City launches $50,000 study to determine how departments coordinate, collaborate
August 2, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Consultants started interviewing employees at City Hall last month, as leaders embark on a $50,000 study to determine how municipal departments function and the city delivers services to businesses and residents.
Mayor Ava Frisinger selected Seattle consultant Moss Adams to examine the Building, Planning and Public Works Engineering departments, in addition to economic development efforts. The focus is on organization and a still-nascent effort to anticipate future service needs.
“It’s always beneficial for organizations to say, ‘How are we doing? Might there be places we could improve?’ Because we want to do the very best that we can at providing services,” Frisinger said. “That’s our mission — we want to do it effectively, not just efficiently.”
Construction in Talus and the Issaquah Highlands — urban villages and the impetus behind the Major Development Review Team — is slowing after a construction boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In addition, the city is refocusing planning efforts on the Central Issaquah Plan — a redevelopment outline for the 915-acre commercial core along Interstate 90.
“For several years now, we’ve kind of been looking at the end of the tunnel, if you will, for MDRT,” Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock said. “We’ve talked off and on, internally here as well as with the mayor’s office, on how that transition works. Quite honestly, you’ve got building-related things, planning-related things and engineering-things that are all coming out of that workgroup.”
The recession and anemic economy also prompted city leaders to examine economic development efforts.
Hires — City Administrator Bob Harrison joined the city in the No. 2 position in October 2010 — and retirements — including Brock’s planned fall retirement — influenced the decision to commission a study. So, too, did input from City Council and community members.
“There are not any preconceived ideas about what any of this will turn out to be,” Frisinger said. “We’ve heard on occasion from departments that it might make sense to look at how we work together, how do we coordinate and so on. It seemed like this would be an opportune time to do that.”
Moss Adams is due to deliver a report to the city in October, just as council members delve into the next municipal budget. Harrison said leaders could incorporate some recommendations into the 2012 budget.
“In having discussions with the mayor, we saw a real opportunity with the Central Issaquah Plan and the growth that’s happened in the last 10 years in the community to take a breather and evaluate the current way we do business and the structure of the organization, and see if that current model continues to make sense or should be adjusted for the future,” he added.
Frisinger said the city has not conducted a major organizational analysis since she assumed office as mayor in 1998. In the ensuing 13 years, the city has changed dramatically, adding area and almost 20,000 residents.
“We thought it would be an opportune time to look at the departments,” Frisinger said. “Are there ways that we might align the departments differently?”
In some cases, employees from different departments already share responsibilities on certain projects.
“There is an extraordinary amount of communication and collaboration between departments, particularly in some areas, with open space and habitat acquisition and things like that,” Frisinger said.
In recent years, Moss Adams examined the organization at the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank and elsewhere in municipal government. The consultant’s record in Issaquah prompted Frisinger to select the consultants for the City Hall study.
“The city was familiar with their work and knew it was good quality,” Harrison said. “I think they’re familiar with the organizational culture and expectations of the community, so they seemed to be a natural fit.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.