Mission Mayor Randy Hawes said he’s becoming frustrated with the ongoing observatory debate.
While he admits it’s a complex issue, he said if you look at all the reports and all the information available, you can see the numerous problems with observatory idea.
“I’m just getting so frustrated with all of this. Unfortunately, people are not reading the information we are putting out. It’s too lengthy, I guess.”
Hawes said Brian Antonson – the president of the Mission Heritage Association (MHA), which had been building the observatory – is telling people that the project is well planned and that about $300,000 in donations and grants are needed to complete it.
“If you look at his business plan, there’s $225,000 in equipment needed,” said Hawes. That leaves $75,000 to finish the building – much less than the amount estimated by council.
“The building code requirements in a public building are actually quite different than in a private residence; much, much more stringent,” said Hawes.
Seismic protections, a temperature control system and other expensive items are needed. Hawes said other issues have not been discussed, including parking.
“Where will they park when the Blackberry Kitchen is open and the lot is full? Out in the field in the middle of winter? Where? None of this is planned, nothing is planned,” he said.
Hawes said the MHA business plan relies on income from two school visits a day, starting in September, “when no visits ever take place” because teachers are still organizing classrooms.
“That’s two a day, plus evenings and weekends for the public, all run by volunteers. Not a dime in wages for anybody (is included in the business plan),” said Hawes.
Council has already voted unanimously not to complete the observatory and two weeks ago voted 4-3 to tear down the building immediately. Of the three who voted against, one wanted to wait until after summer to tear it down and two wanted to wait until a parks master plan was completed, before re-purposing the building materials or the unfinished structure.
Hawes said claims that canceling the observatory is all his doing are false.
“They are talking as though six people on council are brain dead because they follow everything I say. They just blindly follow. It’s all my agenda. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
As for re-purposing the building for another use, Hawes said it just doesn’t make financial sense.
“To finish the building will be several hundred thousand dollars that we would have to take away from another capital project. Or their suggestion, just leave the building unfinished. So maybe we’ll hire security then because I’m pretty sure it won’t take long before you see the homeless at the building or vandalism.”
Hawes said the MHA has had 30 years of good management of the park, except for the last two years.
“They got money to build one building from the city and it morphed into two others – the kitchen extension and the (caretaker’s) apartment – but those were completely abandoned. They walked away from those and left them completely dormant as they concentrated everything on the observatory and they had no money to go any further on those buildings. How long would they sit?”
He said the district will put about $700,000 into the buildings altogether to complete them and had to undo a lot of the work the MHA did.
As for why the structure was constructed without building permits or proper inspection, Hawes said he was told that the previous council basically told staff hands off the park.
“I don’t blame staff at all. I lay it at the feet of the previous council.”