News - February 23, 2011

Atherton hires efficiency experts to scrutinize operations

by Renee Batti

Two consulting firms have been hired to review the town of Atherton's police, building, and public works departments to analyze their operations and suggest ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of the services they provide residents.

The Atherton City Council on Feb. 16 voted 4-0, with Kathy McKeithen absent, to authorize agreements with the firms to conduct the "organizational effectiveness and efficiency" studies, which were recommended by interim City Manager John Danielson.

The review of police services, the Communications Center, and related services by the firm PMC will cost a maximum of $25,000, according to Mr. Danielson. Interwest Consulting will review the building and public works departments and related services at a cost capped at $48,000, Mr. Danielson said in a staff report.

The money, which was not budgeted for the current fiscal year, would come from cost savings from other areas of the budget, particularly from salary savings in the city manager's office, he said.

Mr. Danielson said the reviews are critical to his being able to live up to the commitment he made when he was hired — to "turn over every rock" to ensure the public's money is being spent as efficiently as possible.

As part of his contract agreement, Mr. Danielson will not apply for the permanent city manager position. Instead, one of his key roles as interim manager — a job he began Jan. 3 — is to help the town address its dire financial situation. Atherton is facing a structural budgetary deficit of about $1 million that the council, staff, and a citizen advisory committee have been struggling to whittle down.

Although the reviews will be an additional draw on an already tight budget, the council appeared confident that the money will be wisely spent. The town "will end up with recommendations that will significantly (improve) our budget," Mayor Jim Dobbie said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis endorsed the reviews as "an excellent approach" to addressing the town's financial woes, and Councilman Jerry Carlson noted that the process should help Mr. Danielson with his mission "to get our house in financial order."


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