Cities Turn to Outsourcing City Work

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If someone else can do it better, then let them, right? That's what some municipal governments believe. Whether it be mowing, recycling, or custodial services, outsourcing city work is a hot idea.

"First we say to ourselves is there something that has the potential for some savings or if not savings increased level of service maybe something that can be done quicker," said Bryan City Manager, Mary Kaye Moore.

Moore said there is nothing the city wouldn't consider outsourcing to a private contractor.

College Station does a fair amount of outsourcing as well. But, city manager Tom Brymer said it's not always for financial reasons.

"It's not just the dollar savings it's also, do we have this expertise in-house, what would it cost us to gain this expertise?" said Brymer.

Most cities are contracting out jobs like grounds maintenance, janitorial work, recycling, solid waste, engineering projects and more.

In Bryan, park maintenance is an outsourced operation. The city spends the same amount as it used to when park maintenance was in house. But, instead of having crews check park grounds once every two weeks, it's now weekly.

"We would always get pulled away to do other things so the consistency of maintenance was not as good as it is under contract," said Director of Bryan Parks and Rec, David Schmitz.

Outsourcing city work is done in two ways. Either contract to a private company or another government entity. The second option sounded pretty good to Somerville.

"We thought we had budgeted very well, but when someone tells you they can save $100,000, you can't afford not to look," said Somerville Mayor, Barbara Pederson.

Pederson said at one point the city was considering outsourcing the police department to the Burleson County Sheriff's Office. But, discussion has halted after realizing that sheriff deputies could not provide the same amount of protection for the same price the police department was already providing.

Most city managers will tell you contracting out is not always the best option. It depends on the type of work and the circumstances surrounding it.

Hearne city manager, Ric Walton said outsourcing makes sense when a city can reduce staff, and in Hearne it's not an option.

"The smaller the city or the smaller the organization the more people wear more than one hat, so in outsourcing just one facet of their job duties, you still have to have the same people take care of the other functions they did before," said Walton.

Mary Kaye Moore said the more outsourcing the better. It means there's more money to be spent elsewhere.

"There are so many needs that we don't address that we'd like to address if we had more resources. I think it's something good to consider," said Moore.

Brymer said cities must research the benefits extensively. If the wrong decision is made, it could cost more to bring services back in-house.