Rescue boat fiasco an opportunity

While it may be just a drop in the annual $155 million city
budget bucket, the wayward purchase of an $11,000 pontoon rescue
boat by the city of Gilroy points out, once again, the significant
difference in the way government and business operate.
While it may be just a drop in the annual $155 million city budget bucket, the wayward purchase of an $11,000 pontoon rescue boat by the city of Gilroy points out, once again, the significant difference in the way government and business operate.

Cast aside the silly notion that Gilroy needs a water rescue pontoon boat. There’s a swift-water rescue team that’s a part of the Santa Clara County Fire Department to call upon should the once-in-a-blue-moon need arise. Also, if a still-water rescue need presents itself, the fire department could compile a list of people in Gilroy who would be willing to loan out their boats. We would be happy to publish a call for volunteers if city officials decide it’s a good idea to have such a list for emergency preparedness.

But back to our main point.

There should not be a fund in the city budget that allows for the purchase of an $11,000 piece of equipment without a responsible and thorough review. City Administrator Jay Baksa called the purchase a “misunderstanding” between he and former Interim Fire Chief Hugh Holden who ordered the boat. No doubt that’s the case. Baksa would certainly have preferred this embarrassing purchase remain at the dock.

But it didn’t, and that presents the city administrator and the City Council with an opportunity to tighten the controls.

Let’s knock off $10,000 and set a new benchmark: There should not be a fund in the city budget that allows for the purchase of a $1,000 piece of equipment without responsible and thorough review.

No one is suggesting malfeasance. We’re sure the city administrator is chagrined over this. But it is an opportunity to improve our system.

The City Council should request a report that details current controls and limits. Given that there are a number of small business owners on the dais, a reasonable discussion should ensue. Purchase limits should be lowered and across-the-board controls should be strengthened and communicated to all city employees who have purchasing authority so that the taxpayers are not buying, for example, a new $10,000 horse trailer for the mounted patrol unit.

Accountability is the key, and capital purchases, an area that can be exploited if not controlled properly, should be made without wiggle room in regard to responsibility.

It’s a good time to batten down the hatches so the cash isn’t flowing irresponsibly out of City Hall.

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