12 May 2021 City Council Study Session

City is understaffed big-time, 2 new FTEs needed at DPW, 1-1/2 FTEs at Legal; Auto Center Way and surrounding developments to get major road surface upgrades in 2021;  Kylie Finnell as Interim City Attorney until 11/30 replacing Roger Lubovich who retires 6/31; State BLS  to do our online business license applications as of Jan 2022, requiring new ordinance to amend Bremerton Municipal Code (BMC).

City understaffing: Haven’t recovered from 2008 recession staff cuts though workload has increased, often doubled. Lovely, heartbreaking presentation of individual staffers’ speaking of their workloads, stress levels, day-to-day job experience at DPW, echoed by Charlotte Nelson, Human Resources, on behalf of all departments. We have the revenue to cover hiring more staff. Consensus is, we should.

Wouldn’t Richard Huddy be happy about the Auto Center Way resurfacing. He loves chip-sealing & proposed smooth roads around that area so prospective car-buyers would think they had a smooth-riding car.

Kylie Finnell – this is a homecoming & she looks smart and calm and knowledgeable and she speaks plain English. I like her a lot so far.

Business Licenses – FileLocal seduced us with pretty promises & couldn’t deliver. Now we’re going with State BLS to process business license applications. Ordinance amending the Bremerton Municipal Code to be in line with State BLS requirements included in packet, pp. 2-16 (i.e., somewhat extensive changes).. NB: We have only 1300 landlord licenses. In a town that’s 60-40 renters-owners, that seems like a very, very low number. Imho, each rental should have its own license. The revenue from additional licenses could go directly to pay for annual inspections for general habitability.

MAY 12, 2021 CITY COUNCIL STUDY SESSION      Notes by Anna Mockler

A. BRIEFINGS on AGENDA BILL ITEMS (5:00 pm)

1. Ordinance amending the Bremerton Municipal Code relating to General Business Licenses to support transition to WA State BLS online applications

Andrea Spencer presernts: FileLocal promised great online business license applications & renewals etc., and that costs would go down as time went on & more cities joined. Not so much. So the City is going in another direction, with State BLS. Licenses are due 1/31 of every calendar year. The changeover will include outreach to all local businesses already licensed, will involve no additional costs. Two-week gap between end of File Local (early Jan 2022) and start of State BLS. Jeanette Wischhoefer will provide Council with copies of letters sent to all local businesses. This means that businesses have only one application, State, instead of State and City. 4200 total biz licenses, add’l 1300 landlord licenses. The change will have no effect on cost. Moved to General Business, per Leslie Daugs, with general consensus in agreement.

2. Public Works Agreement with Doolittle Construction, Inc. for the 2021 City Road Preservation Project

Check the Map in the packet. Fancying up the roads with chip sealing and slurry to make smooth surfaces on Auto Center Way and in developments and roads north and west of Auto Center. (p. 18 of the packet). Everything is based on the Pavement Condition Rating System. These areas are in the Fair condition, not Poor yet, so this resets the clock. It will probably be a couple of decades before we have to go.back and redo. (What roads are rated Poor? I ask myself.) Daugs asks about sidewalks on Washington that have had temporary repairs — blacktop — for a while now. Shane Weber says this is because we’re coming back down the line to make a permanent installation. Daugs asks more questions about her district, which could certainly use some roadwork like this. For me, Leslie Daugs’s fierce advocacy for her district is so fine. Gorman reminds Council that we have to stay on topic; he let this one slide, but let’s keep it in mind.  Goodnow clarifies that DPW is looking at the whole city. Simpson wants more information – the four-year plan – so we can determine if we’re heading in the right direction. He asks for more information about the plan. Shane says that will be delivered to Council soon. Gorman asks why all the work is in District 7. Weber says it’s more efficient to do all in one small area, it just so happens that the area is all in one District. There’s chortling about the coincidence that yet more work is being done to improve District 7. Moved to General Business, per Simpson, “I think it’s important that we let people know.”

3. Local Agency Supplemental Agreement No. 2 with Skillings, Inc. for the Washington & 11th Roundabout Project

Washington Ave N of the proposed roundabout to get new sewers and lower sidewalks. 11th St from Pleasant Ave to just E of Highland Ave.

4. Professional Services Agreement with Barker Creek Consulting, LLC for Construction Management Services for Oyster Bay Beach Sewer Upgrades

This is entirely funded by DOE — we contribute to other parts of this project, but this section is 100% funded by DOE. Moved to Consent Agenda.

5. Authorize 1 FTE Transportation Project Manager and 1 FTE Internal Services Manager for the Public Works & Utilities Department

$5.00 bet here between me and Lulu the dog: Simpson will object to hiring FTEs; Younger will probably object. Knuckey presents. Making this mid-year request “necessary to address operational workload”, in plain English, they have more work than they have people. Two retirements coming up. Good graph by DPW on comparisons of transportation staffing 2008 vs. 2021 — missing now: Civil Engineer III (1); Engineering Senior Technician (1); Engineering Technician II and IV (1 of each). 6 positions now; 10 back in 2008, and regulations are more complicated now, ADA etc. Average Managing Engineer stays in the job 3 yrs. Knuckey points out that comparable cities all have a Transportation Project Manager, who provides tech oversight for both operations and planning studies (that’s a heck of a job right there alone). They are also traffic engineer, transportation planner & capital progam manager. This is clearly a job for a single workaholic insomniac! He goes into a description of how personnel and projects are funded by grants ($2.6m for transportation from lobbying alone). Our lobbying opportunities will increase when earmarks come back. When projects move from design to construction, they become highest priority to avoid delay claims from contractors and inflexible deadlines in grants. Over 581 customer response tickets that have been sent to Engineering, so there’s a pretty big backlog. We need a planner for those — they’re more complicated than “go fill that pothole” — and we also have Gorst, SR3 Freight Corrdidor, PSIC/Airport Way. Comparable cities have 2.5-4 capital projects per Engineer — each of our engineerrs is working on over 6.5 capital projects. Another reason he’s asking mid-year is that recruiting is tough & he figures it’ll take several months to fill the position. He describes other positions that have been searching for applicants for months. [I ask myself: Where are they doing outreach? Are they seeking a diversity of applicants?] Shane Weber recaps and repeats, names specific employees who are being crushed by their workload, emphasizes how much more work there is to do in EVERY part of DPW since he was hired 5 years ago. Gunnar Fridriksson: He left DPW 6 years ago because he just couldn’t handle the stress with reduced staff and increased workload. Ned Lever: It’s difficult for us to do this at times; he appreciates the Council considering this mid-year request. He mentions how hard it was for Gunnar to talk about how very tough it was for him. And these asks don’t cover our full needs. Knuckey presents again. Need an Internal Services Manager to parcel out the work fairly and effectively. The workload has increased as regulations and projects increase. Great chart on Current Organization! It’s not in the Agenda Packet but it should be. (5:55pm on the videotape.) More power point describes the wack overwork: Milenka, for example, does Streets, Forestry, and Equipment Services — she oversees 20 FTEs with a budget of $9M. He does, as he would say, “a deep dive” into specific positions with their specific responsibilities. He talks about shifting Forestry to another manager’s division. [Ecology Position! NPDES, Forestry, Shoreline Management, etc. That’s what I think City needs. And with the price of contracting out, it makes sense.] Wayne Hamilton talks about how adding facilities has added to workload. He’s responsible for safety, that’s half his job and it’s a full-time job all on its own, it sounds like. There’s a field safety person who helps, but it’s still not enough. He can’t do his job properly  Costs are detailed in powerpoint chart at 6:12pm. Basically, cost of the new positions would raise annual costs from $183K to $334K. We expected less GFC $$ than we got, some utility projects were delayed, growth much higher than expected, and DPW has secured more grants than expected. Revenue/Labor Trends (6:15 pm) shows that $$ coming in exceeds $$ for staff.

Discussion: Goodnow — You guys have obviously gotten Council’s message that we don’t want to hire any new people, so maybe we should change our message. Daugs — if you’re so in need of managers, how is staffing for the union people, the workers? Knuckey — we’ll present after coordinating with Mayor and Finance at budget time. Daugs: Will new FTEs decrease overtime? Knuckey: Managers don’t get overtime. Internal Services Manager (Chris, Facilities Inventory Supvr now) overtime will decrease because right now he’s acting as manager etc., and he does all the after hours work which is mandatory overtime. Facilities, by its nature, involves OT because the work is done when it won’t interfere with building use, i.e., nights and weekends. Wheat: DPW’s presentations over past several weeks have convinced her that we need these FTEs. If we’re going to ask for more information, we have to give you the resources to have staff produce that! [Go Councilor Wheat!] We have high expectations of City staff, and they have high expectations for themselves. For recruitment and retention, we need a sensible workload. We should get those FTEs. Sullivan: I am quite upset with our City leadership. You (DPW) shouldn’t have to come here and express these concerns. Staff members shouldn’t be bringing this to us, “we have a budget period”. This should have come years ago, and it should have come to budget. The Mayor didn’t bring it to the Council and he should have. DPW has clearly presented the need for a work/life balance. She disagrees with Goodnow that Council has given the impression that they would not be open to hiring. The Mayor should have brought this to Council at budget time. We weren’t given the opportunity during the budget process to plan. You come to us and announce grants received, we say thank you, but you don’t bring us this other part. “I support your increased staffing needs”. Gorman asks that derogatory remarks be excluded in future. Simpson: He will try to refrain from being derogatory or inflammatory. What is the current salary range for Utility Service Specialist? He asks because City will save $8K by downgrading one position (the staffer in that position won’t take a pay cut, but when it becomes vacant, the new staffer will come into an Office Assistant Senior position. Simpson:  He thinks back to some previous occupations that he’s had. He thinks back to being forward deployed. Many of his colleagues do more work and they do it for a lot less and they do it for all of us. They do it for our community, they do it for our state, they do it for nation. They do it without overtime and they manage more projects and they do it because it’s their duty. We’re in a pandemic. Many people in our community don’t have jobs because thew government told them that their jobs were not essential. The government jobs seem to keep increasing, and the government jobs seem to grow exponentially. And that’s the thing that we’re talking about here we’re talking about growing the depth of our government.
He starts talking about folks who are unemployed and on the streets and the folks who’ve lost their lost their businesses, because the government imposed a lockdown. Gorman: point of order. Stick to the point. Simpson: Our median income is about 50 grand. But there are plenty of people in our community who are doing more with less. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Is this helping the people? Why are we doing it? Why? I don’t think we’ve made the case for it. Knuckey: The cost of the position is not the salary, it’s the cost of the position: medical, SSI, etc. Younger: I find the arguments compelling. Were the complaints of overwork sent to HR? How were they responded to? Charlotte Nelson, HR: We haven’t had employees complain to us of stress. I’ve come to Council several times to upgrade positions, and it was shot down every time. Younger asks her to elaborate, and Nelson says every time they come before Council, they get torn down on camera, so she didn’t think she’d get a good response by bringing up an employee who had to take a leave of absence due to stress. Younger: This should have been brought up at budget. We just authorized three FTEs a couple of months ago because it was a crisis. Now we have another crisis. We need to hear from Parks, Police, Fire. If Council’s going to allow these pitches to be made, let’s just move Budget up and do all of the departments. Mayor: Anyone who’s been on Council for a while knows that there are staffing issues. We have a structural imbalance. That’s why in the past a workload analysis was done of the whole department (DPW), at the behest of Younger (then Pres.) and Mayor. Now we have the data. Which we got at your request, Council. Gorman: Will other departments come forward before Budget in the fall? Mayor: As we do workload analysis of each department, they bring their staffing needs to Budget — when it’s a crisis, as in DPW, we bring it to you outside of the Budget process. Short answer — no, no other depts will come to you before Budget.

Discussion, Second Round. Goodnow: Emphasizes that workload analysis provided evidence that FTEs were needed. He asks Mayor to communicate better with Council about how these things are going, wishes he had been more integral to tonight’s presentation. We need to make sure people have work/life balance so they can do their jobs effectively. Crises don’t always happen nice and neatly in budget season. Sullivan: My memory differs from the Mayor’s memory. 3-4 years ago we increased DPW Engineering staff, and Younger asked specifically how much extra did it cost if we hired employees instead of contracting engineers. The City Auditor was asked to do an internal audit to provide that answer. The then-Auditor didn’t think she had the expertise to do that, so it sat. And sat. 2 years ago, at DPW meeting, we got an FCS study that said, yes, down the line, employees would be cheaper than contractors. Knuckey: We usually pay contractors 3x what we pay employees. Just sent out to contract a job DPW would love to have done, but just don’t have the capacity. Gorman: I ran for Council largely because of the condition of our roads. I tried to research; I couldn’t find any Transportation Plan. Knuckey: We’ve always had a Transportation Improvement Plan. We used to have more crew and more designers and more managers. Back then, the roads were in better condition. We’ve been prioritizing preventive maintenance, so slowly we’re making good progress to reduce the crises [my phrasing]. Gorman is deeply concerned about employee turnover. He asks about metrics of customer response. Knuckey: The metric is if it’s a life safety issue we take care of it. Lots of requests for speed study, speed bumps, stuff like that. “We try to get back to the complainant and let them know we’re putting their request into a queue.” Gorman asks about construction season. Knuckey, Weber, and Lever describe various construction process. Basically, ya wanna do de roads in de summer. Gorman asks HR if we can do a happiness survey. Nelson says yes, certainly, glad to do it [my phrasing]. Simpson: Great idea! We should do outreach to find out why employees resign. Reiterates that he wants salary range for the Utility Services job that’s planned to be downgraded. He stops making sense to me for a while here (7:15 pm). Concludes that he doesn’t think DPW has made the case for the additional FTEs. Knuckey: I mentioned that job in the course of my presentation, “I don’t know if you took a look at the motion” but it was a long one & he plans to bring forward that job at a future time. Moved to General Business, per Gorman. I win on Simpson bet made at the start of this agenda item., Lulu wins on Younger bet. Since she got one out of two, new Chuck-it ball for Lulu. Next time I’ll make separate bets with this implacable hound.

5-minute break. Resumes at 7:25.

6. Authorize 1 FTE Legal Assistant for Civil Division and Increase to 1 FTE Legal Assistant for Prosecution Division in the Legal Department

Lubovich presents same powerpoint as last week. Trying to get backup for Angela Hoover, City Clerk, now done by Legal Assistant, who is now providing support for Risk Mgmt, City Clerk, and Attorneys. Notes that contracts have about doubled over past 5-6 years. Public Records Requests have also gone up, increasing workload. Blake Decision (ESB 5476), which makes simple possession a misdemeanor, will increase criminal filings by at least 200 cases/yr.

Discussion: Simpson – He recaps Blake Decision. He recaps it at length, then proposes action: use it as a sentencing enhancer because that’s how we usually end up prosecuting these things. [Basis in data? none provided.] There are certain things that the City needs to do, one of them is public safety, and part of that is that those who break the law need to be prosecuted. He goes on at greater length, I stopped here. Sullivan: What happens when City Clerk Angela Hoover is absent? Hoover: I can’t be absent. I was with my daughter in hospital for five days and I had my laptop with me to respond to requests because no one else does this job. Sullivan: The dept needs the support these positions would provide. Younger: Wants the full breakdown of the two positions for the full annualized costs. Lubovich: Each is about $54K in salary. Younger: I want the full cost. Lubovich will bring to general meeting next week. Wheat: I see the need for this. It’s just not okay for employees to be stretched this thin. It’s not who we want to be as a city, as a community. Mayor: After these months of Zooming, I really want you to see the human side of our employees. This is not some new emergent challenge. Thank you for hearing our testimonies. These are public servants who are doing work on our behalf.

7. Professional Services Agreement w/Kitsap Law Group for Interim City Attorney Legal Services

Mayor presents, Kylie Finnell appears. Mayor proposes that we hire someone for this position who can. hit the ground running. The contract is in front of you, it’s a fair contract, we await your questions.

Discussion: Daugs – This covers us until end of November. Are we posting the position? What will happen next? Mayor: Working on that. This provides a transition period & a chance to have a fresh look. Younger: Points out that both Mayor and Council hire the Attorney; the Mayor can’t fire the Attorney. He says contract is for $3K a week (cheap for a lawyer!) with no mention of hours. Kylie Finnell: I’ll be available full-time, and it’s a flat fee. Same availability as Roger has. Younger hopes Kylie will hire on permanently. She says she’s excited about the opportunity to come back. Wheat: Is there recent precedent for this type of contract? Roger, Eric, Mayor, say it’s not uncommon at all. There’s a lot of bringing up instances. Wheat: Wants to make sure that contracting it out will give us the same level of service that we get from a City employee. Mayor: We don’t have anyone in-house to move up, and this contract gives us flexibility. Kylie Finnell: When I left, I still did all my old work PLUS what I did at Kitsap Law Group for seven months until my old position was filled. Finnell will start June 21 to have 10 days to do hand-off with Lubovich. Moved to General Business.

B. GENERAL COUNCIL BUSINESS

o Audit Committee Monthly Briefing – Chair Leslie Daugs

Daugs presents: We want to go to 24 hours (???) and asks to have that put on the agenda for a future study session. She’ll forward to Gorman and Lori Smith for decision on when.  Younger: What are you going to ask for? Daugs: The request for the 24 hours. We need to present it to you with dollar amounts, to get Council approval. Younger: I thought you didn’t need Council approval. Daugs: Do you want us to just go ahead without giving you the dollar amounts? Younger: This is getting argumentative, let’s stop. Gorman: OK. We’ll put it on a future agenda.

o Other General Council Business

Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, Goodnow reports that this needs to go on a study session soon, as the tax is an important revenue source for the City. Daugs: Red-light cameras were postponed until next study session, Simpson would like to have a conversation about restoring the Pledge to Council meetings. Gorman says he’ll review both. Wheat: We could look, during a future study session or Joint Planning Session, at the quality of life of our employees and our customers / residents that are and would be served by permanent employees whose work schedule provides a good work/life balance. “I am concerned that there is some system-wide dysfunction that needs to be addressed.” Mayor: I’d really appreciate a conversation like that. You graciously allowed testimony, but it wasn’t the interactive conversation you’re proposing. Our employees love working here. I’d love to have this conversation. Sullivan: Process question. When one Councilor asks for more information, is that now considered informal unless it’s echoed by the Council President? Gorman: Doesn’t directly answer. Says, it’s always appropriate to ask questions. Sullivan: I support Councilmember Simpson’s request to restore the Pledge and the Invocation to our Council meeting. During invocation, I get a moment of calm, but “my support more goes to the Pledge of Allegiance”. She talks about the USA and its Constitution and how this is a government setting. She asks about a Lions’ Park clean-up. Elevado gets on and says it’s KCR wanted a group clean-up activity for their staff, Mayor invited the Lions to participate, but didn’t go through Sullivan, the head of the Lions. She asks if masks are needed. Elevado says all CDC regs will be followed. Sullivan will not recommend that anyone do physical labor in a mask. People need to breathe fresh air when they’re doing physical labor. Simpson: Councilmember Younger said we should review the City Charter, per Councilmember Younger’s suggestion that it be updated from the 80s. Points out that “the management of the employees, it’s clearly in the purvue of the Executive Branch … and Council shouldn’t interfere with that. Gorman asks about Emergency Powers comment. Simpson: “We’re not in an emergency, we haven’t been in an emergency for a year now.” Younger: I don’t want to wait until January to do a job satisfaction survey among the employees. I want to do it now. [He suddenly cuts out, has lost power to his iPad.] Gorman: Noise ordinance will be voted on next week. Re Pledge of Allegiance – logistics of following US flag code to a virtual meeting. He won’t bring up Pledge being restored until meetings are in-person.

C. ADJOURNMENT OF STUDY SESSION And so, at 8:26pm, it came to an end.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s