Compensation and consulting cost city

KINGMAN – Mayoral candidate Les Byram said the city has wasted almost a million dollars in outside studies and severance packages for ex-city employees.

Is his beef with the city’s financial management valid?

The city relies on outside consulting services for many departments in addition to special projects such as local groundwater studies, the Kingman Area Transportation Study, and recently for the Revenue and Fee study by Red Oak Consulting.

Contracted services are employed for other areas: commercial plan reviewers and building inspectors during a hiring lull, or some engineering services such as work on improvement districts and sewer projects, according to City Finance Director Coral Loyd.

The city hired a consulting firm to conduct an employee compensation study in the fall of 2004 when the City Council rejected an in-house study completed months before.

“In each case, we’re talking about an expertise in an area that is not part of city operations,” Loyd said, adding that the city can’t afford to hire permanent experts for some areas, such as those to conduct hydrological studies or other particular engineering services.

The Revenue and Fee study, costing the city about $196,000, involved expertise the city needed to provide an overview of the city’s financial condition and a comparable analysis in relation to other cities, Loyd said.

“It was the first time ever, that I know of, where we actually looked at fee structures across the board and looked at it in one picture,” she said, adding that the study was used to match revenue structures to operations to form a long-term capital improvements plan.

Loyd said that the consultant had “the legal structure and engineering background to support the challenges and potential litigation that could arise” in establishing impact fees.

Every city that imposes impact fees hires an outside firm to complete the study, she said, regarding impact fee analysis.

“That’s the way we interpret the law.”

Sandy McCormack, budget manager for Lake Havasu City, said she couldn’t provide an exact figure on what that city spends on consulting services, but aside from the $6.7 million contract awarded to an engineering firm for the city’s sewer project, she guessed in the “low hundred thousands.”

“Throughout most of our major departments, we have some kind of consulting services,” she said.

Of city officials recently leaving their posts, two remain on payroll, most notably Dennis Roberts, the former community development director who has not worked for the city since last June, but is collecting the equivalent of his $99,000 a year salary.

Human Resources Director Jackie Walker said the city was “trying to get him to his retirement.”

Roberts will have 30 years with the Arizona State Retirement System if his payroll ran the course until June, of which the city will have paid his full salary plus about $13,000 in retirement contributions and health benefits, according to Walker’s figures.

Former City Clerk Toni Weddle resigned Feb.2 and will remain on the payroll until June 30 collecting a monthly salary of $5,168 and a total of $4,355 in retirement and benefits for the duration.

Kingman Police Captain Larry McGill, gone since last October, was paid about $22,000 plus retirement and benefits through Dec. 31.