THE BETTER FLIP PROJECT…WAS THERE EVER A BUDGET?
As we told you in our article Marketing the Better Flip…was there ever really a plan, the Port Authority FINALLY produced our request for a detailed accounting of the Better Flip Project on March 4. That request was made at the January 2019 Port Authority Board Meeting held on January 23, so it took Rantala forty (40) days to produce that information. Just as we thought, it does not appear there will likely be anything left in the budget for marketing the flip house.
The financial accounting Rantala provided covers the project costs through February 20. It could definitely use a bit more detail in terms of exactly what type of services the contractors provide. We took our best guess at the services provided, and in some instances we just have no idea and cannot find anything out on the interweb to tell us, for instance, who Thomas Roseum is and what type of services he provides.
Here is what Rantala produced: Rantala’s Project Costs to $210,000
Here is our consolidated summary sorted by contractor: Recap of Better Flip Expenditures by Contractors
The only marketing expense we see is the nearly $2,700 the Port Authority spent on video camera and other equipment to document the Better Flip Project…you know those step-by-step instruction videos that were supposed to be produced and uploaded to both the Better Flip YouTube Channel and the dedicated website that does not exist. We do not see the salary of the summer intern ($6,500) referenced in this list of expenses. As we told you in Flipping and Flopping with Taxpayer Money, the summer intern was to be hired expressly for the purpose of marketing the Better Flip Project.
During the working session portion of the March 2018 Port Authority Board meeting, this intern was discussed 2018-03-28 Minutes, and Mr. Rantala stated that the port’s summer intern would primarily be DEDICATED to the marketing efforts of the Better Flip Project. We know that the intern didn’t do much marketing and that the poor kid couldn’t help that the project was so far behind that he had to go off to college after having produced only two (2) videos).
Mr. Rantala’s email to Lobbyists for Citizens producing the long awaited detailed financial accounting of the Better Flip Project included the following text:
“Records request. The Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority policy is to reply to all Records Requests. To treat all who make requests fairly we will process them in the order they are received. This response was created (although we are not required to do so) in response to your request and would have been available to you at our board meeting last Wednesday if I had not been out with the flu. It reflects funds expended to date on the project. Please acknowledge that you have received this. Please note that none of the contract amounts approach the public bid requirement for Port Authorities.”
Now isn’t that special. The DETAILED ACCOUNTING we requested was created by the benevolent Port Authority. Under ORC Sunshine Laws, if someone requests records that DO NOT EXIST then the entity does not have to create it. We knew that already. They do, however, have to tell you that it does not exist, and as such, they cannot or will not be producing the requested data.
Just let that sink in for a moment…the detailed accounting did not exist until March 4, 2019; one (1) year and two (2) months into the project.
So does this mean that the Board approved the additional $60K in October 2018 and another $89K in February 2019 without ever seeing a detailed financial accounting of this project from their Project Manager, Bob Vila wannabe, Mark Rantala? That’s a bit unsettling to us.
Lobbyists for Citizens has requested copies of any and all budgets, and specifically the one mentioned in the December 2017 Minutes under the Chairman’s Report, which we have referenced herein in pertinent part:
Chairman’s Report: Mr. Lindrose reported that Mr. Martin was reappointed to the LCOPEDA Board and his term expires December 2021. Relative to the Better Flip Initiative, Mr. Lindrose reported that on Tuesday, December 19, he met with Mr. Cahill, Mr. Zahirsky and the Mayor of Willowick at the proposed flip house. He noted that the group walked through the house, and he believes it will be an interesting project for the port. Mr. Lindrose stated that he and Mr. Martin would collaborate on the project to put together a budget, i.e. what it would take to bring the house to the point of resale to a millennial, should the Board choose to take the project on. He noted that it is important that the Board understands everything up front before the LCOPEDA receives the home from the Lake County Land Bank. (emphasis added by LFC)
Additionally, Mr. Rantala reminds us that none of the components of this Project exceed the threshold for port authorities ($150K) which requires competitive bidding. Still smells a bit fishy to us as we wrote about in To Bid or Not To Bid…That is the Flipping Question. Rantala is serving as the “general contractor” and so nothing goes out for bid.
We believe that competitive bidding should have occurred, especially given the fact that this project is slated to cost the Lake County taxpayer nearly $300K (double the original budget of $150K) and given the amount of money being spent with the top three (3) contractors.
By the way, none of the contractors appear to be registered with the City of Willowick from what we can tell; which is required. We downloaded and saved the list of registered contractors updated on February 7 Willowick Contractor-List-2-7-19 from the City of Willowick’s website as well as the list of registered contractors updated yesterday, March 4 Willowick Contractor List 3-4-19
As we mentioned in a couple of our recent articles on this unmitigated disaster, we have requested some backup from the State of Ohio in getting to the bottom of this thing.
Letter to Dave Yost 3-4-19
Letter to Julie Korte 3-4-19
Stay tuned for more!