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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 11:03 pm | Fair 46º


Consultant Report Blasts Santa Barbara Public Works Streets Management

Santa Barbara needs to completely overhaul the way it manages it streets and storm drains, and the severity of the problem is unknown, according to a city consultant’s report.

The city’s Finance Committee of Gregg Hart, Jason Dominguez and Harwood “​Bendy” White heard the news at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

“What we want to get to is a system where we have a more planned approach to our activities,” city transportation manager Chris Toth said. “The system running right now is not functioning well.”

Santa Barbara has its back against the wall, facing a multimillion-dollar massive backlog of street repairs.

The city paid $100,000 to a Los Angeles-based consultant to teach Public Works Department administrative employees how to better organize and manage their workload.

Santa Barbara initially planned to spend another $100,000 to implement those changes, but Toth said that number will be cut to $50,000. 

But where it all goes, no one knows.

“Until we get planning and organizing and working well we are not going to do anything else well,”​ Toth said. “We are completing work but not doing very through analysis of what we have done.”

The city hired LA Consulting, Inc to help in four key management areas: Planning, organizing, directing and controlling.

The city is not planning its street repairs well, nor documenting it thoroughly when they do make repairs. Much of the work is reactive, in emergency situations, the consultant found.

Public Works has also strayed from its performance measurements and hasn’t purchased trucks and other equipment to keep the pace for street repairs, according to the report.

The consultant made 53 recommendations, 15 involving ongoing support from the consultant, 29 that city staff could make on its on and another nine that made possible through new Cartegraph software.

Toth said planning was a “big weakness” in the department. 

The city is also wrestling with how to repair its storm drains in a timely fashion. Toth said it would cost $4 million to replace defective and aging storm drain pipes. 

Hart said he wishes the consultant would have reviewed street and storm drain problems citywide so the city could understand more closely the extent of the problem.

“We don’t have a story to tell of whether this is an iceberg or ice cube,” Hart said.

Consultants plan to work with city staff on an implementation plan in the spring and in the meantime, the city plans to hold all job vacancies open. 

Part of the consultant’s recommendations was to see how the city could be more efficient with its resources. 

“We need to take our existing staff and define our roles,” Toth said. “We need to better focus our employee activities on what their new roles are.”

The city is also angling to put a streets maintenance tax measure on the November ballot.

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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