Editorial Cindy Waeltermann, Editor Access McCandless
(Although this is a long article, it provides proof, bar none, of the cost of the Northern Heritage Center (history museum.) In last night’s town council meeting, Mr. Bill Kirk, who is running for council in Ward 2, made some very troubling, and frankly, incorrect, statements. You can see it here, just fast forward to 18:40. PLEASE — read this and look at the evidence. We have trouble here in McCandless.)
As I sat watching Mr. Bill Kirk (former Chairman of the McCandless Republican Committee and good old crony) address town council last night, I was almost inspired to get up and grab a set of pom-poms while playing the National Anthem as he bloviated to the crowd about the “gateway to one of the most beautiful vistas in Allegheny County” that has now become our big white elephant, the “Northern Allegheny Heritage Center.” This must be the beautiful vista that McCandless Town Council tried to litter with a glowering “Wal-Mart Super Center” sign at about 80,000 watts, right?
Now, nobody has a problem with building a history center. I’ll be really happy to see the photographs from the 1900’s. I think they will be very interesting and are a wonderful piece of history. Not sure if I’ll get excited at looking at cash registers and potato peelers from 1920, but hey… you never know. Mr. Bullick did a great thing and it is important to note that he did NOT ask for this building. He simply wanted to share the history he has collected over the years.
Last night, Mr. Kirk was crying foul over what he claimed was “misinformation” over the cost of the Heritage Center, declaring, “let’s be clear!” at least six times. I lost count after awhile. I agree, Mr. Kirk. Let’s be clear.
First, Mr. Kirk stated that nobody said that the museum was going to cost $100,000, that the figure was just “thrown out there” at the beginning stages of the project. He said that someone was “waving” a document that claimed that this was true. Well, as pointed out below, it does happen to be true. It was in the document. It may have been a “Sketch Plan,” but let’s be clear, after all. It’s in the official minutes of the meeting.
Below are the minutes from a Planning Commission Meeting in July 0f 2014. They are the minutes of that meeting which clearly state, as shown below, “The cost of the museum will be $100,000.” The larger photo shows that this indeed came from the official minutes of the meeting, and the screenshot beside that gives you a closer look at the passage in the minutes.
Mr. Kirk even stated that this number was put out “prior to engaging an architect.” So why, then, did council even throw out a figure if it was not accurate, they hadn’t hired an architect, and had absolutely no idea how much it would cost. How irresponsible.
In fact, in January 2014, town council “threw out” another number of $200,000, which was again recorded in the meeting minutes, as shown below.
Now I need to explain something to the readers of this article. In the 2017 Budget adopted by the Town of McCandless Council, on page 90, you will see a Special Fund developed by the council as a “Capital Improvements Fund.” This fund earmarked monies for things like replacement of storm water drainage systems, milling and repaving or rebuilding of town roads, etc. You get the picture. Here is the description of this special fund, as shown below.
Now that you understand the reason that these taxpayer monies were set aside, you might get a little angry when you see that the funds from this particular account that were used to fund laborers and supervisors to the tune of $298,281.44. I am still awaiting word from the Township (they don’t like to answer difficult questions very quickly) if all of those funds were used for the history museum, but what I can tell you is that they were NOT used for the purpose they were intended. Plus, the amount of expenditures shown in the budget matches the expenditures in the report that was given to us. Below is a spreadsheet that shows ALL of the personnel costs taken from Special Fund 18 — meant for infrastructure improvements in the Township. Again, if you don’t believe it, you are welcome to view the list of expenditures provided by the Town of McCandless through a Right to Know request.
Now, how do we know that these funds were used for the completion of the museum project? Because again, in the budget, on page 93, you will see expenditures for something called “Culture 451”, as shown below. All of the expenses under “Culture 451” were ALL expenditures for the museum. As you can see from the first line, titled “Personnel” — these figures add up to almost exactly (give or take 5 bucks) to what is in the above spreadsheet.
Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that these funds weren’t supposed to be used for personnel costs. As you may notice in the screenshot above, there were also charges for the museum from construction, engineering, “other” professional services, equipment rental and general construction contracts. For your convenience, below is a compilation of those expenses, totaling $287,730.00.
Again, all of these expenses and more — line by line — are available in the links we provided to the Line Item Expenditure list we received from the Right To Know request.
This brings the cost of the Northern Allegheny Heritage Center to a whopping $586,011.44
Now, Mr. Kirk discussed some donations that were received. Yes, the Town did receive some donations, most notedly from the organization that Mr. Bill McKim (councilman) was recently elected to by himself and other members of town council (the McCandless Industrial Development Authority) to the tune of $40,000.
Here is a list of donations that the Town of McCandless received for the History Museum , once again, obtained by the documents from the Right to Know request. For your convenience, again, I have provided a spreadsheet for you. The total of all donations: $64,127.51.
Now, I’m a little perplexed about something. There is no nonprofit organization, no foundation (although Councilwoman Kim Zachary specifically asked for one to be started and was turned down), and no board of directors (of which I am aware). I specifically asked Town Council if the donations were, in fact, tax deductible. They informed me that they were. I’m not sure how that is possible, I’m sure there is a way, but it seems awfully strange to me that in the Museum’s core documents that were adopted last month, the mention the “nonprofit,” as shown below.
I’ve searched the Pennsylvania State Database of Charities, to no avail. You can check yourself if you like right here. In addition to that, any organization that accepts donations that are tax deductible must be on the IRS database of charities. As you can see below, no dice.
So, with the addition of donations, the cost to you and I — the taxpayers — came to precisely $521,883.93
Now, I’m not sure what kind of math Mr. Kirk does (common core?) , but a building with 3,800 sq. ft. (his words) comes to $137.33 per sq. ft with the total listed above. Last night at the meeting, Mr. Kirk came up with some kind of magic math that put the building at less than $62 sq. ft. Boy, I need to find out what this is before I do my taxes next year!!
At any rate, I have provided you with evidence and proof of everything. Every cost, every line item, every check, every dollar. I don’t know if Mr. Kirk is familiar with Star Trek. It was probably before his time, but my favorite episode was called “The Trouble with Tribbles.” You see, the tribbles reproduced at an exorbitantly fast rate! So fast, that the tribbles took over the Starship Enterprise, much to Captain Kirk’s dismay.
You see, Mr. Kirk, the trouble with tribbles (and I’m a tribble) is that they reproduce when they learn the truth. The voters of McCandless are reproducing exponentially as they learn of the cronyism and insolence of not only the existing older town council members, but yourself as well And you want our votes so that you can represent us in Ward 2 of McCandless Township? ILLOGICAL