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Letter to the Commission 11/3/2018:



I am enclosing two memos from Bill Chapin that you should have received Friday afternoon, in hard copy, in your mailboxes. (Memo of October 28 and Memo of October 29)

With the ever increasing price on the current shelter plan and the subtraction of components to bring the cost under control, I started talking with Mr. Chapin on alternate ideas. As I learned the history, I am, once again, astonished at the poor process and decision making at City Hall.


The Past:

If you review the enclosed, you’ll see that a metal structure was deemed too costly AND a tensile structure was deemed too costly, or unworthy of consideration, BUT the current hard structure was deemed affordable. This made no sense then and it makes no sense now.


Please think about that for just a minute—the most expensive option of the three was presented to you as the best option. Why? Comparing metal, tensile, hard structure estimates side by side, the low number for the hard structure just never passed the smell test. This is particularly true in light of the fact that Mr. Chapin had worked extensively with Mr. Marbut and understood what was needed in the design of a successful shelter while Hall and Ogle had not; this lack of knowledge on their part probably contributed to their initial low bid.


The Present:

The cost of the tensile structure has remained virtually unchanged while, very predictably, the cost of the hard structure has escalated. The term “value engineering”, a real concept in building design, is being inaccurately used to describe what is really a scaling back of deliverables.


The “value engineering” of the contract does NOT reduce the overall cost of the structure; it only shifts the cost burden to the First Step Shelter Board. Board members, AKA neighboring communities, are understandably quite upset at the bait-and-switch on what they’ll have to fund and it is not unexpected to think that the contributing community residents may balk at remaining involved over time.


Questions that should be asked:

1. What is the wind rating of the proposed hard structure?

2. Do the porches remain in the design? They are an important part of a shelter designed for success.

3. What are the issues and associated costs with having one large social area rather than dividing populations based on need/history?

4. What will it cost to expand the shelter structure and how long would that take?


The Future:

Dealing with our homeless people has three parts and the Shelter is only one part; success of the Shelter depends entirely on the viable existence of the other two components.

1. We need a Safe Zone that is truly safe and 24/7. We needed this Safe Zone yesterday; the need is urgent and cannot be overstated. 

2. We need an adequate supply of workforce housing, both to prevent residents from becoming homeless and to house the graduates of the First Step Shelter who do not need the resources provided by Soldier On.


I suspect that all of you have been lobbied hard by advocates for the homeless to approve the hard structure contract ASAP. Their main argument may be that if you don’t move forward with this expensive structure, the will to build any structure will evaporate and nothing will happen. But please, I am begging you, please, realize that YOU ARE THE DELIBERATIVE BODY WITH THE POWER TO KEEP THIS MOVING FORWARD.  You are the deciders, as President Bush would say. You can opt for the more cost effective tensile design AND keep the Shelter moving forward.  As the leaders on this endeavor, you can lead from knowledge, with fiscal responsibility in mind, and not from the fear of your own inaction.


You are the deliberative body that can save $2M on the cost of the Shelter and use those funds to build a Safe Zone and fund a bit of workforce housing. Without these two components, the First Step Shelter will fail. That is NOT an argument to stop the Shelter but rather an argument for the fiscal responsibility needed to make it a success.


My worry is that if you continue with this most expensive option for the Shelter and the existence of the Shelter alone does not provide a noticeable difference in the visible population of homeless people in our parks and beaches, then the conclusion will be, “We built them a palace, and they didn’t want to go there. It was destined to fail.”  


Do not underestimate the public outrage at the escalated cost of the proposed structure and the certainty that the costs will continue to rise while the completion date will continue to move forward into the future.  Given the much higher cost of the current structure, you are well within the bounds of fiscal responsibility to consider another option – you won’t look weak or indecisive if you do, you’ll show a real concern for the taxpayers of Daytona Beach.


Pros of the tensile structure and its supporting components:

  1. It can be easily expanded and, just as easily, it can be contracted. 

  2. It can be moved.  It would need a new foundation in a new location, but once that is in place, the entire structure can be moved to a new location.  What if the proposed location is no longer suitable or if the nexus of our homeless population changes within the county?

  3. It can be sold. If expanded and, after being wildly successful, contracted, the components that are no longer needed can be sold.

  4. The interior space of a tensile structure is incredibly pleasant.


Please review Mr. Chapin’s memos and the exhibits.

Please stop and think about how much good could be done with the $2M that could be saved.


Thank you,


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