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City looks at staff to replace consultants

December 17, 2018

Two weeks after approving approximately $700,000 in consultant fees related to oversight of Destination Medical Center projects, the Rochester City Council will consider hiring staff to take over the efforts in 2019.

“I think we understand that this is a long-term initiative now, and we’re assessing what’s the best approach for us,” Rochester Deputy Administrator Aaron Parrish told the council on Dec. 3.

On Monday, Parrish will proposed hiring five staff members — four project managers and an administrative assistant — to do the work currently assigned to Minneapolis-based SRF Consulting.

The estimated expense is approximately $730,000, which means it won’t produce much saving over the current SRF-related expenses for DMC program management, which calls for the consultants to act in place of city staff.

However, Parrish notes the new hires would offset other costs connected to oversight of DMC projects, such as ensuring projects comply with legislative mandates for hiring women- and minority-owned businesses. Those duties have cost the city $446,000 in outside staff expenses during an approximate two-year period.

Another $150,000 could have been saved this year if city staff were available to do additional work SRF consultants undertook, according to a memo Parrish sent to council members.

Council member Michael Wojcik questioned the value of the SRF contract when the council approved the latest fees.

“I’m a bit of a skeptic that we’ve achieved the value of this contract,” he said, noting he’d like to see a study of what has been done related to the contract that started in 2015 and currently amounts to $10.2 million.

Program management services are a small portion of the contract. SRF has also been tasked with providing expertise related to the transportation studies required to access federal funding for projects, such as the planned on-street circulator to move people between different parts of the DMC district, as well as other work.

Since funding for city staff to take over program management duties would be covered by established DMC resources, Parrish said approval is needed from the DMC Corp. board, which isn’t scheduled to meet until Feb. 5.

If the council approves the plan Monday, Parrish said staff will create detailed job descriptions for the DMCC board to consider.

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 council will receive a report on the proposal during its committee of the whole meeting at 3:30 p.m. Monday in room 104 of City Hall, and will be asked to approve creating the new staff positions at the regular council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center.

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