The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 24, 2013

Public works efficiency eyed in two-phase study

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Redefining and streamlining the public works department will be the focus of the next study commissioned by the city of Clinton.

The city will pay Cedar Rapids-based firm, HR Green, $15,600 to conduct a two-phase study, which will end with the city receiving recommendations that can be incorporated into next year’s budget.

City Administrator Jessica Kinser targeted the public works department because of the lack of organization in the department that followed the retirement of former public works director Gary Schellhorn.

“Where the organization really changed and where we didn’t really have a grasp of how to do things is in the public works area,” Kinser told members of the City Services Committee Monday. “We eliminated a public works director position and didn’t refill it. And then things just fell to whatever seemed natural. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best way to do things.”

Solid waste functions will not be included in the study because the city is already looking into privatizing the services. The remaining public works functions, which include water pollution control plant, streets, grounds and facilities and transit and encompasses 30 plus employees, will be studied.

HR Green will examine the public works functions as a whole to understand who does what and how many employees the city has supporting each function. This first phase will give the city an idea of what needs to be studied further, which could include realigning operations, reducing staff, or outsourcing some duties.

The second phase will look at cost-saving measures and how to implement these steps.

After gathering the costs associated with public works services, HR Green and the city will evaluate three alternative service delivery options: reassigning duties of existing employees due to retirement or other forms of attrition, having private vendors to supply the services and partnering with Clinton County or the Clinton School District.

HR Green will have until the October meeting of the City Services Committee to report the findings from the first phase. The second phase findings would be due by the end of November or early December in order for the city to review the options and incorporate them into next year’s budget.

Funding for the study will come from money the city saved because Kinser’s salary was less than what was budgeted this year as well as the road use tax fund.

“I’m not saying that we’re going to come out of this with anything that might work. My hope is that we could, but that I’d like to bring it back to this committee with the result before moving forward,” Kinser said.

While council approval isn’t necessary because the spending is within Kinser’s authority, committee members made it clear she would have gotten support if she needed it.

“I think we need to do it. We’ve needed to do it for a long time,” Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann said.