This Week: Both the Haves and Have Nots on County Agenda

Photo credit: Vanguard University and Wikipedia

Both the haves and have nots of Orange County have issues on the county agenda this week as auditors release a report on Dana Point Harbor, and county supervisors supervisors address a proposed homeless shelter in Anaheim.

Here’s what you need to know:

Supervisors to Seek Bids for Operator of New Homeless Shelter

County supervisors made waves in November when they bought an industrial building in Anaheim to serve as a homeless shelter and service center for up to 200 people at a time.

Now, they’re set to start the process of picking an organization to run the facility, known as the Kraemer shelter, for its location at 1000 N. Kraemer Place.

Tuesday’s agenda includes the issuance of a request for proposals for the shelter’s operator, who would oversee a variety of services from food to mental health support and connecting people to longer-term housing options elsewhere.

It will be a major undertaking for whoever takes on the task. The county would be seeking bids for operating both the Kraemer shelter and the county’s current emergency cold-weather shelter program at National Guard armories.

The winning bidder would also be asked to enter into a 20-year lease from the county to use the facility.

Organizations would be allowed to team up for their bids, which could cover either the new shelter, the current armory shelters, or both.

The county’s current armories operator is the nonprofit group Mercy House, which is widely expected to be the frontrunner for the Kraemer contract.

Several key homeless advocates have described Mercy House as difficult to work with on many levels. For his part, Mercy House Executive Director Larry Haynes has said he recognizes the problem and has been trying to do a better job of collaborating with others, while noting that his group is often the only one to step up to the plate.

Also remaining to be seen is whether homeless people will be allowed to bring their belongings to the new shelter. Many homeless people keep all of their worldly possessions with them, and limits on how much they can bring has been cited by advocates as a barrier for people accessing the cold-weather armory shelters.

The current bid document calls for applications to be due in June and approval of the winning bidder by the county Board of Supervisors in late August.

(Click here to read the shelter operator staff report and here for the proposed bid solicitation document.)

Advocates have been concerned that the new shelter’s success will be restrained by the shortage of permanent supportive housing for people to go to after their stay in the shelter.

Stays in the Kraemer shelter will generally be limited to a maximum of 30 days per person, meaning that longer-term housing is key to reducing homelessness, advocates say.

New Audit on Dana Point Harbor to Be Released

The county-owned Dana Point Harbor has long been mired in controversy, with allegations that the harbor’s massive revitalization effort has been mismanaged.

And now, county Auditor Controller Eric Woolery’s office says it’s working on a series of audits related to the harbor, with the first to be released Wednesday morning.

The first focuses on the Marina Inn, a 136-room hotel located at the county harbor. It reportedly has eight critical or significant findings.

Many of the allegations related to Dana Point Harbor in recent years have centered on claims that the county has turned a blind eye to incompetence by the company hired to manage the harbor’s revitalization.

Among other things, leaders in the boater community have said that the contractor, Project Dimensions Inc. (PDI), submitted regulatory documents that weren’t formatted correctly, and then spent the next five months correcting the submission at county expense.

Under a 2003 project management contract that has been extended at least five times, PDI was paid an average of $834,000 each year, with a 2006 change giving the firm an automatic monthly payment regardless of the work they performed.

A five-year extension approved in 2013 bumped the payments to $1 million annually.

The PDI contract also drew scrutiny from David Zenger, a former aide to Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who has said he couldn’t find any evidence that PDI had prior experience managing a large, critical public works construction project.

In 2013, Nelson and former Supervisor John Moorlach expressed concerns about the contract’s structure. At the time, then-Supervisor Pat Bates, whose district included the harbor, said that concerns about PDI had been addressed by a county staff review.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.