The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 4, 2013

Councilman: Slow down on Building and Neighborhood Services' reorganization

The Clinton Herald

---- — On Tuesday night, Nov. 26, City Administrator Jessica Kinser presented a four-page report to the Clinton City Council with a proposal to reorganize the Building Neighborhood Service Department and place the BNS Department under the control of the Clinton Fire Department.

The BNS Department has had significant management and organizational problems for several years. Plus, a lot of time and money has been spent in trying to make this department work; including the purchase of a building on Fifth Avenue that was never needed.

Kinser had four months to examine the BNS Department. Now, she offers the Clinton Fire Department as a last minute solution to the problem. Quite frankly, I expected better from Kinser. Why? Because city administrators are supposedly trained to offer various options when dealing with important problems.

Reorganizing the BNS Department is a major policy decision. There were clearly at least three options Kinser should have examined and presented to the council.

One: Draw up a plan predicated on using privatization. Examine various ways to contract the service out by hiring a private company or consulting firm to provide the service.

Two: Prepare a plan based on hiring qualified personnel, that have the educational background, and training that are needed to run this department. No matter what!

Three: Issue the report on using the Clinton Fire Department. This time include more detail and outline some of the important pros and cons of using the Fire Department.

There was absolutely nothing in this report regarding creative thoughts, ideas or suggestions as to how other options could save money. The report also lacked a great deal of key information on long-term cost, staffing, funding, fee structures, job descriptions, duties and much more for the BNS plan that was recommended.

The whole decision-making process revolved around one point, that Kinser was worried about some self-imposed Jan. 1 budget deadline. Budgets can be amended.

Opportunities to save the taxpayers money seldom if ever show up at Clinton City Hall.

The financial damage at city hall is wide and deep. The city will need to make radical changes to recover from this bottomless abyss. Reducing services, eliminating programs and cutting operational cost should be a priority. It’s not. Residents cannot endure more taxes and fees added onto the highest rates in the state. The voters are fed up with that message.

The message to elected officials from voters is loud and clear. Get the city’s financial house in order, make better decisions or face political elimination. At least 10 incumbent council members have been removed during the last four years and ineffective mayors do not survive.

The issue to reorganize the BNS Department should have been delayed for more study. The question never should have centered solely on whether the fire department could provide BNS service or not. They can, but we have no idea at what real cost?

The decision should have been predicated on examining three viable options based on good financial information, best business practices and sound business solutions. The taxpayers’ interest is best protected when all sides of the issue are examined and this did not happen. In Clinton, Iowa the taxpayers still fund all mistakes.

John Rowland,


John Rowland is an at-large Clinton city councilman.