City Council to Review Ad Hoc Committee Findings

With one City Council change already in the books from last year’s ad hoc committee and citizen advisory group findings, more changes likely will be on the way as the city continues to streamline efficiency, members said.
The advisory group, composed of five residents, is looking forward to more changes and City Council’s review of its full report at Friday morning’s meeting. The meeting is slated to include recommendations from city staff as they relate to the committee’s findings.
“I have no reason to believe that staff won’t respond in a positive manner in at least some of these areas,” said Al Boegh, one of the five advisory members to the committee. “There is a great need to make improvements. I’m hopeful there will be some significant headway being made there.”
The ad hoc committee — consisting of councilmen Steve Talt and Dr. Allan Yung — was formed last year to review city operations and identify ways to reduce costs, improve efficiency or both. Boegh, along with residents Dan Biles, Stef Dietrich, Hal Harrigian and Susan Jakubowski, were selected as advisers to the committee.
“We haven’t gone away,” Boegh said. “Allan and Steve have continued to communicate with us.”
There was a theme to the report, available for view on the city’s website. Many of the recommendations involved either modernizing or establishing protocols and procedures for employee training, employee discipline, the logging of work hours and the documentation of performed tasks.
“We saw our role as trying to identify opportunities,” Boegh said, who is a certified public accountant.
The City Council saw fit to take on one of those opportunities already. At its April 12 meeting, it voted to eliminate the city hall positions of finance director and assistant city manager, create positions for an administrative services director and a human resources director and bring in an additional accountant. The spirit of this move was recommended by the committee.
Jakubowski, who has managed her own business and also worked in county government, said she emphasized the importance of human resources while working on the report. Specifically, she believes the city should have someone on hand to develop and maintain employee handbooks, employment applications and evaluation and discipline tools.
She and Boegh emphasized that such recommendations were not in direct response to current employees, but instead are efforts to strengthen accountability.
“There’s no issue of blame here, but rather to see if we’re thinking smart,” said Jakubowski, who recently announced a bid for city council.
There also was a theme of establishing long-term strategic plans for each department, something already done with Crowell Public Library. Perhaps thinking with this committee in mind, Public Works Director and City Engineer Dan Wall had earlier this year presented his recommendations for how the city could ideally allocate money to address deteriorating infrastructure.
In this area, there also were recommendations related to the city’s recreation department and the unfunded pension liability.
The committee also looked at services the city contracts out and made recommendations on possibly handling those functions in-house — and also vice versa. Boegh stressed he did not necessarily envision letting many current employees go, but instead reshuffling their tasks and responsibilities and utilizing contracted services as a way to avoid having to create and fill more positions.
“Keeping in mind the substantial pension liability, we may see a double benefit to that,” he added. “We might very well be able to use the current staff differently and get better results.”
Additional areas in the report include possibly adding Friday back into the work week for City Hall functions, utilizing current or new software for documenting work orders and billing hours, increasing availability to residents and updating the city’s website and information technology functions.
The group said they relished the opportunity to sink their teeth into analyzing how their city functions and perhaps make an impact on the future of the city.
“I think what made a huge difference is, I felt everyone was brilliant,” Jakubowski said. “There weren’t egos involved and we really were able to hunker down and stay really focused. It just all fell into place.”
“It was rewarding to do the work,” Dietrich said. “To be on the committee is a payback to the 45 years I’ve lived here.”
The City Council meets next at 8 a.m. on Friday, April 28.

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