Council addresses anti-growth feedback

Taylor Daily Press

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014 1:00 am

Jim Aanstoos – news@taylorpress.net

Reacting to what they described as widespread negative feedback and a public misperception that the city is “anti-growth”, Taylor City Council members Thursday took the first small step toward securing an outside professional source to review and analyze how it attracts and secures new businesses.

By unanimous vote, the Council authorized interim city manager Jeff Straub to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify qualified consulting firms to review the city’s Development Review Process (DRP). The DRP is the method the city uses to evaluate and approve new businesses operating in the city.

“Not everyone is saying it, but enough people are and we feel we need to address it”, Straub told Council members, referring to the prevalent “no growth” perception some citizens have about city leaders in Taylor. “You hear it almost everywhere, in one-on-one talks, or just standing in line at HEB, that we are against growth”, Straub said.

In introducing the agenda item to council, Straub said “it is staff intent to pursue excellence in all aspects of municipal services delivery. However on several occasions over the course of the past few years, council members and city management have received negative feedback from the community about the city’s DRP. Some of the community appears to believe that our DRP is cumbersome, less than business friendly and even that the city of Taylor does not desire development and/or actively attempts to discourage it”.

“We (council and staff) know that is not true”, Straub said. “But I feel we owe it to both the public and to ourselves to ensure that we look at the way we are doing business and ensure we are following best practices in municipal government”, Straub said. “In staff’s opinion it is vital that we communicate by our actions that we have heard the public’s feedback and intend to address their concerns”, he added.

He said the public has also had expressed concerns about the city’s longstanding practice of hiring an outside contract engineer to guide it in capital projects, as opposed to having an in-house professional engineer. Since 2005, the city has had a non-biddable, open-ended professional services agreement with Casey Sledge, Sledge Engineering, for professional engineering services on its capital construction projects according to city clerk Susan Brock. That agreement calls for a monthly retainer fee of $4,700.00 for general engineering services and a schedule of hourly rates for work performed on specific capital projects. Straub said as part of the work laid out in the RFQ potential consultants will be asked to address the engineering issue as well.

“If there are improvements we can make in the way we handle new business development, we need to know them and adopt them. If we are doing things well, we need to validate them and show this to the public”, Straub told council members. “I think this is a big step we can take in letting the public know that we care about their concerns”, he added.

Straub said he surveyed other towns comparable to Taylor to find a city that had done something similar to this, and that the City of Tomball had published an RFQ with the same goals based on similar negative public feedback. He said he modelled the Taylor RFQ after the Tomball document. With council authorization, the city will now issue the RFQ with responses due by April 25. Straub said issuing the RFQ does not actually commit the city to undertake the work, nor does it cost much at this point other than mainly the cost of legally advertising it.

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