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Just the Facts: Public Records & CH2M Hill

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    “Just the facts” is a phrase attributed to Sergeant Joe Friday of the 50’s and 60’s television crime drama “Dragnet.”  Joe Friday seemed annoyed by people’s attempts to embellish their story and would often refocus their telling of the story and limit it to the truth, and not anyone’s interpretation of the truth.  In almost all controversy there is one side’s perception, the other side’s perception, and, somewhere in between, what actually happened. 

    CentralSpeaks.com feels that it is our job to give you, to the best of our ability, the unbiased facts of the matter, and to let the facts speak for themselves.  We are finding this to be a daunting task which may never be perfectly accomplished, and we always welcome input from anyone which may further explain or correct anything we set forth in print, as long as it is true and verifiable.  So, bear with us as we try to present “Just the Facts” in the article below entitled “Public Records and CH2M HILL.”

CH2M HILL, the company hired by the City of Central to provide almost all public services in Central, became a major focal point of the recent city elections.  Since then, we have heard on the street and read on the internet and in print, comments, suppositions and accusations ranging from thought-provoking to extremist.  It seems that the talk all centers around the issue of whether CH2M HILL is denying access to public records.  CentralSpeaks.com is edited and published by Central citizens who are neither lawyers nor experienced journalists, and we have struggled with how to responsibly report on this issue without giving even the appearance of bias.  Most of the discussions we have heard and read have come back to one issue: a lack of facts.  We at CentralSpeaks.com also believe that the citizens of Central are capable of reading the facts and deciding for themselves whether there is a problem, without CentralSpeaks.com interpreting the evidence for you.  So we will endeavor here to give you “Just the facts.” 
 

Presented in chronological order will be: 

The text of the four page advertisement which

CH2M HILL ran in the Advocate

The March 31st public records request made by the Central City News

The April 6th response by CH2M HILL

The April 6th response by the City of Central

The April 15th letter from CH2M HILL to the City of Central explaining CH2M HILL’s position. 

    These documents journal the initial exchange between the City of Central, CH2M HILL and the Central City News.  On April 26th, the Central City News filed a lawsuit requesting the courts to force CH2M HILL to allow the Central City News access to records of the private corporation, CH2M HILL.  While the courts will ultimately decide this issue, this exchange has established several baseline stances of the parties involved. 

    The City of Central has made all contracts, permits, licenses, inspections, notices, work orders, surveys, ordinances and violation notices available for public viewing or copying.

    CH2M HILL maintains that the City of Central’s public records, which are in the custody of CH2M HILL, are available through the City of Central via a public records request.

    CH2M HILL also asserts that they are a private company and that its private records are not subject to a public records request.

    The Central City News maintains that CH2M HILL should be required to produce records beyond those such as permits, inspections, etc. that the City of Central has already made available.

Advocate Insert

The following text is a transcription of the entire four-page insert CH2M HILL ran in the Advocate on March 26, 2010. 

We are Central

    In March 2008, the City of Central formed an innovative public-private partnership with CH2M HILL to provide a full range of day-to-day operations services – an approach that helped the city begin to deliver new services to businesses and residents quickly and efficiently.  CH2M HILL is responsible for public works, planning and zoning, code enforcement, building permits and inspections, and general administrative functions.  As your friends and neighbors, we have a special stake in getting this job done well.  After all, we live here, too.

    Our commitment to service begins with a single phone number, answered 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  Call us to report a pothole, to discuss an item on the city’s calendar, or simply to make a suggestion about how Central can better serve you.  Call us at the Central Municipal Services Center at 225.262.5000, any time, night or day.   CH2M Hill.

About CH2M HILL

    Headquartered in Denver, employee-owned CH2M HILL is a global leader in engineering, procurement, construction, management and operations for government, civil, industrial and energy clients.  With $6.3 billion in revenue and more than 23,500 employees, CH2M HILL is an industry-leading program management, construction management and design firm, as ranked by Engineering News-Record (2009).  Long-recognized as a most-admired company and leading employer, CH2M HILL also is listed among the world’s most ethical companies and the FORTUNE 500.  Our innovative work with local government has earned us awards from both the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships the United States Conference of Mayors.  In 2000, we earned the nation’s highest award for business, the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award.  For more information, visit www.ch2mhill.com.

Engaging in the community

    CH2M HILL is a sponsor of the annual Cookin’ for Our Kids event, which raises funds for technology and educational improvements for Central’s schools.  In 2008, our cooking team, Central Krewe, took first place in the couchon-de-lait category and third in the brisket category.

Managing development in our community

    The City of Central staff is responsible for planning and zoning, residential and commercial inspections, code enforcement and occupational licensing.  Since March 2008, they have: Processed 3,147 requests ranging from sign permits to rezoning – Conducted 5,296 residential and commercial inspections – Investigated 386 code violations – Removed 1,401 illegal signs from rights of way – Processed 938 occupational licenses.

Prioritizing roadway improvements

    In October 2008, a survey was conducted to assess the condition of all the roadways maintained by the City of Central.  The resulting report has been implemented by the Capital Improvements Committee as a guide in determining the potential priority areas within the proposed street rehabilitation project.

Putting the work in public works

    Since March 2008, City of Central public works crews have completed nearly 2,000 work orders, including: Repairing 391 potholes – Completing 688 drainage repairs – Striping 20 miles (106,612 linear feet) of roads – Repairing or replacing 201 signs – Completing 92 debris and litter clean-up jobs – Mowing 148 miles or 776,370 linear feet of rights of way.  In January and February we’ve completed 49% more work orders than in the same time period in 2009.  We’re on to increase the number of inspected work requests by 53% or more than 500 jobs.

Cleaning up after Gustav

    In the wake of Hurricane Gustav, uprooted trees, downed power lines and more than 100 tons of scattered debris covered the city and made many of the city’s 52 miles of roadways impassable.  Putting the city’s emergency preparedness plan into action, Central crews cleared all of the blocked roadways within 24 hours.  Staff also handed out more than 1,000 FEMA-supplied tarps to help citizens cover damaged rooftops.

New Residential Construction

Permit Comparison

  City of Central East Baton Rouge
Subsidized No Yes
Living Area Sq Ft 2,090 2,090
Accessory Sq Ft 669 669
Valuation $226,238.00 $184,414.00
     
Building $1,131.15 $468.83
Plan Review $395.90 $60
Electrical $100.00 $132.10
Plumbing $100.00 $181.50
Mechanical $100.00 $65.00
Traffic Impact $0 $760.00
     
Total Permit Fee $1,827.05 $1,667.43

 
 

Setting the record straight on fees

    From time to time, we get questions about Central’s structure for permitting and inspection fees – perhaps because they’re set up a little differently than those in neighboring communities.  Central uses what’s called a self-supporting model, where only those who use the service pay for the service.  For the average Central citizen, this means you’re not paying for services you’re not using.  All building permit and plan review fees are set up to cover all of the costs associated with administering the department (including labor), and set fees for electrical, plumbing and mechanical inspections mean no surprises.  Total fees are highly competitive within East Baton Rouge Parish, and the City of Central is guaranteed 10% of every fee to invest in the community. 

City of Central

Municipal Services Center

22801 Greenwell Springs Road, Suites 2 & 3

Central, LA  70739

225.262.5000 

CH2M HILL 

The March 31st Public

Information Request

by the Central City News

to each the City of Central and CH2M HILL 

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

    Under Louisiana’s public records law, we hereby request a copy of the following documents:  A copy of all letters, e-mails, documents, invoices, statements, proposals, memos, faxes, audio recordings, video recordings, and any and all other material that may relate to the publication entitled “We are Central,” which was published in the Advocate on Friday, March 26, 2010. 

    We ask for a full accounting of how this publication came about, its origins, who influenced its content, the timing of its publication, the number of copies printed, and the cost of printing and insertion in the Advocate. 

    Before making copies, please inform us of the 1) documents or other things proposed to be copied, 2) the number of pages in each, and 3) the proposed cost of copying. 

    Please inform us via fax at 225-261-5022 or via email at centralcitynews@hotmail.com.  We will inform you of the documents or other materials we would like to have copied.  We propose to pick them up at your office and would ask that they be provided within the maximum period provided by law. 
 

April 6th Response

by the City of Central

Dear Mr. Jenkins:

    Your public records request to the City of Central has been referred to me for review and response.  First, you requested “a copy of all letters, e-mails, documents, invoices, statements, proposals, memos, faxes, audio recordings, video recordings, and any and all other material that may relate to the publication entitled “We are Central,” which was published in the Advocate on Friday, March 26, 2010. (Emphasis added.)

    There are no public records which relate to the publication entitled “We are Central”.  It is my understanding that the publication, similar to recent publications in the Central City News, was prepared by and paid for by CH2M HILL.  There are numerous public records which relate to the content of the publication “We are Central” including but not limited to the following:

1. Contract between City of Central and CH2M HILL OMI;

2. Records of the City of Central Planning and Zoning Commission from March 2008 to present;

3. Occupational licenses issued by the City of Central from March 2008 to present;

4. Building permits issued by the City of Central from March 2008 to present;

5. Inspections of residential and commercial construction sites permitted by the City of Central from March 2008 to present;

6. Code violation notices from March 2008 to present;

7. Department of Public Works work orders from March 2008 to present;

8. October 2008 Road Survey conducted by CH2M HILL; and

9. Ordinance No. 2008-21 Re: Permit Fees

    The foregoing records are available for inspection at the City of Central, Municipal Services located at 22801 Greenwell Springs Road, Suites 2 & 3, Central, LA  70739.  If you would like to obtain copies of the above listed records, please identify the records which you would like copies of for calculation of the copying cost.  Advance payment of the copying cost of 25 cents per page will be required for copies of the above listed documents.

    Secondly, you requested “a full accounting of how this publication came about, its origins, who influenced its content, the timing of its publication, the number of copies printed, and the cost of printing and insertion in the Advocate.”  The foregoing request is not a request for public records as defined in La. R.S.44:1, et seq.

    Please contact me if you have any questions regarding this response or if I can further assist you with this matter.

    Very truly yours,

Sheri M. Morris, City Attorney  

by CH2M HILL 

Dear Mr. Jenkins,

   

We are in receipt of your March 31, 2010 Public Information Request.  The City of Central has responded to your public information request in a letter dated April 6, 2010 (copy attached).  We trust this letter is responsive to your March 31, 2010 Public Information Request.

   

Sincerely Yours,

David A Garrison

Senior Corporate Counsel 

April 15th Correspondence from CH2M HILL

to the City of Central

Dear Ms. Morris:

    We are in receipt of the April 12 and 13, 2010 Public Information Request from Central City News by Mr. Woody Jenkins.  Previously, you responded to a March 31, 2010 Public Information Request by the Central City News by Mr. Woody Jenkins.

    Mr. Jenkins’ request to CH2M HILL for records was not made to a “public body” as required by the Louisiana Public Records Statute, La. R.S. 44:1, et seq.  Moreover in Mr. Jenkins’ correspondence of April 8, 2010, he concedes that CH2M HILL is a private company.

    Accordingly, the records requested by Mr. Jenkins do not fall under the request for public records as defined in Louisiana Public Records Statute.

    Please contact me if you have any questions.

    Sincerely yours, David A Garrison, Senior Corporate Counsel.

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