Sometimes consultants cost less than city staff

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The objective of the recently completed parking study was to determine if Auburn needed new parking structures. The consultants answered the question “no,” provided a much-needed database for future planning purposes, and gave us information about the experience of other similar-sized cities. At Tuesday’s Meddlers meeting, City Manager Bob Richardson made a masterful presentation about the study and its ramifications for Auburn. He noted that parking is a complex and constantly changing dynamic system problem, not simply a single-point case of “paving and striping.” Unfortunately, the “obvious answer” can often lead to undesired, unintended consequences – example: Placerville’s expensive parking program, which had a severe negative effect on local business. Outsourcing studies to consultants offers many advantages to cities/counties that are overloaded, understaffed and usually lack in the requisite expertise. Consultants focus exclusively on a specific study and their costs end when the job is done. Costs for the same effort undertaken by city staff (who may not have the expertise and experience required for the job) could be significantly higher and not nearly as useful. City employee costs include benefits that persist after they retire. Professional consultants who spend years in schooling and have extensive work experience start with an advantage that leads to faster results. On fixed-price contracts, what they generally sell is the result, not the time it takes to produce the result. George Coe Auburn