Gilroy city officials last year concluded the Department of Public Works was understaffed and instead of adding employees, decided to hire a consultant.
On March 5, the Gilroy City Council paid an overdue bill of nearly $1 million for those consultant services.
The council voted unanimously to pay a past due bill of $950,000 to CSG Consultants Inc. for services completed from August 2017 to February. 2018. The services range from assisting the city with support in with engineering, construction and project management activities.
“I don’t like approving retroactive contracts, but this was a case where we needed to do it because we owed them this money,” said Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco said.
The need to hire the Foster City-based CSG Consultants came following the departure of the city’s traffic engineer in September 2016 and the development engineer the following February. CSG, which the city picked from a short list of consultants compiled in 2015, came in immediately to fill the void. Since then, four other city engineering positions were vacated, creating further demand for CSG.
“I know we have staffing problems, but how did we go over $1 million in staffing and why is this just coming to the council’s attention now?” said Councilmember Dan Harney at the March 5 council meeting.
City Administrator Gabe Gonzalez cited high turnover.
“This was an oversight that happened during the transition from the last interim public works director to the current public works director,” Gonzalez. “There was no excuse, except that there was an oversight that happened during the transition period. It should have been on the agenda sooner, but this was an oversight on everyone’s part.”
Six CSG consultants are currently contracted to work on various engineering projects, ranging from land development projects, traffic calming, sidewalks, stormwater inspections, pavement stripping, High-Speed Rail, among other duties. In all, CSG consultants work 152 hours a week for the City of Gilroy.
According to the 2015 contract with CSG, a Project Manager would cost the city $180 for each billable hour. Given the rapid pace of development in Gilroy, the hours started to rack up.
“We are trying to meet our customer service goals, and we do this despite the vacancies we’ve had on our staff,” said Public Works Director Girum Awoke. “We are fortunate to have CSG. When we’ve had turnover, they were the first to be ready and available to perform what we’ve needed. They are not here in a full capacity, but we can continue these vital services with their help.”
CSG consultants work alongside city staff and whatever is expected of regular city employees is expected of them. When staffing levels were better with the city, engineering consultants were brought in on a case-by-case basis, such as with larger projects that demanded more attention. As the demand for CSG consultants grew, the city brought them in to share city offices.
Staff recruitment has been difficult for the City of Gilroy and the high salaries and demand for qualified engineers in the private sector has hindered the city’s ability to fill needed positions.
“We’ve had several people be offered these jobs who’ve turned them down,” Velasco said. “These are good jobs, but we have a lot of competition from not only the private sector but from others in the public sector.