Tuesday's Council Meeting Agenda Reviewed (Amended)*
The agenda for next Tuesday's City Council meeting is out and available for public scrutiny. So, since that's what we do here, I present to you some observations for your weekend mulling-over.
CONSENT CALENDAR NUGGETS
In the past the Consent Calendar of the agenda would barely get a notice. These items are, to use the City's term, "...considered to be routine and will be acted upon in one motion." Uh-huh... maybe a long time ago, but not these days. For example...
JONES & MAYER PAYMENT
Item #4, Warrant Resolution 2378, HERE, contains the bill for Jones & Mayer. This month it is $117,783.34, which if projected out for a year would mean we're going to be paying our contract legal staff more than $1.4 million in this fiscal year. "But", you say, " this is just one month!" OK, except the past two months have shown the same rate. Even more interesting is that this council REDUCED the budget for Jones & Mayer to $800,000 from $1 million originally planned. Nothing in my observations of this council since they took office in January leads me to believe they will incur smaller legal bills for the city - quite the contrary.
NEW CITY WEB SITE DESIGN
Item #5, Vision Internet Providers, Inc., contains a lengthy analysis of various vendors and the rationale behind selecting this one to re-design the city web site. You can read the entire staff report HERE. My friend and fellow observer of issues at City Hall, Tom Egan, jumped the gun on this one and sent me his critique of this issue before I could even get this post prepared. Rather than post his comment later, (I'm not sure my blog host will accommodate such a lengthy comment) I've decided to simply give you his words of wisdom and insight as part of this post. Here's his take on this issue as he sent it to me early this morning, verbatim:
TOM EGAN'S VIEW OF "VISION INTERNET PROVIDERS, INC."
Speaking of something to be skeptical about … here’s something from city hall that smells fishy. (Don’t blame me; we report, you decide!)
Consider staff’s recommendation for the new, improved web site (Tuesday’s Consent Calendar, item number 5). True, the winner’s bid, recommended 9 – 0 by our evaluation committee, was nicely under the allocated $50,000 (as were several others of the nine bidders).
And true, staff negotiated some additional work that modestly bumped the “final” number for Vision Internet Providers, of Santa Monica, to just over the allocated $50 K ($50,320). And true, the city manager states that he’s got the extra $350 in his budget. So far, so good.
But now it gets sticky. Very sticky. Staff also recommends that Council authorize 40% for contingency! And there is literally no justification given for this huge amount. Nada. Zip.
Now, in anybody’s book, forty percent is an incredibly high amount to request for contingency. 5 or 10% is not unheard of, but 40%?
Perhaps this contingency amount is for uncertainty, but that’s hard to believe. Consider how little the following facts leave for uncertainty on the part of either the city or the vendor:
• The RFP was quite detailed – 12 pages.
• The RFP was copied almost word for word from another city’s similar procurement. How many surprises could our staff run into when another city has done the same work already and knew the actual costs?
• The contract is exhaustively detailed – 10 pages.
• The vendor’s proposal is 15 pages, indicating they knew enough to go beyond just parroting back the words of the RFP.
• Staff answered 57 questions from potential bidders. While some questions were duplicates, the large number implies that nobody held back from finding out what they needed to know (excepting, of course, any strategic holding back).
A further indication of fish, according to the Agenda Report, “The CEO will review all contingency items and report to the City Council related to any expenditure above $50,350.” Sounds reassuring, maybe, but he’s only promising to tell the council that he’s already spent the money; he isn’t promising to get council approval for each change-order use of the “contingency” fund.
The final poke in the eye, one especially painful for anybody who has believed the councilmen’s claim that the sky is falling and the city is broke, is the city manager stating, “If necessary, staff will move existing appropriations to implement any contingency needs.” So there’s so much money squirreled away that Mr. Hatch can easily come up with $20,000? Does that imply that the past few months of fiscal agony have simply been Kabuki Theater?
A skeptical take on this staff recommendation says that the real contract will be for at least $70,350, meaning that Vision I. P. will not have been the actual low bidder … by 40%. City hall, for some unknown reason, isn’t letting the public know why this particular vendor is favored with a contract 40% bigger than all his competitors thought it would be.
Shades of Tammany Hall! Is this a foretaste of future wheelings and dealings?
And you thought I was long-winded!
*BILL LOBDELL'S RESPONSE
Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell saw Tom Egan's take on this issue and sent me the following information:
The much-needed redesign and re-launch of the city’s website was originally budget for $50,000. City staff was able to get the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitors Bureau to pick up $40,000 of that cost. In other words, the City is getting a state-of-the-art website that will greatly enhance transparency and citizen interaction at a cost to local taxpayers of $10,000.
The City is asking for a contingency NOT for cost overruns for the original scope of work, but for additional features the City may want to quickly add—specifically, interactive features that will allow residents and companies to do more business with Costa Mesa online (and eliminate a trip to City Hall). By making the transactions as easy as possible, the City will likely attract more revenue.
We had always planned the website rollout in two phases. With the contribution from the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitors Bureau, we wanted to have the flexibility to move more quickly if funds become available instead of having to go through another RFP process.LOBDELL'S CONTRACT EXTENDED - AGAIN
The next item on the Consent Calendar, #6, is the extension of the contract with Lobdell as Four Boys New Media for the remainder of the year for a total contract value of $120,000. You will recall he was hired quite rapidly just as the new council majority decided to outsource half the city staff back in March for $3,000 per week for 12 weeks. That subsequently got extended for another quarter plus. This extension will take him to the end of the year. Before you get all hot and bothered about this move, read the staff report, HERE. There can be no doubt that his presence at City Hall has been quite positive. Following his arrival the City has generated more usable information in a short period of time than I can remember happening in the past.
GROWTHPORT PARTNERS EXTENSION
Item #7 is the extension of the contract with GrowthPort Partners for "employment-related professional support services" and extends the term to run through June, 2012 and an amount not to exceed $100,000. You can read that staff report HERE. Quite honestly, this one makes me a little uneasy since it's going to place a lot of authority in the hands of folks with no long-term commitment to the City. In particular is the portion that talks about their role in assessing the results of the outsourcing RFP's - if they are ever sent out and returned. I understand that CEO Tom Hatch may be overwhelmed with the volume of work laid on him by the City Council, but his organization chart shows no permanent staffers, only consultants or "interim" folks.
And that is just part of the Consent Calendar!
Under Public Hearings we have two interesting items to be discussed.
MOTOR VEHICLE VIOLATION CERTIFICATION FEE
The first is the establishment of a fee for certification of correction of vehicle code violations. You can read the staff report HERE, but the nutshell version is that we don't charge to perform these certifications and most of our neighboring cities do, so we get lots of folks from other cities coming to our Police Department to get the certification done free. The proposal is to charge $10.00, which is about the middle of what other cities charge. We would NOT charge a fee for Costa Mesa residents who were cited by Costa Mesa police officers.
CODE ENFORCEMENT SCOFFLAWS
Public Hearing Item #2 will authorize the city to go after folks who have refused to pay civil fines for code enforcement violations. The total here is about $32,000. You can read the staff report, including the names and addresses of your neighbors in violation, HERE.
MASSAGE PARLORS ORDINANCE
Under Old Business, the council will approve the new ordinance regulating Massage Parlors.
They will also consider two requests from youth sports groups. The first, from Newport Mesa Girls Softball, asks for a two year grace period. The second, from Friday Night Lights Flag Football asks for Group 1 Field User status.
FIRE SERVICE PROPOSAL ASSESSMENT
Under New Business, the second item on the agenda is the discussion - and decision - regarding options for Fire Service Delivery. This lengthy staff report by Interim Assistant Chief Executive Officer Terry Matz, including the four attachments, can be viewed HERE. Cutting to the chase, Matz tells us there are significant savings to be had by picking one of the three options the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) has proposed despite the fact that shifting to that organization for Fire Protection will have some significant start-up costs. The discussion of this item should be VERY interesting. I'm going to be very interested in the take the leadership of the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association has on this report.
SR-55 EXTENSION STUDY
Next comes the report on the study underway on the next phase of the State Route 55 extension. You can read Public Services Director Peter Naghavi's staff report HERE. A consultant has been chosen to shepherd this next phase of the study.
CANCELING AUGUST 16TH MEETING?
Finally, the council will discuss canceling the scheduled City Council meeting of August 16th, citing limited activity anticipated at that time. You can read the rationale for that move HERE. Funny, with all the RFPs that still have not been released, you'd think there will be things for the council to consider. That would make the next meeting following the August 2nd meeting September 6th - the day after the Labor Day holiday weekend. That meeting will be the last one before the 6-month notices of layoffs expire. I can tell you that there will be a lot of very nervous city employees as we approach Labor Day without resolution of the outsourcing issues.
This should give you something to chew on while you're housebound this weekend due to the anticipated "Carmageddon" caused by the 53 hour closure of the 405 Freeway in West Los Angeles. Just hunker down with your computer and study these staff reports. Yeah, that sounds like fun, huh? Or, you could just go to the Orange County Fair, which opens officially today.