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Editorial: Bureaucratic Incompetence Costs The Taxpayers

How often do we see the taxpayers money wasted because government bureaucrats fail to use good business practices in our local governments. In the late 1980’s Manatee County entered into a contract with NDC, a local construction company to build the downtown county office building and parking garage. Normally parking garages should last for 50 years with proper maintenance. 

Recently our county administrator, Dr. Scott Hopes was in the parking garage on a weekend and observed a fire sprinkler pipe had fallen on the floor of the garage. He immediately ordered a county crew to examine and replace the fasteners that attached the sprinkler system to the parking garage. He also ordered an engineering inspection of the county parking garage. 

The results of the engineering inspection were worrying for the taxpayers of Manatee County. How could a parking garage be failing structurally 33 years after completion of construction. Multiple requests for responses from NDC were unanswered. 

My investigations revealed that a former county administrator was informed that the parking garage needed serious maintenance to prolong the life of the garage. The administrator ignored the warnings from the engineers and stopped the inspection process. 

Any homeowner knows that maintenance deferred is just kicking the proverbial can down the road and the underlying issues that need repairing just continue to grow larger. If you are trying to keep the budget low while moving pet projects to the front of the line it is sometimes easier to just ignore maintenance issues. 

Ultimately, the taxpayers of Manatee County must pay the piper for a parking garage that did not have a normal life. Was this poor maintenance practices or was the original structure not built correctly? We may never know but it is safe to assume that continued maintenance could have extended the life of the structure. Now the current commissioners are faced with a choice of spending 6-10 million to repair the garage or 30-40 million for a new structure. Either way the poor decisions of prior county administrators has led to a huge bill the taxpayers must remit. 

Dr. Hopes, our current administrator has begun a process of analyzing all Manatee County assets using data driven calculations to determine whether it is best to repair or replace assets. 

Unfortunately, in the past our county has promoted employees to levels at which they were not suited to provide the best management for our county. This is not unusual in government as so many bureaucracies resist using best business practices and certain county commissioners are more concerned with promoting friends as opposed to capable managers. 

As Dr. Hopes began replacing employees with more qualified substitutes, we heard the accusations of a toxic work environment being leveled against county leaders. When you hear these charges being made, please understand that it usually means a county employee who is being required to perform their duties as if they were working in private enterprise is upset and has whispered their complaints in the ear of a friendly county commissioner. 

If taxpayers are going to foot the bill for a new parking garage at least give them the courtesy of electing commissioners who understand free enterprise and need to employ competent managers who understand business principles.

Bob Spencer
Manatee Herald

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