Study encourages UH to outsource

Where is city council taking our town, UH residents wondered after sitting in a packed council chamber to watch a 47-slide presentation by the Northeast Ohio Sourcing Office on Jan. 19. The slide show recommended that the city privatize, outsource or collaborate with other cities for most of the services it provides, including fire department, garbage pick-up, snow/leaf removal, housing inspection and many others.

Council awarded a $25,000 contract to NEOSO to identify the services. According to their Web site, NEOSO is "an extension of your procurement team. We develop best-in-class contracts for a wide range of products and services in compliance with state-mandated procurement guidelines."

Councilman Kevin Patrick Murphy had contacted David Akers, NEOSO founder, in July 2008 to discuss a study. Ebie Holst, principal of Strategic Gear, partnered with Akers in September 2008 to propose and conduct the study that was awarded to them in January 2009, with then Vice-Mayor Adele Zucker casting the sole dissenting vote. This was NEOSO’s first such study.

At the Jan. 19 meeting, Holst told the audience that University Heights "is not a city in crisis," but he believed the city might save $75,000 to $2 million with the NEOSO plan. Both Akers and Holst acknowledged the city’s extensive current collaborations, over 90, with local and regional cooperation, which contributes to its fiscal stability.

In 2008, council received two competing bids. The losing bid was proposed by the Center for Public Management at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs. It was to study the efficiency of the overall operations of departments and the potential for reducing costs. It included an analysis of financial trends including revenue, expenditures, capital assets and debt position.

Residents had questions after the slide show: How did they get the $75,000 to $2 million figures? How many city employees will be left in city hall—half, less than half? Where’s the written report—a narrative with facts and conclusions? There was none. Why did a buying office get this contract; don’t they do this for free to get jobs?

Although council members and residents had requested a copy of the report in advance, NEOSO failed to provide it. Thus, Akers is returning on Feb. 23 to answer questions.

We know council works hard to improve our city, but residents are confused as to how council is trying to accomplish this—by providing better services or by preparing the city for merger or regionalization.

University Heights is fortunate to have citizens who are actively engaged in city government. Council and residents need information, facts and documentation, and agreement before major changes are made. If council wants the support of residents, it needs to articulate where it wants to take the city and why. Perhaps collaboration should begin at home.

Send your comments and suggestions for future topics to Anita Kazarian at AnitaKazarian@gmail.com.

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Volume 3, Issue 3, Posted 12:09 PM, 03.03.2010