THE BETTER FLIP PROJECT – STOP THE INSANITY……3-3-19
We are trying to ascertain whether we have gone through a wormhole and entered an alternative universe. One where spending nearly $300,000 to date on the Better Flop disaster seems sane somehow. Additionally, Commissioner “He who shall not be named,” who still supports this absolute waste of tax payer dollars even with the project being $150K over budget, has exercised questionable judgement. Let us explain…
As we told you in Flipping and Flopping with Taxpayers Money, this Better Flip Project was to make homes on the county’s west end more attractive to prospective millennial homeowners. By March 2018, when the board decided to undertake the Better Flip Project and set a budget “not to exceed” $150,000; “aging in place” was also being bantered about since the master bedroom suite is on the ground floor (needed for seniors). By October 2018, the project was out of money; and Mr. Rantala came back to the board for an additional $60,000. Don’t forget that the land and existing structure were given to the Port Authority by the Lake County Land Bank.
Still, Commissioner “He who shall not be named” and Mayor Regovich (City of Willowick where the flip house is located on East 305th Street) came together in a show of unbridled solidarity for the Better Flip Project with an Opinion piece in the News Herald. As we told you in Better Flip…Gird your loins they are coming back for more, our rebuttal to the aforementioned Opinion piece where we also point out the coordinated effort by the News Herald and elements of our local government to put lipstick on this pig, $210,000 is simply not enough. THEY ARE, IN FACT, COMING BACK FOR MORE!
We attended the Port Authority board meeting on February 27; and Mark Rantala, Executive Director, presented a resolution to the board requesting ANOTHER $89,000 for the Better Flip Project. This doubles the initial budget of $150,000. Commissioner “He who shall not be named,” was in attendance and expressed continued support for the project even though it is over budget by a whopping ~$150,000. When a public project is that far over budget…well, it just makes one stop and ask why? How in the heck do you get to that amount for a remodel that only adds 220 square feet to the house?
We’d like to know the answer to that question too. Lobbyists for Citizens has made several records requests regarding the project. We also requested a detailed financial accounting of the project at the board meeting we attended in January. Remember, the Port Authority was given the land and existing structure at no cost. So that’s nearly $300,000 to remodel a bungalow and adding a bit of square footage (the total square footage is now around 1,300 square feet). You’ve got to be kidding Commissioner “He who shall not be named!” Really?
We came to the Port Authority board meeting on February 27 prepared to address the Port Authority board since we have been unable to obtain any financial records regarding the project. Mr. Rantala limited questions to one (1) per person. Lobbyists for Citizens had two (2) members in attendance. Mr. Rantala cut off Brian Massie when he had the audacity to ask more than one question. Thank goodness Commissioner Hamercheck was there to point out that the question was a valid one; and he actually would also like to hear the answer. After all, the Commissioners, the entity that created the Port Authority, are responsible for oversight of the public body they created. There is nothing in the Port Authority’s rules and regulations that limits questions from the public to only one.
By the way, the project’s initial budget was set to $150K and the language in the resolution states it was likely not to exceed $150K? Is it co-incidental that the ORC 4582.12 would have kicked in…the old competitive bidding process, as we told you about in our article. https://wordpress.com/post/lobbyistsforcitizens.com/5556
So if a port authority project is $150K or LESS, then the good old Bob Vila “Wanna be” wouldn’t have to bid out the Better Flip Project. We wonder how many other Port Authority projects have been set “not to exceed $150K” and have gone over budget incrementally. Could the Port Authority be trying to circumvent the competitive bidding process?
We have NEVER seen a public entity work so hard to NOT be transparent. We do not believe that this Port Authority project is in compliance with the requirements of ORC 4582.12. There has been no bidding process that we are aware of. The cost of the project is nearly $300,000; and we have been unable to obtain ANY financial records, or records relative to the contractors used, regarding the project. We want to make sure that all the contractors are Lake County businesses and that they are registered with the City of Willowick.
It is astounding to us that the Better Flip Project is WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY…to infinity and beyond over budget; the Port Authority board HAS NOT managed their employee (Mark Rantala), and they have absolutely breached their fiduciary duty to the people.
It is astounding to us that the Port Authority board has unanimously passed every single resolution involving this calamity without question…at least in their public meetings anyway. Perhaps Mr. Rantala and the board are having discussions about this Port Authority project off the record? Maybe that is why they have no questions about The Better Flip Project during the public meetings?
It is astounding to us that Commissioner “He who shall not be named” still supports this debacle, even after the Auditor’s Office Chief Deputy of Real Estate, Scott Yamamoto, made his presentation. At Mr. Rantala’s request, Mr. Yamamoto discussed how improving homes in western Lake County would spread the property tax burden across the city. It was stated that the effective tax rate is high in Willowick because of the fixed financial needs of the political sub-divisions (schools, police and fire, roads, and local government). In theory, as the home valuations increase the effective tax rate should decline so that the same total tax revenue is achieved. It’s all about the property taxes.
The City of Willowick has made some mistakes over the years that we hope Mayor Regovich is working to rectify. The City of Willowick is basically a bedroom community with very little commercial business. They have one of the highest property tax rates in Lake County, and they also have an income tax levy. So the City of Willowick is funded mostly through property tax and income tax paid by the people who live there. If you improve the value of a house in Willowick, the property tax on that house will go up…and well, you get the picture.
We have had many conversations with millennials in various communities throughout Lake County, and they are very concerned about their property taxes too. It’s not just the seniors and those approaching retirement age. Several have said that if their property taxes go much higher, it will be a financial strain to stay in Lake County. This Better Flip Project was sold to the public as a way to show flippers how to take a bungalow and make it millennial friendly…to attract millennials and young professionals to Lake County. Attention Commissioner “He who shall not be named” and Mayor Regovich: the millennials already here are concerned about the ever-increasing property taxes. So not only are seniors being negatively impacted by increasing property taxes, millennials too are on the cusp of being priced out of Lake County, either as home owners or renters.
As we attend various Lake County government meetings (sometimes getting asked to leave)…some government officials give us the impression that they actually think the money they have in their accounts is THEIR MONEY. Mr. Rantala mentioned something about the money being used for The Better Flip Project is being taken from their reserve accounts so it isn’t public money. Are you serious? Maybe he really is that dense? Is the board that dense? The Commissioners appoint every port authority board member so there are supposed to be a lot of really, really smart people on that board, right? Now hear this Mr. Rantala…the Port Authority is a PUBLIC ENTITY; and as such, ALL OF “YOUR” MONEY IS THE CITIZENS’ MONEY. YOU WORK FOR US! And it’s high time both Mr. Rantala, the Port Authority Board, and Commissioner “He who shall not be named” remembers that. YOU ARE OUR EMPLOYEES! You work for the people.
The Better Flip Project was to cost no more than $150,000; and Mr. Rantala assured the public in the March 2018 Port Authority board meeting that the home would recoup that cost because the home would fetch $150,000 at auction. He said he would set the reserve price (minimum bid) at $150K. So what’s the reserve price going to be now Markie? There is no way that anyone will buy that house at auction for $299,000. The money should have been spent at the airport or used to pay the Port Authority’s Coastal Manager.
But wait, we have a great idea! Maybe we CAN recoup the $299K after all. Mr. Rantala can buy the flip house and then he can actually live in the County that he is trying to promote. (Is that asking too much, Markie?) What a splendid idea!
Or perhaps Commissioner “He who shall not be named” should buy the flip house. Then, we can dedicate this unmitigated Better Flop disaster as “He who shall not be named’s” Commissioner’s Library and Flippers Museum. Yes, yes…we can see it now. Lines around the block…just like the Christmas Story House! After all, it is a model for the County, right? Lobbyists for Citizens would like to donate one leg lamp for the front window of the Commissioner’s “He who shall not be named” Library and Flippers Museum.
Mr. Rantala, the Port Authority Board, and Commissioner “He who shall not be named” own this mess. We believe the Port Authority is purposely trying to withhold information from the public regarding the Better Flip Concept Project. It’s all fun and games boys and girls…until the FBI shows up with a search warrant. Not to worry citizens of Lake County…we have requested reinforcements to assist us with investigation of this matter.
Lobbyists for Citizens has been talking to several house flippers in Lake County who have some absolutely brilliant ideas of how local governments could incentivize home owners and flippers (the private sector) to improve the housing stock in Lake County. Stay tuned for more information! The People actually have REAL solutions.