Striving for efficient government

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Wednesday, October 22, 2014 10:51pm
  • News

One constant focus of the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration has been how departments can be more cost efficient in their daily operations.

Last week, the borough released an efficiencies report from fiscal year 2014 that lists 32 department strategies that have saved an estimated $327,500 in operational costs. Borough Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander said the idea of developing cost effective strategies within 11 borough departments had been talked about for the last couple years but it wasn’t until September when the list was compiled and the savings were added up.

“The culture in the borough is really positive as a result of really solid management,” Ostrander said. “The efficiencies document is an impressive list that looks at ways we can do things better.”

The capital projects department put forth several ideas. The department started mandatory re-inspection of recently installed roofs ahead of the two-year workmanship warranty expiration. In one case the proactive step saved the borough more than $500,000.

The idea of inspecting roof work before the warranty expiration was brought forth by project manager David May and helps identify if there are any issues that a roofing manufacturer would correct at no cost to the borough.

Borough Capital Projects Director Kevin Lyon said by taking the time to inspect three school roofs in Soldotna and Seward they found a vapor barrier that allowed moisture into the board, a flaw the contractor acknowledged. If the problem had not been addressed in time it could have caused extensive water damage to the buildings and the borough would’ve been responsible for the bill, he said.

Inspections wouldn’t always lead to issues and huge savings in every instance but it’s a good practice to exercise, Lyon said.

“That paid for itself really quick,” he said. “We are always looking at how to save money like it is ours. Everyone that works for the borough lives here and we don’t want to waste the taxpayer’s money because it affects us too.”

May also came up with the idea to perform in-house roof inspections of maintenance and service area buildings and take proactive steps to extend the life of the roof, an estimated $40,000 in savings.

Lyon said May is a roofing architect and one of the best that has ever worked for the borough.

The capital project manager Robin Davis suggested the use of interns to complete building surveys instead of using contractors or staff, which not only frees up more time for project managers and is estimated to save $130,000 in labor costs.

Lyon said with five people in his department responsible for 38 buildings within the borough, they found that college students studying engineering could gain valuable skills and work as interns.

When the Homer landfill closed last year they needed someone to do a checklist report and found a civil engineering student capable for the job, which saved time to allow project managers to focus on other jobs and save money from the job being contracted out.

Last April, the borough clerk’s office made the switch to iPads for assembly members to share information instead of assembly packets, which is estimated to reduce paper cost and staff labor by $14,000 annually, said Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship.

Ostrander reduced travel costs by having administrators sign up for an Alaska Airlines VISA credit card and accumulate miles and offset future staff travel costs. By using the card as opposed to the previous method of submitting paid invoices, the borough estimated would accrue an excess of 1 million miles yearly, a savings of $30,000.

Fire Chief Chris Mokracek with Central Emergency Services changed personnel annual leave policy during the month of October based on seniority so no more than two personnel could request simultaneous leave, which is expected to save approximately $20,000 in overtime costs for back-filling shift schedules.

Patti Hartley with the borough Planning department suggested sending “camera ready” ads and notices for newspaper publication, which drops advertisement costs from $60,000 to $25,000 annually.

Ostrander said he hopes the efficiencies report would help generate additional ideas.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said the report is an example of how department directors continue to improve how local government operates and streamline processes for better time management. Human Resources Director Stormy Brown started a process evaluation of administrators, which helped identify their goals and objectives, Navarre said.

“All departments accomplish their goals and work toward an eye to improve the way we deliver services and government at the local level,” he said. “A lot of borough employees have already implemented these ideas.”

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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