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Letter to the Editor: City is Wasting $150,000 on Organizational Study

City Staff should be able to do the job without hiring a consultant.

by Todd Matthews, President
Benicia Firefighters Association 

To the Editor:

Re: Benicia City Council Allocation of $150,000 for Organizational Efficiency Study

Our city council recently allocated $150,000 to commission a study to evaluate organizational efficiencies of only two departments, one of which was identified as the Fire Department. I hope to provide some information while praying that our community will recognize that this expenditure is unnecessary and has been approved at the worst possible time.

I must begin with a question; isn’t this the worst recession in recorded history? Many economists have attached this label to our current economy. Your firefighters recognized and acknowledged this fact and immediately agreed to contract concessions to assist in covering projected budget shortfalls in 2009. How did our council respond to this recession? They approved Capitol projects that could have waited (Fire Station 12 Remodel at more than $200,000), and dumped at least a million dollars into a building the City doesn't own (Community Center). Further, we are all waiting to find out what the final tally will be for the land and equipment purchases and over-runs associated with the solar project. Now, the Council has directed City Staff to use $150,000 in order to perform an 'efficiency study': on a department that only has 23 employees! This action does not seem efficient, by any standard.

The Councils direction seems even less efficient when the City already employs a City Manager/staff, an Administrative Services Director, contracts with an HR firm, and has a full-time HR Staff. Presumably, one, or any combination of the previously mentioned could evaluate the efficiency of a Department with only 23 employees? Even more distressing is the fact that the Fire and Division Chief's have over 50 years of combined administrative experience which would certainly be capable of, at minimum, making a firm recommendation on adequate/efficient staffing levels. However, our Council has ignored these obvious facts. As a result I feel compelled to share them with you.

Finally, we will all soon learn that the City will not meet its projected budget revenue numbers from user utility taxes generated last year. Ironically, the projected deficit of this line item equals $150,000. Given all that I have shared and all that is known relative to our economy, the City's Staff, and projected tax revenue shortfall, does it make any sense to proceed with another $150,000 consultant expenditure right now? Your firefighters do not think so.

We are asking that you compel your Council and City Staff to accomplish the efficiency study in-house, using the expertise that we are already paying for. We believe that the necessary local knowledge and several years of experience already exists to perform a thorough evaluation of any Benicia Department.

Todd Matthews, President,
Benicia Firefighters Association

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Bruno September 14, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Todd: Thank you for sharing this disturbing information. Of course, I would like to know more - the other area of focus for the study, what the desired results are that will be obtained from a consultant’s efficiency study, and the time frame involved... Here is a suggestion. The plan of action towards realizing an efficiency study should involve a “local” collaborative effort, i.e., a citizen committee (comprised of knowledgeable volunteers) and the City's existing staff (subject matter experts from the sectors being evaluated, human resources and finance sectors, etc.), to devise an efficiency study (a starting point on which to build upon). The resulting documentation (feasibility analysis) would be the deciding factor as to the necessity of an “outside” consultant’s efforts or to move forward with an efficiency study using local subject matter experts. On another note, I recently received a mailer entitled: "Information on Benicia's Health, Safety, and Financial Integrity" which focused on new water/sewer rate increases signed by Brad Kilger, City Manager, and Melissa Morton, Public Works Director. The City Manager and City Council may consider these urgent fiscal needs of the City (i.e., the costs of a safe water system) as a priority – far more important than the need of an efficiency study by an outside consulting firm. Your comments will be most welcomed.
Robert Livesay September 14, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I do have some agreement with most of the comments. I do believe cooler heads will rise and there very well could be a change in direction. Trying to evaluate ones self is very easy. We all think quite a bit of ourself. At least I do and believe I have attempted to show that. But at the same time I do believe what could and maybe needs to happen. Direction from the City Manger. Lay out the objective and have all the Directors come up with a solution. It can work and I have used it before. Remember Directors are a direct report to the City Manager. He hoilds their jobs in his hand. They are also responsible for the effective results of their departtments. So as you can see it is in their best interest to give a very honest evaluation of the operation of their departments. At that point you will also find out how effective they are as dept. heads. This could work very well. I believe the City Manager is responsible for thi and will do it to the best advantage of the city. By the way Alan lost to a much better organized campaign She had many worker bees, Alan had next to noe.. I am no fan of the mayor. You would have never guessed that.
Joe Feltcher September 14, 2012 at 09:46 PM
"Direction from the City Manger."? I'm pretty sure the ACLU made the City take that down years ago...
Robert Livesay September 14, 2012 at 10:08 PM
All directors report to the city manager. He can hire and fire and not be over ruled by the city council. He has a very strong position.
Robert Livesay September 14, 2012 at 10:10 PM
The city manager can be fired by the city council on a 3/2 vote. He and the city attorney are in the same boat. The only two that the city council can fire.

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