projects, yet it wasn’t until raw sewage rained down on unsuspecting children on June 30 that the extent of the disaster began to dawn on city officials —and the public.

That report showed contractors failed to obtain a host of required permits, including an electrical permit for the entire $2.9 million park project, prior to its June 25 grand opening. When the splash pad reopened Aug. 31 after the raw sewage incident, several more problems were discovered.

A few steps seem obvious:

n While the initial city report is good as far as it goes, city residents deserve a detailed, no-holds-barred examination by a respected third party of what went wrong, who made key decisions, and why.

City taxpayers have every right to expect accountability from their government and the people they pay (and pay pretty well) to run it, as well as from firms hired by the city to do its work. That is a minimum.

A third-party report must detail why the design and construction firms hired to build the splash pad and do other Clinch Park work didn’t obtain needed permits. We also need to know which city employees were supposed to monitor that process and why, if they knew permits hadn’t been granted, they allowed work to go forward. If they didn’t know, the public needs that information, too.

n There must be accountability.

Assigning blame and looking for scapegoats after the fact won’t help anyone. But if the city is to rebuild its shattered credibility, residents must believe city employees are working on the city’s behalf; those who aren’t, or those who made decisions that jeopardized this project and the city’s reputation, can’t be part of the next big thing.

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