Highlights: Nanaimo Core Services Review Report

At the Monday council meeting the Nanaimo Core Services Review Report by Western Management Consultants was presented by the City Manager who gave an overview of the report via an audio link.

The City of Nanaimo paid approximately $250,000 for the report. The purpose of the report was to give ideas on how to increase efficiencies and cost savings and to streamline the structure of the corporation.  Here are some highlights from the report:

Problems noted:

  • City lacks strong corporate structures, controls and measures
  • departments operate independently
  • lack of purchasing procedures
  • less than 50% of purchases have purchase orders
  • lack of planning for purchases contributes to a high use of open purchase orders
  • lack of clear direction from council to senior management to staff

Recommended cuts:

  • close Departure Bay Activity Centre
  • sell 89 Prideaux and relocate Public works offices when rebuilt
  • close Beban pool for 3 months in summer instead of 1 month
  • close the CPSO
  • eliminate culture and heritage group director position
  • eliminate four prisoner guard positions
  • eliminate vacant management position for bylaw services
  • end grants to DNBIA and replace with specific grants per project
  • reduce overhead of Bylaw department
  • stop paying $78,000 to VICC for security

Recommended additions:

  • hire consultant for parking planning
  • add marketing resources for recreation (a sponsorship position?)
  • renegotiate parking fees with hotels
  • update service plans for recreation services
  • automate replenish orders and increase usage of purchase cards
  • increase use of carpool fleet
  • monitor fuel use for fleets vehicles used by directors and CAO

The report suggests that $1.7million a year could be saved and there could be a one time savings of $255,000.

45% of the City’s expenses come from the following five service areas which were not included in the report:

  • RCMP
  • Fire Department
  • IT Department
  • Waterworks
  • Sewers

The report did look at NEDC, VICC and DNBIA.

NEDC (Nanaimo Economic Development Corp)

    • the City should continue to fund NEDC
    • have a five year plan of what they are doing

DNBIA (Downtown Nanaimo Business Assoc)

  • discontinue city grant of approximately $250,000
  • fund specific projects as chosen  (the report noted a lack of a working population in the downtown area and any change would have to be made through urban planning)

VICC (Vancouver Island Conference centre)

  •  attract a hotel with help of City funding
  • draft a new management contract with stronger performance incentives before the end of 2017

(the report notes that the VICC loses more money per square foot of space than all its competitors. The City spends on average $1.2 million a year not including loan payments.)

Other Recommendations made were:

  • partner with SD68, RDN and Snuneymuxw on youth projects
  • give Harewood Community Centre to another community group
  • consider not renewing the assistance given to the Island Corridor Rail Foundation because the RDN has decided not to
  • landlords getting tax exemptions should report changes of occupancy or face repayment
  • have a clear sponsorship policy
  • clarify fees charged for rentals and leasing for parks & recreation

The City 2016-25 capital plan has a total planned outlay of $391 million.  In 2015 the City completed 122 capital projects; outlay was $8.1 million.

City of Nanaimo has 62 managers and 527 staff.

City Manager to Staff Ratios:
1 communications manager 2 staff
1 community development manager 2 staff
1 building permits/inspector manager 16 staff
1 human resources manager 11 staff

Suggestions from Joe Taxpayer

  • get rid of NEDC – the taxpayers can’t see their accounting
  • combine all tourism, recreation, and communications marketing staff into one department
  • do we need consultants to write reports every time we turn around?
  • how much money could be saved by ending sole sourcing contracts?
  • why doesn’t the prison guard budget come out of the RCMP contract? For $20 million we should be getting more for our money.
  • do we need so many managers?
  • why not have the culture department work with the tourism people?
  • have a romance policy to avoid costly human resources when relationships sour and people claim harassment etc.
  • get an updated phone system so staff have direct lines
  • have everyone change their voice mail every day (so people know if they are in or not)
  • have a policy that all calls and emails from taxpayers (ie the customer) must be responded to within 24 hours

It was reported in the local Nanaimo Bulletin that the consultant recommended an integration team to implement recommendations based on this report. The CAO was quoted as saying that she plans to add more jobs. Are the jobs going to be outsourced? Is outsourcing going to save money? Is the City going to be hiring more consultants?

The Core Review report was thin (245 pages) and most of the information was not new. Considering the City has an annual budget of approximately $200 million, the savings found through this report missed the mark.

2 thoughts on “Highlights: Nanaimo Core Services Review Report

  1. While I am in general agreement with your summary and comments, I do feel compelled to respond to a couple of them (it would have been useful to have them numbered):
    – Would the document have been better if it were longer?
    – Council, as the NEDC Board, can make its accounting available whenever they wish to do so.
    – Expert consultants can be much less expensive in the long run than hiring full time Staff who must often first learn their craft, and when their appointed task is finished must come up with other means to fill their time.
    – Finally, and in my view most important is that the document concerned itself as much or more with municipal structure rather than savings alone. A proper structure leads to long term savings, but simple savings without consideration for structure simple leads, in time, right back to the same old morass. The document gets full points for recognizing this difference and putting the responsibility where it belongs… on Council to set policy and procedure and Staff to carry them out efficiently and effectively and on the rest of us, the governed, to make our reasoned opinions known to both.

    In my opinion the document directs us away from the old boy culture which has been the norm in Nanaimo and toward an efficient corporate structure. Whether this change is successful will depend on those in City Hall and the rest of us.

  2. Thanks Ron, for your comments. Good points. The report was too expensive for a bunch of surveys completed by City staff. A good part of the report was what you could call “fill”. NEDC could make its accounting available but let’s face it is a “vehicle of convenience”. Consultants have their place. Too often they are used when City staff can do the work. Let’s hope the “culture” gets more efficient. As Councillor Kipp has said at past council meetings, the City has gone from providing a service to now being a corporation which is a whole other ball of wax. Is a “corporation” a good thing?

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