Wednesday, February 26, 2014

City Council Work Session 11-Feb-2014

Highland LogoThe purpose of the work session was set goals for the city. The agenda for the meeting was as follows:

CALL TO ORDER – Mayor Mark Thompson
Goal Setting Work Session

Essentially the meeting had no agenda so each council member prepared based on their expectation of what the meeting would be like. Here is the text of an email I sent to council members prior to the meeting:

Subject: My 2014 goal thoughts and some shared by a resident

Here are a few of the items that are on my mind:

  • I would like the staff to feel empowered to make recommendations for improvements and create long-term plans without specific direction from council.
  • I would like to ensure that the city has an updated emergency plan and that there is regular communication regarding this plan with Highland’s church emergency prep leaders so that in the event of an emergency we all know what to do. Should there be a community emergency prep committee that the city participates in?
  • I would like to see the city use its website and social media properties to more actively engage with the community and be a vehicle that can be used to promote local business. If we can put a web/tech/communication committee together I wonder if there wouldn’t be someone that could find or create a mobile app to take pictures of potholes and other road damage to put into a queue of road issues that the city could address. is an example of a free app that can help with this.
  • I don’t know what our budget process is now but if we are not doing zero based budgeting I would like us to consider moving to zero based budgeting.
  • I would also like to increase resident awareness of the budget as it is being developed. Providing a link to a spreadsheet version would help residents who want to do their own analysis. Also, a budget report that looks more like Alpine’s than our previous reports would help residents understand the budget.

A resident sent me the following:

  1. Teach and implement Value Engineering principles and procedures throughout the entire city operation. I would expect the greatest return to come from Landscape Management and Road Maintenance but the process would be equally beneficial within the walls of City Hall.
  2. Develop a “Road Maintenance Plan” that is based on the principles taught in “Switch”, “Good to Great” and “World Class Manufacturing”. The least important part of the plan is which roads to fix The “PLAN” should start with an approach, an attitude, a vision. Mandating a “Plan” by 1 April without specifying the criteria is …..
  3. Implement an “Employee Development” program that teaches management principles. The objective is to develop a more highly skilled and more effective employees.
  4. Reorganize the city to reduce the levels of management from six to a private sector level. Start with a published organization chart. There are many great suggestions in the book “Good to Great”.

The meeting started a little after 5 PM and ended around 9:30 PM. My short summary was that a lot of items were discussed; we got valuable input from the police and fire chiefs, we heard the views of staff, but in the end little was really accomplished in the way of goal setting.

I hope the next meeting (7:15 – 9:30 PM March 4th) has a more detailed agenda and that it is focused on a limited set of items as opposed to open ended. I may not get my wish however as the current agenda is the same as the previous.

CALL TO ORDER – Mayor Mark Thompson
Goal Setting Work Session

Devirl Barfuss, Highland resident, attended the meeting and wrote up a summary of the meeting and shared it with me. The notes below are essentially his with some edits by me.


Mayor Thompson conducted the meeting and Aaron Palmer led the discussion. The stated purpose was goal setting. However, most of the time was spent discussing the major spending categories and their relative priorities. The topics discussed ranged from from Public Safety to Infrastructure to Library use.

One item that came up in multiple categories was the need to keep historical performance data and use it along with professional experience to make projections.

Highland has been building reserves in several accounts for three years  The Council asked staff to look at each of the reserve accounts and give a written opinion as to whether or not the reserve is large enough based on history, current conditions, needs projections and their professional opinion.

Councilman Braithwaite made the request with, “We need a report, at least a SWAG, on all 20 activities so we can make an informed decision.” “We need to be able to see the big picture.”

There was considerable push back from staff claiming there wasn’t time to do the research and make the reports. Councilman Braithwaite suggested they present something simple and then if more information were needed then it would be requested. “We have to have something.” “We need a dialog.”

Mayor Thompson qualified or refined the data request. He asked that the expenditures be broken into three categories; a. Capital for Growth, b. Capital for Replacement and c. Maintenance. He pointed out the impact fees should cover the growth requirement.


The Council asked for a comprehensive plan for roads, parks and the cemetery. The plan should include a vision statement, a 10 year objective, a 5 year plan, a 1 year to do list and a historical summary in order to put the plan into perspective.

There was some discussion about updating the City Master Plan. Apparently the undeveloped parkland will not meet our needs (wants?) when the city is completely built out.

Other Topics Discussed

Police Department: Has 20 officers, would prefer 23 for officer safety reasons and 26 is the national average for a city our size (1/1000). It will cost about $120K to hire a new officer (one year salary plus equipment) and about $65 to $70K a year after that. I think we should budget for a one a year build up OR we should look for alternatives. There are times when that is only one office on duty between the two cities. We should look at “ride along” citizens who have a concealed carry permit and/or a “security patrol” manned by persons who are working toward becoming officers. Provo has such a force.

Fire Department: Costs about $700K per 3 man station to run while the average is $1.3M. I don’t know if that is a national average or more local. Only Pleasant Grove (I think) is as cost effective as we are.

The ladder truck gets a lot of negative comments BUT is an asset AND cost us the same as a pumper truck. All the cities around us have a ladder truck BUT ours cost $200K less. The Fire Chief should get a bonus!! The Fire District is also short a couple men.

South Jordan is very innovative. We can learn from them. Also, a recent study indicated that the area needs another fire station near the Temple. AF is looking into it.

Communication and Citizen Involvement: Apparently citizen involvement has diminished in the last few years. We already know communication is sketchy. The city has held open houses, written articles, etc. BUT they have NOT engaged the folks in meaningful dialog who oppose them. 

Note: In my (Devirl Barfuss) experience, the city has discouraged community involvement either by inaction (Open Space Committee) or resistance to anyone who creatively or aggressively pursues a cause (Tree Commission initiatives).

Engagement possibilities include Improved website content, online polls, Cleanup Days, News Letter, and “bring in the people who are vocal” and involve them somehow. 

Organization Structure

  • A question regarding the levels of levels of management was raised. From one perspective it appears that there are 6 levels within the city.
  • A Open 4 vs. 5 days a week. Tim mentioned that during the campaign that closed on Friday was an issue.
  • Dennis, Brian and Mark asked Aaron to look at how staff is organized. Brian asked Aaron to bring a proposal to the CC.
  • Dennis and Mark asked, “How do we measure performance.”  Mark said “We need to measure how we do things.” Tim said, “How do we know if we are effectively serving the citizens?” Tim – “Complaints come in but they are not reported on. How do we know how we are doing or if we are improving?”

Library: Brian opened with, “The head librarian needs to report … “ We need a growth plan, a 5 – 10 year plan, use measurements, understand the priority of residents. Rod pointed out that the most commonly cited measurement, visits, is tracked using the door counter which measures traffic in and out of the library. Since the restrooms and drinking fountains are outside the library, visitors, staff, and especially children, may enter and leave multiple times during the course of a day.

Parks – Rec – Events: Brian pushed hard to get a park development plan. He suggested we level the field next to the Jr. High School, plant some grass, stripe it and open it for soccer. Something quick and cheap. Some discussion about nothing being cheap.


  • Tim – Self Funding
  • Brian – Expansion – Do we have enough land?
  • Mark – The cemetery does not have to be all in one place.
  • Mark – We need a plan so we can buy land when it is cheap.

Prioritization Session: About 8:45 – 9:30 p.m.

  • Roads #1
  • Parks #2

Brian: “We need a discussion on every fund. Why we are where we are and what is the situation.

Mark: Generate a history for maintenance.

Note: Dennis repeatedly asked, “What is the goal?” “Is there a date.” He thought this goal setting meeting was for setting goals as advertised.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding this post.