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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Powerpoint Presentations

This is kind of crazy: towards the end of a seemingly endless Wednesday night meeting, members of West Chester Borough Council voted unanimously to subject themselves to an hour of Powerpoint presentations. These presentations will take place next month and will supposedly help council members decide which architect to hire to design the $3.3 million police station expansion (hasn't anyone heard of, you know, quietly studying site concept plans?)

Who votes to watch Powerpoint presentations? They're awful. They induce sleep, or worse, the desire to see how far you can stick your finger up your nostril before you do yourself permanent damage. But Powerpoint presentations happen on computers, and people think that everything that happens on computers is good.

Remember overhead projector transparencies? They were pretty hard to make. Powerpoint slides are way too easy to make. They sponsor excessive slidemaking, just as keyboards sponsor excessive writing.

Back to my point: Borough council members, knowingly, willingly, and unanimously voted to subject themselves to an hour of Powerpoint presentations.

To be fair, this wasn't plan A.

Borough council had just voted to build a $3.3 million police station expansion, and they were now trying to select an architet to design said expansion. It was past 10 p.m. In the audience were three architects, a police chief, and a local reporter (Joe Norely, I think, had left). The architects were from two firms: Kimmel Bogrette and the Spiezel Group. The architects wanted to know which firm would get the job. So did the local reporter, who had to write about it, and the police chief, who would have to live with the results.

Now, borough council's public safety committee met earlier this month to watch powerpoint presentations given by four architectural firms (I was there, contemplating the nostril experiment). Of these four firms' presentations, the committee liked the Kimmel and Spiezel presentations the best. At a later meeting, the public safety committee voted 2 to 1 to recommend that borough council hire Spiezel (Note, when I say "borough council's public safety committee" I am referring to the three borough council members - Carolyn Comitta, Holly Brown and Chuck Christy - who make up this committee. West Chester's committees are subgroups of borough council - they are not independent of borough council).

The public safety committee's meeting, though, didn't seem to carry much weight. At the lengthy meeting borough council inflicted last Wednesday night on architects, the press, and law enforcement, council members just could not decide which firm to hire.

Seeing where things were going, they made a motion to table architect selection until next month. This motion failed. Then they made a motion to hire Kimmel Bogrette. This motion also failed. Then they made a motion to hire Spiezel. Again, this motion failed. Their fourth motion was to to table the discussion - and to make all council members watch the Powerpoint presentations that thus far only half of them had seen. This motion passed unanimously.

So, next month, late in the month, borough council members will again watch the Spiezel and Bogrette presentations. As will Police Chief Scott Bohn, Daily Local News Reporter Dan Kristie, and dutiful member of the public Joe Norely (I'm sure he'll be there). A half hour has been allotted to each presentation.

Why should the public care about all this?

Because some borough council members and borough administrators recognize that construction costs are currently very low. If the police station expansion goes out to bid while the economy is still in a slump, the borough is likely to get a pretty good deal. By waiting a month to select an architect, borough council is delaying construction by at least a month and running the risk of getting a less favorable deal. If this happens, taxes could go up.

(The fiscal conservative: They shouldn't be spending all that money anyway! The realist: Face it - they're building that police expansion, one way or another. Let's see how.)

Here's Council President Sue Bayne on what the borough should do (Note, Bayne said this at 10:45 at night. Hence the spirited tone):

"We have a construction economy now that allows us to do what we want to do the way we want to do it. We can get these projects ready now and really hope like hell the bids start coming lower than expected ... we fell on our tushes when the the Mosteller bids came in, and I think we need to do that again. If the bids come in too expensive, we can always say no."

(Note: the Mosteller Replacement Garage was expected to cost $17 million. The bids have put the price around $12 million. The bad economy is responsible for this $5 million discount.)

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Blogger dave said...

Good read. Paralysis by analysis, punishable by powerpoint.

September 28, 2009 4:59 PM 

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