Why isn’t the City of Branson’s management of “Spirit of 76 Project” being investigated?

When the Ole Seagull looks at the way the “Spirit of 76 Project” (76 Project) has been mismanaged by the city of Branson an adage comes to mind. “If it looks like a skunk, acts like a skunk and smells like a skunk then it’s probably a skunk.”

Over a year and a half and millions of dollars into the 76 Project, a news article, in January of 2017, reported that “Mayor Karen Best said, “Where are we and what are we doing?… the board wants to know what they can expect and when…don’t have a budget, don’t have a concept and don’t know what the expectations are.” Alderwoman Betsy Seay said that “she feels like they don’t know where they’re going, that they’re rushing forward…it’s like ‘putting the cart before the horse.’” Alderman Bob Simmons said that “he feels like he’s coming out of the gate for an eight-second bull ride and he doesn’t have a grip.” It just doesn’t smell right!

Oh. it gets better. Six months earlier there was a sudden shift from CFS Engineering, the team who was paid over $7 million for the initial engineering and design work on the project. The new team was Jim Martin, who the city hired to oversee the project; Ann McDowell, head of Project Branson; and Korey Schultz, of Olsson Associates.

The mayor and aldermen’s comments were made six months after this “change of horses” in the middle of the stream! How can that be? Who authorized the change six months earlier? What was it based on? It just doesn’t smell right!

In June of this Year it was reported that Branson Mayor Karen Best said the city has been adamant about communication with fiscal responsibility being the top priority. The same article reported alderman Mike Booth as saying, “Thus far —as far as one board member — the communication sucks…We’ve got to have better communication than what we have had because, frankly, we had $2 million dollars I didn’t have a clue about.” Just an Ole Seagull’s opinion, but there’s just something about the 76 Project’s communications and fiscal processes that doesn’t smell right!

The article went on to report Mayor Best as saying, “Moving forward from here we made the commitment to our community, or citizens and our taxpayers that we are going to be fiscally responsible [for] this project… we’ve asked for new checks and balances to be put in place, so on [a] monthly basis we get [the] contract amount; here’s how much has been spent and here’s how much the project is complete.” Are you kidding! That’s basic “101 level” stuff that should have been in place since day one. It just doesn’t smell right!

The article continues reporting that, “According to Best, physical work on the 76 Project will be pausing as the city works to pursue funding sources.” Why would the project start or be allowed to continue without adequate funding? Best continues saying, “Then filling the buckets up hopefully by December of next year then the following January we can hopefully put the shovels back in the ground. During that time from June to December, when we’re collecting the revenue, we can begin working on the design for the next phase.” Are “we” serious here! The Ole Seagull thought that we had paid millions for the engineering and design work before the first spade on the project was turned. How much extra will the city be paying for “the design for the next phase?” How much will the delay cost the city? It just doesn’t smell right!

In the article Best continues, “It’s very forward [important] that moving forward all of us are on the same page. Because we can’t be on the same page in different books — that doesn’t work. It’s not fair to staff, to our board or our community.” It just doesn’t smell right! To an Ole Seagull what’s not fair to our community is the lack of a complete outside investigation of all aspects of the 76 Project with emphasis on the millions of dollars paid in consulting and engineering fees and the change of “Project Management” in the summer of 2016.

“But Seagull, with all that’s gone on and the millions of dollars being spent while our elected officials ask, “Where are we and what are we doing? the board wants to know what they can expect and when,” why hasn’t there been an investigation initiated by an outside agency before now?” “Don’t have a clue, but it just doesn’t smell right.”

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