Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Teed Off
With the new year, many of us say this year we'll spend less and save more. But, when it comes to government, that rarely seems to happen. Tonight investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On a Case of government spending that even has workers wondering why.
WSVN -- This golf cart is one of a dozen that cost Broward County tax payers $10,457 each. They replace older carts like this one that can be bought today for about half as much.
Carmel Cafiero: "You're comfortable with this expense?"
Eugene Nicholas: "I'm very comfortable with it."
Eugene Nicholas is the assistant director for Broward's Water and Wastewater Services Department. He says spending $125,000 on the new carts is justified.
Eugene Nicholas: "This is a much heavier duty, more robust vehicle."
The carts are used at the 95-acre wastewater plant and at water plants. Nicholas says they're needed to haul heavy equipment around the sites -- something the less expensive carts can't do as well.
Eugene Nicholas: "We had problems with the ground clearance on the vehicles. They were getting stuck."
But a water department worker we talked with thinks buying the more expensive carts is money wasted.
Carmel Cafiero: "What do you think about your tax dollars being spent like this?"
Worker: "That's why I called you. I didn't like it."
He asked we protect his identity. Someone else is speaking his words.
Carmel Cafiero: "Are you sure you don't need those carts?"
Worker: "Don't need them at all. The slower carts work just fine."
He says the new carts reach speeds of 40 miles an hour.
Worker: "They were doing donuts with them in the dirt. Driving fast."
One supervisor was so concerned about the carts that she wrote in an e-mail: "...The maintenance section can't use the carts at all (too dangerous)..."
Nicholas says the county now makes sure the carts only go 15 miles per hour.
Carmel Cafiero: "Did you have anybody driving them before, going fast?"
Eugene Nicholas: "I might have had one go out before we recalled it to the shop area."
The new carts are also four-wheel-drive models although the plant terrain is mostly flat and paved.
Jeff Blitman: "I think it's a waste of money."
Jeff Blitman, who sells golf carts, says this new model of the old carts would work just fine. And he wonders why the county would pay thousands more for 4x4s.
Jeff Blitman: "Climbing up steep hills, that's probably the only reason for the four-wheel drives. Or perhaps going in very muddy, sandy areas might be the reason. But we have many of these two-heel drives in areas like that, and they're quite satisfactory."
Despite it all, Nicholas stands behind the purchase of the powerful carts. He inists each costs only a couple of thousand dollars more than the less expensive model.
Carmel Cafiero: "Not a frivolous expense?"
Eugene Nicholas: "Not at all -- not at all."
Clearly, not everyone agrees.
IF THERE'S SOMETHING YOU THINK CARMEL SHOULD INVESTIGATE, GIVE HER A CALL: