Flushing Your Cash Down the Drain: The Infamous Oak Ridge Marina Bathroom

This is old news, but so many people continue to ask me about it that I’ve decided to share everything I know here. For those who have never visited our lovely marina bathrooms, you might think that they had marble walls and gold plated urinals given the steep price tag borne by taxpayers. Think again. Pictures are provided at the end of this post.

In 2013, the Oak Ridge City Manager, Mark Watson initiated a renovation project that appears to have exceeded his authority, circumvented both city council and the bid process, violated the law and resulted in untold waste of taxpayer funds.  All of this was done in his quest to have a basic cinder block public bathroom completed in time for his pet Rotary project, the inaugural Dragon Boat race.

The following comprise my primary issues of concern. Supporting documentation is referenced and included at the end of this post.

  1. Multiple state and municipal laws were not followed and taxpayer money was wasted (see the attached document entitled “Legal Issues Marina Bathroom Project”.)
    1. No competitive bids for over $120,000 of purchases that were awarded to 20 different companies
    2. No contracts received for up to $125,000 of purchases that were awarded to 7 different companies.
    3. Nearly half of the work on this project occurred prior to and without the state required plans, specifications or estimates.
  1. Project stats:
    1. Duration: November 4, 2013 to June 27, 2014
    2. Partial renovation of a building into a cinder block bathroom with a total cost of $281,000-$356,000.
    3. 9 outsourced laborers and 12 different city employees worked on the project
    4. Per requested timesheets: total city employee hours 4,050 + total laborer hours 3,044 = 7,094 hours
    5. $5,763 spent on paint
    6. 45 different vendors, most providing supplies. How likely could we have used fewer vendors at a lower cost? How many places did we buy pipe from?
  1. Avoidance of transparency: For over a year, the City Manager ignored the requests of a council member by refusing to provide her with the documentation she requested. A citizen had to make an official open records request and the documentation was still lacking. 15 months and 6 repeated requests later, complete documentation has still not been produced (see attached document entitled “Cost History and Summary for the Marina Bathroom Project”)
  1. The city manager exceeded his authority (by spending over his limit of $25,000) and six out of seven council members condoned his actions by voting to quash the issue. View video of their October 12, 2015 here: http://www.oakridgetn.gov/videojs/JSCouncilMeeting10122015.htm
  1. Six different totals have emerged, but the true cost of the project remains in question. By all accounts, however, it was excessive in that it cost more than a nice, new large home.
  1. Materials for projects are typically provided by the contractor, yet that was not the case with Tri County Plumbing. Instead, supplies were provided by Kenny Pipe & Supplies. Tri County was paid $5 less than the law requires for estimates. Though required by law, no contracts were provided for either company or others listed in the Legal Issues document.
  1. In addition to countless deliveries to the site or Central Services, total trips made by staff to local stores easily reaches, and may exceed, 200; many multiple trips in a single day sometimes as many as 5 in one day ; at least a couple dozen trips were made for purchases under $10 (i.e. $1.98 at Downtown HW 3-20). Yet, Watson didn’t want to use staff time to fulfill this request which he claims took 24 staff hours. How many staff hours were wasted running back and forth to the store?
  1. Architect:
    1. Architect drew up “as builts” after project nearly complete 
    2. Original contract was for $8,000 then amended to $9,030 to include electrical drawings but then final cost was $7,200. Why?
    3. Provided no demolition plan or cost estimates for the project, only their costs for plans.

As the attached documentation will show, the Oak Ridge City Council, to whom Mr. Watson reports, has been fully apprised of these issues and afforded multiple opportunities to address them. To date, they have chosen to ignore all of the above concerns.


  1. cost-history-summary-and-timeline-for-the-marina-bathroom-project
  2. concerned-citizen-and-baughn-first-requests-emails
  3. concerned-citizen-attachment-from-nov-26-2014-email-misappropriated-funds-within-the-city-of-oak-ridge-operations
  4. legal-issues-marina-bathroom
  5. marina-bathroom-detailed-expenses( fun one for number crunchers for sure!)
  6. municipal-purchasing-law-of-1983

A Quarter Million Dollars sure doesn’t buy what it use to! Keep in mind, this was an existing building and only half of it houses the bathrooms. The other half is occupied by a vendor.

outside-of-marina-bathroomsinks urinals mens-bathroom

June 2014 printed ledger puts total final cost to date at $319,228 (see Attachment #1 for details)




  1. The same way they get away with a lot of big “no no’s” – very few challenge them in court and those that do usually lose because they can’t win against the city’s big dog lawyers from TML.

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