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Local News

Cash-Strapped Santa Barbara Hires Consultant To Help Manage Its Streets

Faced with a massive backlog of street repairs, the city of Santa Barbara is paying $100,000 to a Los Angeles-based consultant to teach Public Works Department administrative employees how to better organize and manage their workload

The City Council unanimously approved the spending at its Tuesday meeting. The $100,000 approved at the meeting is on top of another $100,000 the city already spent to have the consultant come up with the recommendations. 

“The goal is to be more organized,” Public Works Director Rebecca Bjork said.

The city hired LA Consulting, Inc to help in four key management areas: Planning, organizing, directing and controlling. The city issued that request for proposals in early 2015.

Bjork said the city needs to make major improvements in all areas, with a focus on determining resource requirements, workload distribution and its workload calendar.

Rather then have city staff implement the changes, the Public Works Department believes LA Consulting, Inc. can parachute in and make the changes faster than the city staff.

If the city staff made the organizational changes, it could take up to two years, but the consultants can speed that up to about six months, officials said. 

“The goal is to move into a more planned and proactive approach,”​ Bjork said.

“The goal is if we are going to patch a pothole on the street, to patch all the potholes on the street.”

The city has a roughly $13.5 million budget for streets. The money pays for fixing potholes, graffiti abatement, homeless encampment clean-up, garbage removal around town, portable toilets, striping and curb painting, and street sweeping. 

The city is already millions of dollars behind in its backlog on maintenance and is expecting a budget shortfall of about $1 million by 2017.

Cynthia Goena, a field representative for Service Employees International Union Local 620, said she was concerned about the city outsourcing jobs. 

“This money will come from salary savings in the future,” Goena said. “That's always a red light for us because our people are often affected by that.”

Bjork said hiring the consultant will help the city be more efficient. 

“The intent of this study is to set up new systems and new approaches to the way that we prioritize and implement work,”​ Bjork said.

“The goal is to be more organized and therefore better able to accomplish additional work. The staff that is in the street division doing the work are experienced in doing the work. They are less experienced in organizational management and the development of systems to implement the work. Whereas I am confident they can learn to do that work, they would be learning.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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