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BUDGET REQUIREMENTS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 1947
Joint SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISCAL AFFAIRS OF THE
COMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.C. The joint subcommittee met at 10:15 a. m., pursuant to adjournment, in the Senate District Committee room, Capitol, Washington, D. C., Representative George J. Bates (cochairman of the joint subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Senators Cain (chairman of the joint subcommittee) and McGrath; Representative Bates.
Present also: Parker L. Jackson, special adviser to the House Committee on the District of Columbia.
Mr. Bates. Gentlemen, this meeting will kindly come to order. I am sorry that I am the only member here present, but the House is in session. Senator Cain will take over the meeting entirely this morning because the House Members cannot sit during the meeting of the House, and we will proceed in regular fashion until Senator Cain comes in presently to conduct the hearing.
All of this is being made a public record, and those members who are not here at the meetings will have an ample opportunity to study this record and to confer with the members who have been here all the time as to what has been going on, and a thorough study will be made of all the facts.
Now, as I understand it, the Engineering Department is the one to testify this morning, and we would be very glad to hear from Gen. Gordon Young.
General, it is a pleasure to have you with us this morning.
STATEMENT OF BRIG. GEN. GORDON YOUNG, ENGINEER COMMISSIONER FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, WASHINGTON, D. C. General Young. It is a pleasure to be here, sir. I have a prepared statement which I should like to read. Mr. BATES. You may proceed, General. General Young. The departments of the District government which come under the administrative control of the Engineer Commissioner are the following: The Department of Highways; the Department of Sanitary Engineering, which has three principal divisions, the Sewer Division,
the Refuse Division, and the Water Department; the Department of Vehicles and Traffic; the Department of Building Inspection; the Director of Construction; the Municipal Architect; the Surveyor; the Water Registrar; the Chief Clerk; the Veterans' Service Center.
The Director of Highways, in connection with his discussion of the highway fund, presented a rather full statement of his situation and problems to this joint committee. He has prepared no additional statement, although he is available for questioning if the committee desires.
The Director of Sanitary Engineering, the Superintendent of the Sewer Division, the Superintendent of the Refuse Division, the Superintendent of the Water Department, the Director of Vehicles and Traffic, and the Director of Inspections are prepared to submit statements to your committee.
The Municipial Architect will submit a joint statement for himself and the Director of Construction.
The Surveyor and the Chief Clerk are also prepared to submit statements if your committee desires, although they have relatively few personnel.
In the case of the Veterans Service Center, the agency has been in existence for less than 2 years, and therefore could not present any useful data dealing with increased costs over a long period.
I will not deal in detail with the conditions in these different departments. Speaking of them as a group, I may say that they require more money, and a great deal more money, today than they did 10 years ago to function.
There are four reasons for this:
First, we have many more people in Washington and a larger area to take care of. Since 1937, the population of the District has increased by 40 percent, or over 240,000 persons. This estimate is as of today, and allows for the considerable number of persons who have left the District since the wartime peak.
This increase of population has already been accompanied by a considerable expansion of the District's built-up area. The built-up area did not expand as fast as the population, on account of wartime restrictions on building. This, of course, accounts for the acute overcrowding in the District. But with the removal of restrictions and the progress of peacetime reconversion, construction of new housing has already gone forward at considerable speed, which will be accelerated during the coming spring and summer.
Any of you gentlemen who have had occasion to travel to outlying portions of the District, especially east of the Anacostia, will be struck by the speed with which vacant areas are being built up. A large part of the remaining vacant land in the District will be occupied within the coming year.
Both our additional citizens and our additional new built-un areas require capital improvements and continuous service from my departments.
Secondly, wages and salaries have greatly increased in the past 10 years. These increases have, in general, been ordered by the Congress of the United States. That statement, of course, is in no sense a criticism. The increases are in line with those granted to Federal and private employees, and it is right that our District force should receive living wages. But the fact remains that the bill must be paid.
Thirdly, supplementary to the greater wages and salaries paid to our employees, they have been placed on the 40-hour week, which, in some cases, adds further to the cost.
Fourth, we must pay more for all materials which we buy, and for all contract services rendered us. The increase in material costs is large in nearly all cases; in some cases it is quite startling, amounting to several hundred percent.
The increase in construction costs is also very large. Constructioncost indexes vary a good deal for different types of work, but for a rough average they have gone up at least 65 percent since 1937. Actual bids recently received have in many cases been even higher than the indexes would seem to justify. This is in part due to the element of uncertainty which has been in the minds of building contractors since the war, and I sincerely trust that this atmosphere of uncertainty and apprehension will be liquidated in the coming year, and that bids will more nearly reflect cost indexes.
But with all allowance for this and for possible readjustments in some wholesale prices, there is no question in my mind that the construction and material costs will stabilize at levels much above those of 10 years ago.
I may add in this connection that among our projects which Congress has already approved and for which appropriations have been made, there are still a few where our cost estimates are out of date and require revision to be realistic.
This is the general picture. It affects my departments in varying degrees. The details will be set forth by the heads of the departments, if and when you gentlemen desire their testimony.
I would like to emphasize particularly the vital importance of providing enough money for essential services in newly built areas of the city, such as highways, water, sewage, schools, and the like.
We have heard a great deal of complaint, and very justified complaint, about the overcrowded conditions in Washington and the impossibility of our veterans obtaining decent housing. This condition is being progressively corrected by new housing construction. But the new housing simply cannot be occupied unless the District does its share in providing usable highways and essential utilities and services.
We have a considerable backlog of this sort of work which has already developed. As housing construction speeds up the demands will increase rapidly. Unless enough money is appropriated for these purposes, the effect on our veterans and other citizens who are seeking decent housing may be critical,
That concludes my prepared statement, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Bares. General, I suppose you have a statement ready for the committee as to expenditures in your Department over that span of 10 vears?
General Young. The individual departments have such statements, Mr. Bates.
Mr. Bates. And you have the sum total?
General Young. I have none consolidated, but I can readily do so in compliance with the committee's desires.
Mr. Bates. And that embraces all public-works operations?
Could you tell me, General, if you have such information as to what percent of the tax dollar, for instance, for the highways is spent by contract, and what percent of the tax dollar for highways is used for regular maintenance by your own crews. I may have asked the Highway Department, Mr. Whitehurst, about that.
Mr. FOWLER. That was Captain Whitehurst.
Mr. BATEs. I was not here when the purchasing agent was here the other day.
Mr. FOWLER. He is not, no, sir.
Mr. BATES. What I would like to have, Mr. Commissioner, and please take a note of this, is the relative costs, say, of the bare material that goes into the construction program; that which you buy separate and distinct from any contract that you have had in the city. I presume you do some repairing; you have to buy some asphalt; you have to buy some stone, gravel; you have to buy some sewer and water pipe for ordinary repair.
General YOUNG. That is correct, sir.
Mr. BATES. I would like to have the cost of those materials, whatever the basic unit cost was in 1937, and wliat it is as of today. I do not care for that span in between.
Mr. FOWLER. I think when he testified, Mr. Chairman, he gave the basic cost of the materials and the inches, and we will check that. If it is not in the record it will be in the record.
Mr. Bares. Now, that includes asphalt, stone, gravel, lu ber, oil, trucking costs, which are a very important part of that item, if you have not any large number of trucks yourselves; sewer pipes, water pipes, fittings, and so forth.
Now, General, for the record, will you tell me under what method do you dispose of garbage, let us say, here in the city, and also trash of all kinds? Is it by contract or
General Young. The garbage is collected and taken to the garbage transfer station. Some of it is sent out to our garbage-treatment plant. The rest is turned over to pig feeders, free.
We operate that garbage-treatment plant at a slight loss, and we dispose of only a portion of our garbage there. If we sent it all there, we would probably operate at about the same loss. We could turn it all over to the pig feeders and close down the garbage-treatment plant. But if that were done, and then if anything went wrong with that method of disposal, and we had closed down and dispersed our specialized forces, it would be dangerous. So we keep the plant open on a part-time basis and take the small loss as an insurance.
Mr. BATEs. That is right. Well, the question I wanted to have answered is: How do you provide for the collection? Do you do that by
General YOUNG. It is collected-
General YOUNG. It is collected by our Refuse Division. The Superintendent of the Division will give you full details.
Mr. Bares. Yes; that is fine.
Do you, General, lay out a general and definite program, projected into the future relative to the expansion of these services in these areas that are now seeing a large housing development program going on?
General Young. We have, sir. Mr. BATEs. And have you an estimated cost laid out for that period of time, say, 4, 5, 6 years ahead?
General Young. We have put enough money into our 1948 budget to handle the immediate necessities. We have also prepared a longerterm estimate of the probable costs, with particular emphasis on the new capital improvements which will be needed by our increased population." That estimate is incorporated in a report which was prepared for the Commissioners and released by them about 8 months ago, and of which, I believe, copies are in the hands of your committee.
Mr. BATEs. You have the Public Building Department under your jurisdiction, too?
General Young. Yes, sir.
Mr. Bates. Were you here yesterday when we heard from the chairman of the subcommittee on appropriations on the District of Columbia relative to some incidents he had called to his attention, of some estimated costs of some flooring, and it seemed to impress him as a general condition? I did not examine him on that point at all, but did you have that checked up or did your department have it checked?
General Young. No, sir; I was not here because I had to be conducting a highway hearing. But I am familiar with the matter you have referred to, and I have had it checked up.
The situation is this, sir: We have this defective floor which leaks. Under the floor is a cracked concrete slab, which also leaks. Therefore, the leaks come through to the room below.
Mr. BATEs. That is, it is right on the ground?
Mr. BATEs. You speak about the leaks on the floor; you mean it is a restaurant ?
General YOUNG. It is a restaurant kitchen.
In other words, the reason for the appropriation is that water seeps from the second floor down to the first floor.
General Young. The condition is unsanitary. It comes on the second floor and it leaks down to the first floor. Now, the situation was reported to the Municipal Architect, and he prepared a plan by which the floor would be taken up, a waterproofing membrane would be put down and the floor resurfaced. He believes that his estimate is correct for this method. It contains the usual 10 percent for contingencies.
The alternative method suggested yesterday, as I understand it, was simply' to place a new surface of magnesite on the present flooring.
Mr. Bates. On top of the present flooring.
General Young. On top of the concrete floor, without removing the present floor or placing a waterproof membrane there. It is the opinion of the Municipal Architect that this would not permanently remedy the situation that is causing the difficulty, because magnesite tends to crack when placed there, and when it did crack you would again have the seepage situation. I think it probable that