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Civic Scrutiny

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by Doug Nadvornick & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & pokane city councilmembers have begun picking through a long-awaited study about inefficiencies in Spokane city government. Palo Alto, Calif., consultant Richard Brady presented the nearly 500-page report to the council on Monday night, explaining in general terms his team's 251 recommendations.





"You have some major opportunities here," Brady told the council. "If you do everything we list, we think you can save $5 million to $6 million dollars a year. And if you adjust your fees for services rendered, we think you can generate another $1 million to $1.5 million in new revenue."





Those are the results city officials were hoping to hear when they hired Brady's Matrix Consulting Group last fall. The study was commissioned to help the city find ways to reduce its annual multimillion-dollar gap between revenues and expenses.





Brady praised the city for steps it has already taken, for example, offering same-day permits for some building and planning projects. But he said improvements should be made in other areas.





"Your purchasing and accounting functions are overly decentralized," Brady said. "It makes it tough for the city to get the best prices when you don't use the city's full buying power."





Brady said city managers should be better at using the information they have to monitor their people and the services they deliver. And he said the city is too thorough in providing some services, especially in public works. For example, he said the city cleans its sewer pipes far more often than most cities, suggesting that officials reduce their schedule to save money.





Skeptical councilmembers asked Brady about city functions that weren't in the report. "I wish you would have reviewed the way we administer community block grants, the mayor's office, the council, human services and our legislative affairs [lobbyist]," said Councilmember Brad Stark.


"We examined every city function," replied Brady. "But some departments met our list of best practices and we saw no need to recommend improvements. As for the city council, what would we study? The number of proclamations issued?"





Councilmember Nancy McLaughlin noted previous city efficiency studies are sitting on shelves, forgotten, and vowed this report would not suffer the same fate. "I haven't lost my resolve to make sure as much will be done as possible with this," she said.