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City spends $2,000-plus for public showing of internal report

CITY LOGOWalterboro City Council is paying more than $2,000 to bring in a spokesman from the national consulting firm ICMA to give the results from its highly-anticipated report on the city’s police and fire departments.

The council voted unanimously at its Tuesday night meeting authorizing the interim city manager to bring in the company for a public presentation of the company’s findings. Research for the report began in May, after council voted in favor of the company digging into its departments to see how the city can be better run. This report cost the taxpayers $45,000. Tuesday’s vote for the optional presentation to council cost an additional $2,000 per person per day– plus travel expenses. These expenses, so far, include round trip airfare for one person to Walterboro from Philadelphia and a meal, according to interim City Manager Jim Duckett.

On Oct. 22, the spokesman is expected to publicly review the massive report, which has 54 separate findings. These findings, or results, include both positive and negative aspects about the city’s police and fire departments, and how those departments are being run. At this meeting, city councilmen can ask this spokesman questions about the report’s details. No questions from the public will be entertained by the company spokesman at this meeting, but the public is welcome to attend the meeting, Duckett said.

“It’s important to remember that city council asked for this report. We want to know how to improve, and how to do a better job,” said Walterboro Mayor Bill Young. Young said he and council validated the additional expense to bring in a spokesman in “the best interest of the public.” “We think it’s important for the people to hear this information first-hand, and not just from us,” he said. When asked if the report was worth its cost to taxpayers, Young gave an adamant “yes.” “If this is going to help save lives, and improve our reputation, you can’t put a number on that,” he said.

City Council members and city administrators have had a “rough draft” of this report since Sept. 24. The official report consists of a few minor factual changes from this rough draft, and was made available to council only last week, said Duckett. The media, along with the public, will receive a copy of this report on Oct. 22; however, The Colletonian filed a Freedom of Information request to the city for this report on October 10. The city has approximately 14 business days to respond to this request, which will coincide with the expected public release date. “Some of the things that have been suggested by this group have already been put into place,” said Young. “We’ve been talking to them all along, and we started implementing some of their ideas.”

Following the public release on October 22, Young said city council will “sift” through the report, and begin work on it. There are no separate or additional funds appropriated to address any needs that may pop up from the findings, he said. “We’ll do what we can afford to do,” said Young. To date, the city has already paid more than $37,000 of the $45,000 it owes for the report. This money came out of the city’s General Fund, which council approved unanimously in its 2013-2014 budget. Young says the additional $2,000-plus for the public presentation will also come from the city’s General Fund.

In other news:

• Though it was on the agenda for discussion, city council made no decisions about hiring a permanent city manager. According to Duckett, the council is beginning to advertise for the position on Tuesday through many resources, including the S.C. Municipal Association and the National League of Cities. Duckett said on Tuesday he has no desire to permanently accept the position due to the commute: he lives in Surfside Beach. “I like the people, and the town,” he added. Duckett said he is asking any interested candidates to submit their resume, along with references and salary history and expectations. Council has not discussed any salary range for the new managerial position, he said.

Walterboro City Council will meet again on Oct. 22, at 6:15 p.m., inside City Hall in Walterboro. The public is invited to attend.

“Some of the things that have been suggested by this group have already been put into place,” said Young. “We’ve been talking to them all along, and we started implementing some of their ideas.”

FOIA FILED: October 10, 2013

 

Jim Ducket,

Interim Manager, City of Walterboro

242 Hampton St

Walterboro, SC 29488

 

Dear Mr. Ducket & City Officials:

 

This letter is a request for access to the public records listed below pursuant to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. I would like to review the complete findings and full assessment of a report produced by International City Managers Association, (ICMA), a consulting firm hired by the City of Walterboro.  ICMA was hired by the City of Walterboro on or about March 25, 2013.  ICMA was tasked to study and report on the City of Walterboro and its Public Safety Department.  The report and findings of ICMA were to be completed within 120 days.  According to city council members and city officials, in public forums, the entire report is now in the hands of the City of Walterboro and its officials.

 

I can be reached by telephone at 843-908-5598 to schedule a time to examine the records.

Since this request primarily benefits the general public, I request that any search or high copy costs copying fees be waived.  If there is a charge for providing me access, please advise me of your estimate of the charge and the basis for the charge when you call to arrange an appointment.

 

Thank you, in advance, and I appreciate your working with us.

 

Warmly,

 

Heather Walters, reporter

 

And

 

Michelle Davis, publisher of The Colletonian Newspaper

 

Heather Walters (1410 Posts)