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Mayor slams city spending

Mayor Walter Jakeway says the city is paying too much money for outside jobs because the process by which the city hires contractors is “flawed.”

Jakeway said contractor’s are jacking up their prices for city projects because city staff set the budget too high.

“I’ve been told by people who bid for the city and I know what’s going on,” Jakeway said. “It’s very manipulative. I think our system is rigged for contractors to jack up the prices. I think we have a flaw in our system.”

Jakeway said city staffers estimate a budget, council locks into that budget and once approved, staff put out RFP’s (Request for Proposals) for city projects.

The problem, said Jakeway, is the numbers staff come up with are “SWAGs, scientific wild ass guesses, not necessarily determined by fact.”

He gave an example of what he said is happening.

“You go to the store to buy a computer that has no price tag. When you go to buy the computer you say you have $200,000 to spend on a computer,” Jakeway said. “Well guess how much the computer is?

“That’s what we’re doing right now.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Jakeway said he would like to have all city expenditures over $20,000 go through council.

“My concern is that as soon as the budget passes, the flood gate will open,” Jakeway said. “I think it’s very important for council to have a $20,000 review point so council knows what’s going on and so the public knows what’s going on.

“I know this is a big change to go down from $100,000 to $20,000 but in the private sector sometimes it goes down to $5,000.”

Coun. Mary Storry disagreed with Jakeway.

“I feel we need to trust our staff and if we trust our staff, let them build our budget,” Storry said. “I think we need to stand back and let our city manager do the managing.”

Coun. Claire Moglove said Jakeway’s motion was “micro managing to the nth degree.”

City Manager Andy Laidlaw said there’s nothing wrong with how the city prepares its budgets and selects a project bidder.

“What you have now are best practices, in terms of other municipalities,” Laidlaw said. “If an RFP comes in, and it’s under budget, it’s awarded.”

But Jakeway was adamant there’s something wrong.

“We’re setting the price just below the budgeted amount and that’s why we’re spending so much money,” he said. But Jakeway was unable to sway council and his motion to have expenses over $20,000 vetted by council was defeated. Instead, council asked for a report from staff outlining the current and former bylaw that determines how much city managers are allowed to spend without council’s approval.

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