Clearwater – We Have a Problem!
The Henry B McMullen Tennis Complex is a fantastic facility, and, if managed correctly, should be a profit center for the City of Clearwater.
However, according to figures obtained from the Parks and Recreation Department, under current City Administration, revenues generated by coaching staff are down 94% from an average of $3977 per month in 06/07 to $1130 per month in 07/08. Currently the facility has earned a dismal $162 per month for the year to date.
I understand that in this recession we have reduced budgets, but do we need to give our taxpayers less for their tax dollars? Why is the city contemplating closing facilities and reducing hours when they have the opportunity to run at a profit?
So why the failure at McMullen?
Initially, coaches were employed as independent subcontractors to the city. The city then changed its strategy and outsourced these services to a single mandated contractor, who, by the numbers is not up to the task. The decision has been followed by numerous taxpayer complaints that the city seems ill-prepared to manage and effectively address.
At the heart our complaints as taxpayers are the city’s motives and circumstances in which a highly regarded tennis coach at McMullen was summarily dismissed by the newly mandated contractor. A group of 30 concerned taxpayers and tennis players requested the City Manager, Mr. Horne, to address this issue. We were told that a contract was in place and nothing could be done for us. This was not an acceptable response because the existing contract has an implicit no-cause 14-day termination clause.
We persevered with the city in a polite and professional manner to resolve the issue, expressing mutual dissatisfaction as paying members of the McMullen Complex. In response, the City Management used stalling tactics, false accusations they could not support, and even resorted to implying we could jeopardize former staff members jobs and careers. The City Manager continually tried to make this into a personal matter between contractors and their staff rather than address the mess created with their failed strategy.
Upon further digging, we discovered that the circumstances surrounding the employment of the mandated contractor were questionable.
Why a no-bid contract?
Why were certain services no longer available?
Why were services advertised, but the professional was a no show?
Why was tournament scheduling changed to accommodate city officials?
Why are supplies sourced at high cost from an ex-contractor rather than at competitive prices?
Why do some get a free pass and not pay for court time?
As taxpayers, where is our voice? Why does City Management treat us with such disrespect? Why would they put the opinion of a contractor ahead of many taxpayers and their families, the backbone of this city? Are we less valuable to the city than a single tennis contractor?
Communication with City Management has been excruciating and prolonged and we have reached the end of our patience. Contact with the Mayor and Council members has also proven fruitless. We have tried to address this matter in a polite and professional manner but have not had the same in return.
We are extremely disappointed and we need to start looking elsewhere for leadership.
We the people, deserve our facilities back – we pay for them – not our city officials.
We cannot have confidence in the management of our city, when it appears the people in control are more interested in covering up problems and stonewalling any attempts to work with the taxpayer.
- Alan Barton
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