Those who still read the paper and ink version of this
publication were saved thousands this morning in computer repair
costs. That coffee they spit out reading Josh Farley’s short take on the new
Bremerton tunnel, specifically the $53 million price tag, landed on
the Kitsap Sun logo, rather than on a monitor or keyboard.
The first comment, you’ll notice, is how the price tag went up
by $20 million. Answer: It never was supposed to cost around $30
million. They were just saying it was. Tom Rosendale posted a
comment on the blog referring to this story, which explains how
a $30+ million project became a $50+ million project. Andrew
Binion, when he was still gainfully employed, explained:
The annual maintenance bill comes on top of the project’s $50
million price tag, paid for with federal money, which the
Washington State Department of Transportation’s Web site puts as
On the site, the state gives the price tag of the project as
$30.7 million, which is the price of the contract for construction
of the tunnel.
What isn’t included is about $20 million more in overbudget
costs, securing right-of-ways, moving utilities and preliminary
designs, said Brenden Clarke, project engineer.
When asked what he would say to taxpayers who felt misled by
information from the department, Clarke admitted the department did
not provide the best financial information on the project.
“Could the state have been more clear about that? Certainly,”
You see, when you ask someone from the government what something
costs, you can’t be sure the answer you get is what most people
would consider the real price. There are construction costs, design
costs, administrative costs, transportation costs, this year and
that year costs, metric system conversion costs, Canadian currency
costs, notification costs, entertainment costs, historic costs,
printing costs, etc. I made a few of those up. You decide which
ones. I’m not sure I know. Some think you need to exclude some
costs. When the tunnel was a $30 million project, that was the
construction. The other stuff was left out.
To some degree that philosophy is warranted. If the county gets
a grant to build something, thanks in large part to the paid
lobbyist, do you include the lobbyist in the cost of the project?
No. The lobbyist is its own expense, so that new sewer plant is
free to the county.
On the tunnel project, and I’m diving into unanswered questions
here, some of the earlier unaccounted costs were the cost of state
officials managing the project. If they had not been working on the
Bremerton tunnel, they would have been working on some other
project. So do you include the cost of the administration when if
you weren’t spending it here you’d be spending it somewhere? For my
money, I say you do. But even if I’m wrong, I want to be
consistent. If I’m not going to include it on that project, I don’t
want to include it on any.
The same kind of consistency should be there in budget stories.
On that account, I was wrong in today’s story on the county sales tax
revenues. The basics about the county were correct. I
was wrong about Poulsbo. When we get to Bremerton and Bainbridge
Island, I’m not sure yet.
The story was county sales tax revenues were down from
expectations in 2008. In Port Orchard the revenues were in line
with the budget. I wrote that Poulsbo was down $1 million based on
my misinterpretation of an earlier story. In fact, Poulsbo came in
pretty on line as well.
Similarly, when we talk in news stories about “filling a gap” in
the budget, those who suggest we are actually talking about a
slower increase than expected are many times correct. I’ll be
clearer about that.
On a final point, Bob Meadows did point out that the first sign
of trouble was in February of last year when
holiday sales tax revenues were down from expectations. In the
story I wrote that the first sign was in June. In retrospect Bob is
probably more right on this one. The reason I went with June was
because though I remembered the earlier announcement, it seemed
that in tone June was the first “Oh (insert your favorite expletive
or expletive replacement here)!” moment for the commissioners. In
February Jan Angel said the county had to act as if it was going to
be a trend, but there wasn’t any real action until later, when the
commissioners were meeting at Island Lake. That was when they
started talking about hiring freezes and across-the-board cuts and