Council disappointed at lack of depth in restructuring report
If a municipality hires a consultant to prepare a report on whether or not it should use more consultants and the report fails to meet expectations, does this negatively impact the municipality’s thoughts about using consultants in the future, therefore voiding the entire need for the report in the first place?
At Wednesday’s Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting, Council members as well as the public were less than impressed with the Outsourcing/Consolidation Report presented by Avery and Associates.
As part of the Town’s efforts to restructure the way it does business, it wanted to conduct a review of outsourcing opportunities and look into potential cooperative service provisions in Mono County. Avery and Associates was hired to the tune of $9,500 to compile a review that would help determine if services could be delivered more efficiently and/or have a lower cost, according to the staff report Wednesday night.
Les White, Principal Consultant for Avery and Associates and Project Manager for the review, presented his report to Council Wednesday evening. In between describing his love of Mammoth and how he purchased three extra camera lenses in order to capture its beauty while he was here, White explained that “contracting is not a panacea. Don’t just do it because you want to do it,” he said. “It can be good but needs to be thought through.”
Council, however, was disappointed at the lack of depth in the report.
“I had a different expectation from this report,” Council member Rick Wood stated, “something more specific. Are there areas that we can drill down into to improve efficiencies?”
Wood hoped that instead of just telling the Town it could argue for or against any contract, that White would have recommended specific areas where the Town should be using contracts.
“Wherever you are using contracts now and it is working, you could expand,” White replied. He pointed out that he had only been tasked to look at what could be done, not what should be done.
Describing himself as a concerned local, Tom Cage stepped to the podium and explained his take on the report.
“A consultant has been asked to look at your watch and then tells you what time it is,” Cage said. “I hope Council doesn’t spend anymore money with this firm.”
Cage pushed further claiming that Council should be using locals that understand the uniqueness of the area and can help move things forward.
“The consultants don’t understand it,” Cage said. “We need to work with what we have.”
John Wentworth, Executive Director of MLTPA, one of the local groups currently contracting with the Town, added that organizations like his that are engaged in contracts already and are hard at work should be included in discussions and reviews about contracting services going forward.
According to White’s report, he had conducted one-day meetings and discussions with the Town Manager and individuals he recommended. Sixteen interviews were conducted with department heads, two members of the Council, two County officials, a high level manager of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, the Water District General Manager and the Town Manager. In addition, White prepared a survey about contracting services with Town Manager Rob Clark’s help, which was distributed to different agencies in comparable cities.
White’s report suggested six next steps for the Council to take in the next few months. These included having Council conduct a goal-setting session to help shape the FY 2011/12 budget, staffing and work plan; have the Police Department further look into contracting and volunteer options; continue to transition MMSA provided transit into contracted services with ESTA; negotiate contracts with specific performance-based standards with entities such as Mammoth Lakes Tourism, MLTPA and Mammoth Lakes Housing; convene Town, County, Water and Fire districts to discuss shared and contracted Administrative Services; and continue to identify new contracts to pursue.
Town staff was asking Council to approve the report and direct staff to come back with a plan to implement these next steps. Mayor Pro Tem Jo Bacon, however, did not feel that the report was adequate enough to be able to implement a plan for next steps and suggested the Council simply accept the report, which it did.
Editor’s note: Duh. This is what happens when a consultant meets with the Town Manager and handpicked acolytes who are more intent on saving their own asses than discovering efficiencies which might ultiomately reduce the number of acolytes.