The Canadian city of Saskatoon, as part of its urban renewal and rejuvenation programme, is seeking external consulting advice – even while the local government, according to many, has the in-house knowhow to get the job done itself. In the eyes of advocates for external support, however, the organisation currently lacks the workforce to perform the analysis.
The Candian city of Saskatoon has a population of around 261,000. The city, the largest in the Canadian province of Saskatchewa, is straddled by the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. The city is one of the fastest growing in Canada, and, to meet its long term aspiration as a healthy, inclusive and distinct centre, the municipality’s Urban Design team recently launched a number of Streetscape development projects. The Streetscape programme includes a range of improvements to the safety, function, quality and connectivity of different areas in the city, though, among others, bus bulbs, sidewalk remediation with amenity strip, street trees, sidewalk lighting, street furniture, public art and special place-making features.
It was recent disclosed that for the redesign of the streetscape along Idylwyld Drive between 20th Street and 25th Street, the municipality has proposed to spend $200,000 on external consultants. The cost of the proposed spend was questioned by Council member Darren Hill, who argued that the city itself already has the expertise in-house to carry out the redesign. “I have a hard time spending $200,000 when we have the expertise in house. I’d much sooner spend $200,000 on our team than on someone else’s team to help them develop further expertise,” Hill said.
Jeff Jorgenson, the city’s general manager of transportation and utilities, has responded that the city indeed has the knowledge and skills in-house to perform the tasks; however, he adds that there are also not enough people available to do the work. The redesign report is set to be completed by the end of 2017.
As it stands the city spends around $15.95 million on capital projects and the other $2.68 million on operational consultants. Those numbers represent around 4.27% and 0.41% the total operating budget, respectively. The relatively high figures has resulted in concern from within the council, with Pat Lorje, in response to Hill’s questioning of the spending, stating: “I’ve been bringing this up for years, so it’s refreshing to hear other councillors expressing some concern.” A special report into, among others, the use of external advisors and consultants, will be released in 2017 – according to Jorgenson.