By Naomi Hatch
The best use of Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) available to the Town of Snowflake was discussed at the July 8 town council meeting.
Snowflake Public Works Superintendent Terry Cooper made a presentation on proposed use of the funds for the coming year, and Jaron Hatch made the case for using private contractors for some of the work.
The HURF budget for maintenance materials for fiscal year 2014-15 includes an increase of $108,603, but capital outlay included a decrease of $79,000 of the proposed $668,503 HURF revenue, according to Cooper.
Staff proposed spending $36,116 on the federal aid project for Ninth West to Centennial Wash, which is the matching portion for the project that will be paid with Northern Arizona Council of Governments funding distributed through the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).
Staff also proposed spending $95,000 on a surface preservation contract and $20,000 on a crack seal contract. The budgeted $25,000 for downtown traffic calming measures will be affected. In addition, $19,887 was budgeted for miscellaneous materials and $60,000 for miscellaneous asphalt overlays, which makes a total HURF budget of $256,003.
Cooper displayed a chart showing the allocation of personnel throughout the public works department, where their time is spent and how it is spent. The majority of time was spent on water, explained Cooper, noting the more than 20 water main breaks and other leaks that required immediate response. They also have daily functions, such as checking all well sites, water turn ons and water turn offs. Cooper said that all of his staff members are cross-trained in water, sewer, roads and electrical.
Finance Director Brian Richards explained that, thanks to Cooper, they will have the exact number of hours worked for streets, water, sewer, building and electrical for the calendar year.
“We can show our auditor accurately,” said Richards, noting they have never been able to do this before.
Hatch was given some time to make a presentation on research that he has been doing regarding ratios and amount of materials used as they pertain to using contractors on town projects instead of staff.
He noted that he had apologized to the staff for being so harsh when he spoke at the April 8 council meeting, and said he received a letter from town staff. He discussed the letter and his research with council.
Hatch said he liked the first paragraph of the letter, which stated, “It is a common goal to have better roads,” adding, “Perhaps I have a different opinion of how to do it.
“My opinion is every single one of these items can be contracted out on a per diem type deal,” said Hatch, referring to a list in the letter of the department’s accomplishments over the past three years.
Hatch calculated that the town spent $1.7 million to accomplish those jobs, and said he thought a private contractor could do much, much more for that amount.
Vice Mayor Jason Whiting explained that Hatch was using all the HURF money in his scenario, and there was more that had to be done with that money than just those projects.
Hatch asked a council member to read a paragraph from the letter to him that in part said that the town was approached by Jake Hatch to contract services to do asphalt repairs, and quoted a price of $5 per square foot. It stated, “Last year, town staff…patched more than 5,000 square feet of asphalt repairs. At contract prices, this would have cost more than $25,000. Instead, the town paid less than $7,000 for the materials to do the repairs in-house, leaving in excess of $18,000 for other projects.”
Hatch said he felt that the $7,000 amount was skewed because it did not include labor and equipment.
“They’re going to be included whether we contract out or not,” said Mayor Kelly Willis.
“Administration of each project would be involved, because we administer the contract for each job,” said the vice mayor.
“What I’m asking is a complete culture change; shrink the public works size and contract it,” said Hatch. He said he thought they could eliminate 3.5 employees and pay for contract services.
“Have you looked over our books and seen what revenues we do have?” asked the mayor. “Almost every revenue is dictated.”
Council members pointed out that employees are cross-trained to do all public work jobs.
Hatch noted that part of the success in many companies in the Valley is that they specialize. “It’s great employees are cross trained, but I feel it would be more efficient if you specialized…,” he said.
He also said that now is the worst time to go out to bid, that if they would put bids out in the middle of winter, they would get extremely competitive prices.
Town Manager Paul Watson asked if Hatch is aware of a community that contracts out all its work on streets and roads.
Hatch replied that there is one in Georgia, and agreed to give Watson the information so he could do some research.
“I appreciate how you have approached this and the work you’ve done on it,” said Watson. “I do believe there is a place for private contracting to allow the private sector to compete.”