From: BC Cowling, ABCRI Executive Director & Board member
BOX CAR TRACK IN KUNIA MAY CLOSE
The City Administration has given ABCRI a termination order to vacate the Kunai Box Car Track site without
explanation and without consulting with the community or discussing with ABCRI.
ABCRI also wonders why the organization's Kunia rent was raised in 2010 from nominal to a high rent instead of remaining at a nominal rent like other nonprofits at other City facilities.
The high rent has drained more than $50,000 out of the organization since 2010.
ABCRI and its family oriented box car activities came to the attention of City officials in early 1997. City higher-ups told ABCRI that the City Parks and Recreation Dept. would like to develop a box car program, but could not afford to do so. ABCRI was asked if the organization would be interested in developing a box car facility on City property in a Public-Private partnership.
After several years of meetings, discussion and site analysis, the City issued a Box Car Request For Proposals (RFP) in 2003. ABCRI went through the competitive bid process and was the winner of the contract. ABCRI was told informally that as a nonprofit bidding on underutilize City land, a nominal bid rent of $1 per month was normal.
Effective April 2004 ABCRI entered into a 5 year contract with the City to develop a box car facility on the rear portion of the Royal Kunia Park & Ride. During the bidding process, ABCRI had requested a longer term contract, up to 30 years. The City however said the contract needed to be a maximum of 5 years. City officials told ABCRI they did not see any reason that future administrations would not issue a succession of 5 year RFPs at nominal rent, as long as ABCRI developed a well designed facility and ran its program in a community benefiting, educational manner. The City did conceded that the 5 year contract limitation would probably hinder ABCRI in securing grant funding to develop permanent shop facilities.
Focusing on developing an attractive facility the City and neighborhood would be proud of, ABCRI secured a long list of major, minor and individual donors who donated in-kind donations, monetary donations and many, many volunteer hours. The ABCRI Box Car Track in Kunia opened on October 15, 2005 while still under development. The development continued through 2009 and grew to encompass two 500' long 3 lane box car tracks, spectator areas, an informal box car workshop and a radio control (RC) car complex of 3 on road tracks and 1 grass off road track. The work done to the site represent more than $1 million in improvements created at no cost to the City, which was a requirement in the contract.
When the first contract expired in April 2009, ABCRI began contacting various City officials asking when a new RFP would be issued. No answer was forthcoming. In early 2010 the problems began.
ABCRI had finished grading Phase One in 2005. In 2006, ABCRI told the City Grading Inspector during a routine site visit about ABCRI's plans for Phase Two. The specific question was asked, "Do we close out our Phase One grading permit and apply for a Phase Two permit?" The Inspector told ABCRI, "No Need. Since you still have all your site environmental controls in place, do your Phase Two grading, and then combine Phase One and Phase Two drawings and close out both Phases under your existing grading permit." ABCRI followed the City Inspector's advice to the letter.
However, after Phase Two grading was completed and when the combined plans were presented to the City planning department, the City told ABCRI to separate the plans and close out Phase One and submit for a Phase Two grading permit. ABCRI followed this request. Once Phase One permit was closed, ABCRI submitted separate drawings for Phase Two. But then the City told ABCRI, "You have been grading without a permit. The permit fee is now doubled." ABCRI paid the increased fee.
After the Phase Two plan review was completed by the City, ABCRI was told, "Your plans have passed Engineering approval, but they have not gotten Zoning approval. You will now be fined $150 per day for grading without a permit until the Zoning problem is taken care of." ABCRI then asked what was the Zoning problem? The City said that an agreement between three City departments, that had been a part of the first contract, had expired when the contract expired in 2009. Without this internal City agreement re-signed, ABCRI would not get its grading permit and was liable for an ongoing fine of $150 per day. ABCRI's inquires about how to remedy this situation were met with either a vague silence or the comment that a new contract would take care of the problem. The ensuing question, "When will a new contract be issued?" was met with more silence.
This conversation was repeated often from February through the end of July in 2010. The message was loud and clear: ABCRI is liable for a $150 a day fine until a new internal agreement enables the Zoning approval ABCRI's grading permit. A new contract will also fix the problem because the internal agreement will be a part of a new contract. This was a maddening period of Catch 22 for ABCRI, with the threat of fines being levied by the City at the rate of $4,500 per month.
Then suddenly in late July 2010 a new contract appeared in the mail. Reading the terms, however, was shocking, not liberating. In place of $1 per month rent, the City now wanted $1,750 in rent. Plus they required ABCRI to repair and then maintain the aging irrigation system of the 4 acre park and ride outside of ABCRI's 2 acre track area. ABCRI was also to provide a new dumpster with enclosure and trash cans for the parking lot, the labor to collect all the trash, and labor and equipment to do all of the landscaping. The contract specifically stated that ABCRI was not in a public-private partnership with the City. The City also wanted ABCRI to be open 7 days a week instead of 3. We had determined that we could not afford to be open when parents were working and did not have funding for an after school program. All of our fundraising efforts had been directed toward developing the track. We would have gone broke in less than 30 days trying to meet the terms of this new contract.
In October of 2010, after weeks of back and forth negotiating by a trusted ABCRI supporter, about 15 people met in the Mayor's Cabinet meeting room. Attending were three people from ABCRI and about 12 from the City including several Department Directors, Deputy Directors and assorted City attorneys. All this for a box car track developed at no cost to the City and run at no cost to the City by a small nonprofit organization. We were dumbfounded.
ABCRI's estimated the cost of the City's new contract to be about $6,000 per month, up from $1 per month. The compromise reached at the meeting was to cost ABCRI about $1,500 per month. ABCRI's choice was to accept these terms or close the track.
Why was the City so hard core in its tactics and demands over revenue from a family oriented facility run at below operating cost by a local nonprofit at no cost to the City? Is this how the City normally negotiates with groups using City land to serve the community? We have yet to learn these answers.
Today ABCRI faces eviction from the site without warning or reason given. ABCRI has had four contracts with the City. Two long periods between contracts has meant that ABCRI operated at Kunia for 40 of the past 70 months without a contract in place. The end of the current contract, February 28, 2015, represented to ABCRI only a next step this series of contracts and gaps without a contract...until the City's termination ordered arrived in late January.
If you value having the box car track continue to operate in Kunia, let Mayor Caldwell know
how you feel.
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