By Robert Curwin
In the 11 years I have lived in Ramona, I have not ever driven north from Main Street onto 13th Street. In fact, I didn’t even know it was a through street until reading your front page article, “County awarded grant for 13th Street bridge,” which appeared in the July 21st issue.
But I take this as good news. Like the rest of us, I have listened to the politicos argue about the debt ceiling and the horrendous deficit, punctuated by the fact that the federal and state governments are just plain broke. But then, that can’t be. The feds are apparently ready to send $9,750,000 to Ramona to build a bridge over a dry creek bed. It would seem that they are planning to gold plate it as well.
Today I drove on 13th Street from Main to Walnut. It can hardly be called a street — some of the potholes are as big as the dry creek bed. Although not stated in your article, I will allow that perhaps the project includes the re-grading of the dirt portion of 13th Street and maybe even a little blacktop. But still – almost $10 million of taxpayer money to do this? Where is the common sense?
Not being in the construction business, I needed a reference to get a handle on today’s construction costs. Checking a San Diego County website, it cost $11.6 million to build a 21,000-square-foot library on Main Street. That’s not much more that the cost of this little 500-square-foot bridge, and the library comes with a fireplace and 5,000 square feet of solar panels. So was the library a deal, or what?
So I have a solution. Let’s go to Pennsylvania, interview and hire six Amish craftsmen with construction experience. Second thought, let’s hire 10. We have money to burn and it’s someone else’s money anyway, right? We bring two of them to Ramona for a week to “figure it out” and make up a bill of materials. Then they go home for three or four weeks while the general contractor buys the material (it’s wood) and delivers it to the site. Then all 10 return, lay in a culvert, which is all that is needed for a ditch you can drive through, and build a six- or seven-ton capacity bridge. A wooden bridge. The 10 gentlemen from Pennsylvania will have it done in two weeks and be on their way home. Now if you want to get fancy, we can have them stay two more weeks and put a top on it, and Ramona will have its own covered kissing bridge.
What will it cost? The 10 laborers receive $7,500 each plus $2,500 extra for each of the two advance men (remember, it’s not our money); expenses for all of them for a week is $25,000 (spent in Ramona); and I will guess $200,000 for materials because quality treated wood isn’t cheap. This adds up to $350,750 including 15% for a local general contractor. Using the existing $750,000 (we don’t need no stinking environmental report), we have $400,000 left to gravel and surface the road. Then we return $8 million to Uncle Moneybags and use the remaining million to bring the boys back for a repeat performance on Magnolia, where there is a greater need.
Which brings to mind one final thought. How did this project end up on 13th Street instead of Magnolia where there is significantly more traffic? And all kidding aside, how in the world can anyone justify $9,750,000?
Robert Curwin is a Ramona resident.