Ridiculous or Sublime... you choose

At the risk of repeating myself, “Olympia” has just rounded the one-month mark of a 105-day session. Are we closer to solving the budget crisis? No, but we are inching our way into passage of a bill, sponsored by Reps. Stanford, Moscoso, Dunshee, Fitzgibbon, Haigh, Ryu, Lytton and Pollet, forbidding the “docking” of cows’ tails! The aforementioned representatives have defined “docking” as inhumane treatment of cows and plan to cut that practice short (pun intended).

 Meanwhile the budget gap is reportedly quivering at $5.3 billion and it is outta whack due to uncensored spending by those given guardianship over taxpayer funds!

For example, look at the ridiculous situation with the new Data Center that was approved for construction in 2009 and in recent months has just begun circulating data through its servers four years later! If you look through the microscope you will see this gargantuan money pit cost $255 Million in ‘09. Legislators raised questions immediately as to the grand scale of the project, the necessity and the future burden on the “budget” (a fancy term for taxpayers)! Now the newly formed agency, Consolidated Technology Services created in 2011 is back at the “well” (another fancy term for taxpayers) requesting a $34.4 Million subsidy to cover lease payments and some additional “small” projects in the next couple of years. Meanwhile, wringing his hands and dabbing a hankie to his eyes, the Consolidated Technology Services Director whined to a legislative committee last week, “CTS can’t shoulder the burden for this!” Why, you ask?

Let’s go back to the planning stages where the pie-in-the-sky project calculations were horrifically miscalculated when it came to the data storage requirements. Back in the day (2009) Representative Reuven Carlyle criticized the project as too extravagant following a vote on the capital budget in which the project was included. He contacted, then Governor Christine Gregoire to stop the project and presented her with a laundry list of the reason why. She blinked, but not long enough and followed the advice of her information technology “experts” to go ahead on ‘er! (After all, she wasn’t going to be around to take the kick in the pants when the bottom dropped out of the wallet.)

Carlyle combined his background expertise in the software/cell phone industries with a private consultant to determine the State’s actual data area requirements. Late in 2010 it was determined that only a small segment of the 50,000 square foot data space was in use and less than one 12,500 square foot hall would be needed in the near future. The State uses less than one of the four halls constructed.

While the general idea behind this financial disaster may have been originally well intended, there was no restraint used nor was there any common sense applied. An excuse for the haste to build included the (lame) argument of an urgency to transfer the data storage and retrieval capacity from the building termed Office Building 2 to the new structure a few blocks away. It was said the aging data system in place in Office Building 2 was at risk of emergency shutdowns if the heating and cooling systems failed. (This boogieman was blown out of proportion by using the example of a shutdown in 2011 caused by a campus power outage.)

This disaster has multiple chapters and for the sanity of my Editor, I’m going to cut the story short. Bottom line, in my estimation: it would have been a helluva lot cheaper to change out the heating and cooling systems than to end up with an elephant-in-the-living-room spending $255 Million on the grossly over-exaggerated project, then pleading for an additional $34.4 Million to plug the hole in the dike! The current CTS Director winced at the suggestion of charging tenants more for utilized space saying (and I paraphrase), “...he can’t just add costs to the rates charged by those using the center because the charges would be so high agencies couldn’t afford them or they might look for cheaper space elsewhere...” No kidding? Maybe the good Director should substitute being ‘too costly for renters’ with ‘too costly for taxpayers’ ! You can bet your butt, spending on this money-pit won’t end here, unless the public calls a halt and drops the hammer!

Meanwhile, what’s the lesson learned from the disastrous project, the employment of the CTS Agency and the staff to support it? We now know that even with the latest state-of-the art-calculators available, the preponderance of evidence remains ... they still can’t do the math!

by Sherrie Bond

(Sherrie Bond serves as Director of the Northwest Log Truckers’ Cooperative. She can be reached via email at BONDTRUCK@aol.com