Mike Lawrence is a wonderful asset to our community with his insightful, humorous and well-written political columns and regular city reporting. His Wednesday, May 30, column on city consultants certainly grabbed the readers' attention. However, in this case, Mike apparently had a point he wanted to make and arranged the facts to fit the point. That it invited criticism and derision is, therefore, no surprise. If anyone looks at the list City Manager Alan Lanning produced for City Council, this is what he/she would see:
- $1.318 million are contracts with architects, engineers and environmental consultants for services associated directly with construction of public works improvements such as sewers and an airport runway, new buildings and bridges, river restoration and building rehabilitation. These are not services the city can provide in-house, but they are critical to the maintenance and development of our public infrastructure.
- $1.520 million are contracts with financing counsel architects and engineers, and construction administration for base area improvements under the auspices of the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority. These are not services that our city can provide in-house, but they are critical to the redevelopment of the public infrastructure at the base area, which is now under way.
- $450,000 is pending a contract with an architectural, engineering and planning firm that will develop the plans for downtown streetscape improvements - roads, sidewalks, water and sewer and public amenities. These plans are necessary to the construction of these improvements, and the city does not have the capacity to generate these plans.
Thus, of the $4.2 million Mike listed, $3,288,000 is committed to professionals who are necessary to the construction of buildings, roads, bridges and other public infrastructure.
Without listing each of the consultants comprising the balance of $928,941, they represent initiatives that have come through community processes and are necessary in order to take the next step toward construction or implementation. Examples are the sports complex impact study and the recreation center feasibility studies.
Other consultants are conducting or have completed work necessary to the development of the linkage ordinance and airport re-certification. Still other consultants are completing work necessary for fulfillment of grant funds committed to historic preservation, cultural resources, Yampa River health and other community assets. With the hard work and exceptional skill of the Intergovernmental Services Department, the city has been receiving between $4 and $6 million in grants annually. These grants are the foundation of most of our "'wishy-washy category' of future planning."
And given the surge of construction that is transforming our community as this commentary is being written, investing in plans for the future doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
This council has made a commitment to spend more time with policy development and give more authority to the Planning Commission to review development proposals. Policy decisions require the best information possible, and, more often than not, a community has to go to outside contractors to get that information. The Nexus study documenting commercial and residential impacts on jobs and, in turn, housing, is an example.
Finally, several of the studies listed are associated with formalized processes for developing information to help our community come to agreement on important questions or issues. They are part of "public process" to which this council has committed, to ensure that not only has it done its due diligence - making sure decisions are based on well researched and balanced information - but also that the public has been appropriately engaged, included and consulted.
As Paul Harvey famously said each day after his reporting, "Now you know the rest of the story."
Towny Anderson is a member of the Steamboat Springs City Council.