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$300,000 consultant deal on council table Monday

In Barrie
Oct 5th, 2009

By Laurie Watt Barrie Advance Oct 01, 2009
A Barrie finance committee recommendation to spend a further $300,000 US on a specialized consultant highlights a problem at City Hall no one has ever discussed publicly, says Ward 8 Coun. Jerry Moore.City Hall has been slow to adopt private-sector management styles, which demand more from staff on all levels, he said.
“The results of the process improvement for the Barrie Molson Centre and the water meter and billing project showed that staff can find efficiencies. This is exactly what we, as members of council, want and expect from City Hall,” he said.
“I believe that if we were to lock 10 staff members in a room for 30 days they would find further savings on a variety of services we deliver and we wouldn’t need a consultant to achieve this. This should be the expectation of all staff.”
On the table Monday is a finance committee recommendation to proceed with a second Klapper Institute contract. Earlier this summer, the city spent $150,000 US to have the specialized firm help city staff deal with the Molson Centre and water-billing issues.
Staff from various departments worked together for 30 days to brainstorm on solutions, which have not been discussed at council.
Corporate services general manager Ed Archer, however, said the Klapper initiative is worth the time and money.
“We need to give managers and staff the tools they need to succeed. We’re asking them to produce results that previously weren’t expected in this organization and the pace of change is significant. The processes they’re using needs to be updated to reflect the demands of a growing community,” said Archer.
“Historically and without access to tools developed by Klapper, improvement plans would produce lesser results and take several months to complete. Generally, savings generated using Klapper methods will be worth three to five times the cost,” he added.
As employees learn the new way of working, they will become more effective and efficient, Archer explained.
“This reduces the need for consultant spending by giving staff access to modern management practices, saves real money for taxpayers and improves the quality of municipal services,” he said.
Moore, an accountant and business owner, disagrees. He said it’s a manager’s jobs to motivate staff to work together to find more-creative solutions.
“(Staff) needed the (opportunity) to work together for an extended period of time and to have someone there to push them, to help them overcome roadblocks.
“That’s what department managers are for. That’s exactly what a manager is supposed to do – motivate and help staff do their jobs effectively. To hire a consultant to do that is ridiculous.”
Ward 6 Coun. Michael Prowse said the city’s finance committee should have turned down the idea, referring to it as “so out-of-sync with taxpayers’ priorities.”
“This is the equivalent of a political nuclear fallout. It’s going to be devastating and have a ‘half life’ that could last for years,” he added.But city CAO Jon Babulic said further training for staff is a step on a “journey of excellence.”
“I was hired to bring forward a change initiative and that is exactly what I am delivering. I still believe the city is making the right decisions and doing the right thing as we continue our journey of excellence,” he said.
“Training our staff to have the tools is a critical component to ensure process improvements.”
Ward 7 Coun. John Brassard acknowledged the price is high, especially since the first series of plans has not yet been proven.
“I’m very concerned about spending this much money without hard evidence that we can save as much as is being touted, but I supported the motion coming to General Committee because we need to have a full and open discussion about this,” he said.


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