I would like to address a recent letter to the editor regarding the kitchen remodel at the Vallejo Community Center. Full Disclosure: I am a GVRD employee, but I am writing to express my personal opinions and do not speak on behalf of GVRD in any way. I feel that the above letter contained enough inaccuracies that I could not remain silent.
First, the project, described as building a kitchen for more crab food, is actually a collection of upgrades that include retrofitting the building to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a good thing for our neighbors, who might otherwise have difficulties participate fairly. It will also include upgrades to the building’s electrical service to bring it in line with current safety regulations. Also, yes, the small, existing kitchen will be remodeled and expanded. The initial impetus for this idea came from participatory budgeting committees, where citizens expressed a desire for a place where young people and the community at large could benefit from healthy cooking classes.
The budget allocation, as decided by the GVRD Board, should not exceed the engineer’s total cost estimate of $669,933. The highest bid was just under that number. Approximately half of that cost will be spent on kitchen improvements, and the other half on necessary electrical and ADA upgrades for the building. Importantly, this matter was voted on in public at a regular board meeting last November. As a taxpayer and a member of SEIU 1021, I don’t always agree with the decisions of the board, but these aren’t backroom, covert deals.
GVRD is a separate entity from the City of Vallejo that is independently funded. Its charter is to provide park and recreation services to residents of the borough. It owns a handful of parks and mostly maintains city-owned parks and buildings through leases. GVRD fully complies with the Brown Act, the state law that ensures transparency of local government agencies. This means that all meetings of the Board and Standing Committees are public and the agendas for these meetings are available at least 72 hours in advance both online at gvrd.org and at the main office. The minutes of all meetings are also available on the website. Any member of the public is entitled to attend any session and public comments are welcome. I would hate for anyone to feel disenfranchised by not knowing they are free to participate. Board members are appointed by our locally elected officers, three by Vallejo City Council, and one each by the supervisors of Solano Districts 1 and 2.
Planning for this project dates back to when GVRD had a project manager on the payroll before GVRD spent district funds to make necessary repairs to keep the last Vallejo public pool, owned by the City of Vallejo, open. The VCC is also owned by the city, and the district is paying to improve it. The upgrades to VCC were in the works before the Nimitz Group took over Lennar and terminated the district’s lease to operate the Mare Island Sports Complex. At this point, the city and Nimitz made public assurances
that they would assist in finding a replacement. It’s a shame that building a new sports complex in town wasn’t a condition of the love deal Nimitz just received on this strip of Mare Island. Youth programs are always high on the priority list for district residents, and I don’t think the district misses that. Personally, I seriously doubt that GVRD would object to working with the city to achieve these program goals.
Eventually, Councilor Diaz’s GVRD funds were available to be spent at her discretion, not the district’s. I am sure that if she has any doubts that they will be spent to her liking, she knows she can get a full reckoning.
Finally, let me point out that crab feeders are typically fundraisers put on by nonprofit organizations to support local programs, and are generally “bring-your-self-souppot” affairs.