Continuing discussion of the building services model, the Watertown city council met on Sept. 28 to discuss the Request for Proposal (RFP) and possible plan for a new model. This comes after staff worked to get things prepared after the Sept. 20 special council meeting regarding the same topic.
A quick recap for regarding this item: For years, Watertown has partnered with Delano for the building services model. However, Delano has decided to dissolve the partnership, citing that they are overworking their staff in order to meet demand. This has caused a slowdown in Watertown’s permit system, so the city has been looking for a solution. Among those options is to either hire an independent inspector, or bring in a company to facilitate this need.
After determining that further review of the item and options would be required, council asked staff to put together a draft RFP for the either this meeting, or the one directly after.
Lynn Tschudi, city administrative services director, presented the RFP draft to the council. As part of this work, Tschudi and staff looked into the average pay of a building inspector and permit technician, which would cost approximately $160,000 annually for them to be in-house.
Of course the biggest issue to work out was permit turn-around times. In the original draft of the RFP, it was suggested that a permit would take 10 days. The language was changed to be a little more specific, with a permit turn around of 5 to 7 business days instead, which will hopefully be less confusing in the future. Council also wanted it to be clear that residents would receive a quick call back regardless of turn-around time, an experience many already enjoyed with the current system.
A big issue the council wanted to resolve at the meeting was the software. City staff are already using several different software types to do their work, and council needed to know that any additional software is compatible or easy to learn, particularly if they outsource the work to a company.
Council member Lindsay Guetzkow stated that the software issue is a “two pronged question,” summarizing the questions as what do you need from us and what do you bring to us? Council also discussed the idea of using a points system to determine which option would be the best fit.
The point system became a point of debate, particularly the idea that it’s redundant. As council member Mike Walters put it, the council would have final say anyway. Other council members agreed, stating that while the point system worked, the language of the RFP could be changed. In the end, it was decided to change it to whoever meets the city’s needs the best.
After this of the discussion, Mayor Steve Washburn asked council and Tschudi if there was anything else that required revision. Council answered that nothing to their knowledge required further revisions, as did Tschudi. It’s important to note that an RFP isn’t a contract, but more of a job application description, so nothing is quite set in stone compared to the contract when actually hiring.
With that, motion was made to adopt the RFP for the new inspection services. Adam Pawelk emphasized that this is more about research than anything, not changing everything just yet. Vote was taken, and came out four to one with Walters against due to the amount of time this process would take over the fact that two companies had already submitted estimates and quotes back in May.