Never mind about hit on future taxpayers, dodgy hotel costs taxpayers now

City officials repeatedly say that the downtown hotel project is not costing City taxpayers. Don’t believe it. Despite state grants it has already cost taxpayers a third of a million dollars even though they are at least a year away from groundbreaking.

Six pages of the City’s hotel fund account show that in the 39 months since April 2013 some $378,058 has been spent as follows:

— $221,450 for consultant services by Jones Lang LaSalle, the Chicago-based $155/hour guys who advised on sites, consulted mainly with Plamondon analyzing his proposals several months before the official RFP even went out, wrote the RFP, suggested the City buy the land, and then served on the selection committee

— $77,914 for studies including parking study and a costing study

— $75,500 toward the Chamber of Commerce lobbying efforts in Annapolis

— $2,176 expenses by Richard Griffin mostly meals, also parking charges

— $1,018 in advertisements in the Frederick News Post

The $378k spent in 39 months is by no means the total cost of the project so far. Probably a quarter of the City Department of Economic Development annual budget of $800k should be attributed to the hotel project — $200k/year. At four years now that’s $800k.  Plus there were costs incurred before these accounts begin, notably the Pinnacle and Crossroads studies, $55k worth.

So $378k + $800k + $55k =  $1.23 million.

This compares to the City’s property taxes that bring in $51m, other taxes $8m. As an expenditure it compares with $31m spent on police, $19m public works, parks and recreation $11m etc.

My major concern is that most of this money is wasted, and is counterproductive.

What exactly did we get for $221,450 spent on Jones Lang LaSalle? Almost zero written work product, a poor site, and a sham procurement. The parking study is almost worthless. And then there was the Forella costing study which after spending $50k was dismissed as “based on incorrect assumptions,” needing $12k of extra consulting work. A half competent project manager would discuss the assumptions with the consultant at the outset.  P Sam 2016.07.26

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