July 31, 2014 9:55:15 AM
J5 Broaddus' temporary management of Columbus' public works department will continue at least through September after it was originally set to end in May.
Results of J5 Broaddus' study of the department concluded a potential $1 million in waste -- nearly a third of the department's $3.5 million budget -- due primarily to ineffective time and equipment management on the part of its employees. The study results, which also concluded a 45 percent productivity rate from the 60-plus-employee department -- were provided to city councilmen in April.
When widespread tornado damage on April 28 affected the city, crews spent five weeks cleaning debris from the storms. J5 Broaddus Senior Project Manager Robyn Eastman said last month that the event necessitated the firm to continue managing the department through July to accomplish making the department more efficient under department head Casey Bush.
Eastman said Tuesday that J5 has satisfied many of the goals he had set when he discussed the study with the council -- including an overhaul of the department's inventory keeping practices and placing GPS units on 15 city vehicles to monitor worker productivity. More time is needed, however, for the department to improve enough where it can run on its own, he said.
"I really could walk away and say I accomplished everything I'd promised to do and have a clean bill of health with the council, but I just think these couple of programs can have a big impact on their efficiency forever," Eastman said. "(The employees have) not embraced them. They've not had a sense of ownership as of yet. We're going to see if we can truly institutionalize these programs before we turn it over to them again."
What needs to improve now is maintaining the new practices that have been put in place, Eastman said, such as verifying that workers satisfactorily completed what they were assigned to do on their schedules.
Bush said he's continuing to work with Eastman and J5 to improve on the results of the first study and has already seen positive changes with the department.
"There's nothing negative about it," Bush said. "They're doing a really good job with the study they're doing for my department. We had already had this planned that they were going to do the first part of the study and then we were going to come back and do an evaluation of the study we had done the first time. That's what's going on now."
The study results shown to councilmen in April also showed alerts of city-owned vehicles idling for as many as 43 minutes at a time and driving over 100 miles a day without leaving the city limits.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.