US consultant loses Barrie contract
By Laurie Watt, Barrie Advance Oct 06, 2009
City staff will have to find another way to think creatively.
Barrie councillors turned down a staff idea 10-1 to spend another $300,000 American on a consultant to help city staff think outside the box.
This spring, the city sole-sourced $150,000 US on a contract to have the Connecticut-based Klapper Institute help staff come up with ideas on how to stop the Barrie Molson Centre from losing money and to help the city reduce its water-meter reading and billing costs.
“You can get process improvements many different ways. This one is unique. Klapper has a patented approach. Staff have found this to be the major intervention we needed to create cultural change,” said city CAO Jon Babulic.”Certainly we could pursue others. We found this to be effective because it engaged people.”
For $150,000, Klapper worked with 19 staff members for 30 days on the two projects. Suggestions included charging for parking at the Molson Centre and renegotiating the food and beverage contract with the Colts.
Klapper normally charges $100,000 per project, but the city negotiated a deal that also included water billing, Babulic added.
Senior city management proposed expanding the training program for another $300,000 US.
“The total cost is in the neighbourhood of $450,000 or $500,000, depending on where the dollar is trading,” said Ward 10 Coun. Alex Nuttall.
“My concern is we have a recommendation to spend (the additional) $300,000 before we fully achieve results outlined (in the proposed improvement plans)… I believe it’s premature.”
If the city wants to invest in staff training, it should issue a Request for Proposals, and examine its options, Nuttall added. “We need to look at the sole-sourcing. Do the (suggestions) outlined warrant going back to Klapper?”
Ward 6 Coun. Michael Prowse said the concept was ill-considered and poorly timed.
“It looks bad. It smells bad. You cannot package it and sell it in north or south Barrie any day of the week,” said Prowse, who said he was caught off-guard when he read the recommendation in a finance committee package two weeks ago before councillors had been told about first phase results.
“When I read it, what was left of my hair stood up,” he said.
Ward 3 Coun. Rod Jackson said he’s not convinced, even after hearing from staff, the $300,000 is worth the risk.
“I’m not sold that the solutions will work. They’re contingent on things outside our control. I feel like we’re being asked to make a high dive into a shallow pool,” he said.
“I’ve worked with a few corporations and done similar change management without consultants, we hired you (staff) to do this stuff and you’re capable. The resources are there.”
Ward 1 Coun. Mike Ramsay said City Hall has to change the way it works by reducing its reliance on outside help.
“It’s a question of tax dollars. You either spend the money or you oppose it. I’m opposed to it based on my belief on reducing spending on outside consultants,” said Ramsay.
“Hiring consultants can become an addiction. It’s like taking painkillers. The more you take, the more you want.”