Council OKs move away from consultants

December 19, 2018
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Rochester City Administrator Steve Rymer said adding city staff to oversee Destination Medical Center will cut expenses and improve the process.

“We want to reduce the use of our consultants,” he told the Rochester City Council Monday. “We want to improve the way we manage programs.”

The council unanimously approved adding four project managers and an administrative assistant to directly manage various DMC projects.

Of the four proposed project managers, two will serve as city representatives for DMC transit and infrastructure projects; one will focus on special initiatives, such as public-realm projects; and the fourth will work to ensure DMC projects comply with legislative mandates.

The work is currently being done by Minneapolis-based SRF Consulting, which performed much of the required oversight for approximately $700,000 this year.

Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish noted that doesn’t include work done by a variety of staff members. Rather, it’s an added expense to cover staffing needs related to DMC efforts.

The new project managers will replace the expense of hiring SRF to fill the gaps, he said.

Council member Ed Hruska said the concept makes sense but also raised concerns about adding to the city’s payroll.

“When you absorb a lot of (full-time employees), that’s a cost for years to come,” he said.

Hruska said people are already frustrated by the amount of money being spent on DMC efforts, along with increased tax levies.

Parrish said the proposed hires aren’t expected to affect either the cost of DMC efforts or property taxes, since the new employees will be funded through existing DMC-dedicated funds.

The overall cost of the five new employees is estimated at approximately $730,000 a year, which will be covered by the funds provided for SRF, as well as other potential savings by bringing the work under direct staff control.

Council member Michael Wojcik said that direct control also adds to potential collaboration with larger city transit efforts, as well as transportation work done by the county and state.

Additionally, he said, it helps ensure the funds are used efficiently for the next two decades, if not longer.

“What I struggle with is that consultants are really good at making work for other consultants,” he said, noting he likes the idea of reducing the city’s reliance on consultants.

Council member Mark Hickey said he appreciates the potential savings, but noted care must be taken to ensure the funds are well spent.

“I think the idea has merit, but the execution will be critical,” he said.

While the both supported the move, neither Hruska or Hickey will be on the council when the change is made, since Monday was their last council meeting.

To make the change, the city will also need approval of the DMC Corp. board, which meets Feb. 5.

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