The Missouri state auditor will release a highly critical audit of the City of Bolivar on Tuesday evening. A spokesman for the Auditor’s Office says the audit will be especially harsh on the huge cost overrun at the city’s 18-month-old indoor Aquatic Center.
A citizens' petition triggered the state audit of Bolivar. About 300 people signed the petition requesting the audit.
"The city is very poorly financially managed. The Board of Aldermen has been extremely negligent in overseeing responsibilities for financial stability of the city,” said Spence Jackson, a spokesman for Auditor Tom Schweich. "They overpaid incredibly on several projects, in particular the pool."
The Aquatic Center was estimated to cost about $200,000 when voters approved a 1/4-percent sales tax to pay for it. Plans at the time included two pools, water slides, a children's "adventure area," and a retractable roof. The final cost, according to the Auditor’s Office, was more than $6 million.
“This is because they didn’t plan properly in how much it would cost,” Jackson said.
The Aquatic Center replaced a former outdoor city pool that was plagued by mechanic problems and leaks. The Aquatic Center was added to the Roy Blunt YMCA building to try to save money. City officials said in 2011 that adding it to the YMCA meant they didn't have to build a front desk, locker room and control center.
The city also faces possibly millions of dollars in expenses because of a pending lawsuit over retirement benefits to former city employees and a mold problem that forced city officials to move out of City Hall and lease temporary offices. Jackson says the city doesn’t have the funds to cover those costs.
"It's the epitome of bad management of an elected body that just doesn't seem to care,” Jackson said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Schweich and members of his staff will be at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday for a public presentation of the audit’s findings. Jackson said a team from the Auditor’s Office, led by Darrell Moore, a former Greene County prosecuting attorney, will follow up with city leaders over the next several months to see if they are implementing the recommendations that the audit makes.
"I just don't see how they could get organized enough to properly respond to our recommendations and carry them out,” said Jackson. "They just have not done a good job of managing the money, planning for the future, anything like that."
City officials have had a chance to respond to the individual issues raised by the audit. Their responses will be included in the report that is released on Tuesday night, but city officials won’t see the entire report until Tuesday afternoon.
"What I can say is, the city intends to implement the suggestions the auditor has set before us. The city sees this as a learning process for the procedures that need to be changed,” said Bolivar City Administrator Darin Chappell in a telephone interview on Friday. “We look forward to this as an opportunity to move forward and address each of the problems.”
Chappell was hired in April 2012, two months before the Aquatic Center opened after months of planning and construction.
"I and my staff were brought in for the purpose of addressing the problems the city's been having, specifically the financial issues. They knew they had financial problems a year and a half ago. That's why they brought me in,” Chappell said.