After paying more than $8,000 last year to begin strategic planning, Crestwood officials are considering a less costly alternative in 2007.
Aldermen will consider three proposals for this year’s strategic-planning consulting session, which is slated to occur in either August or September.
Last year’s consultant, Lyle Sumek of Florida-based Sumek Associates Inc., is expected to cost nearly $9,000 this year. The city had scheduled for Sumek to return for more consulting services from Sept. 17 to Sept. 20 and had budgeted $9,000 for that expense.
But two Missouri consultants — Robert J. Saunders of Organization Consultants in Liberty and Richard Goldberg of the Goldberg Group Ltd. in St. Louis — have submitted proposals cheaper than Sumek’s.
Saunders, a former city administrator in the Kansas City-area cities of Belton and Liberty, said he would perform this year’s strategic planning for $2,150 plus travel and lodging expenses. City Administrator Frank Myers estimates that would bring his total to roughly $2,700 at the most.
Saunders also indicated he would be available to perform this year’s strategic-planning session during a weekend in August.
Goldberg has proposed a fixed cost of $7,500 for his strategic-planning services.
Myers said after recently talking with city officials in Wentzville, he learned that Sumek and Saunders have been employed as consultants in that city and that Wentzville City Administrator Andy McCown told Myers that Saunders is a better choice.
“Mr. McCown indicated that Bob Saunders is just as good,” Myers said. “In fact, he found him to be better be-cause he tended to focus away from a lot of the personal stories and dialogue. He’s much more focused on the individuals he was working with and he was very affordable and he’d do a very good job.”
Saunders also has performed consulting services in area cities like Webster Groves, Hazelwood, Town and Country, Creve Coeur and O’Fallon, Ill.
Based on feedback Myers has heard from officials in cities like these and the fact that Saunders is the cheapest option, the city administrator recommended last week that the Board of Aldermen direct him to move forward with scheduling a session with Saunders.
“I am aware of Mr. Saunders’ reputation in the city-management profession,” Myers said. “He’s very good. He not only does strategic planning and team building, he’s a professional head hunter for cities. He has a very strong reputation. He is known not just in the state of Missouri, but beyond. And I think given the price that he’s willing to provide us with, it really is an excellent opportunity for us to move forward with strategic planning, do it at a time in the summer that works well and do it at a cost that will allow us to achieve some significant cost savings in our budget.”
Myers personally met with both Saunders and Goldberg and assured aldermen at a May 22 work session that despite the much lower cost for Saunders, he would be able to update the city’s strategic plan and move forward based on the implementation of last year’s plan.
But Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder expressed concern that none of the prospective strategic-planning consultants had met with aldermen.
“I guess I’m a little concerned that none of the gentlemen that are proposing for all of us to invest our time into this session are here to present themselves so we can get to know them as best we can in a short period of time and see how we each individually think we would interact with them,” Nieder said. “Why is that?”
“Well, rightly or wrongly, my approach was that we had scheduled Lyle to be here the (Sept.) 17th to the 20th because we needed to lock in a date …,” Myers replied. “Lyle was told because we had an election coming up, we could not commit to using him until the new board is in place and we could talk about the strategic plan. My thought was get a couple of proposals, give the board an opportunity to … and like I said, I spent an hour and a half with each of these individuals.
“And if it’s the desire of the board to bring in Mr. Saunders and talk to him, we can arrange for that to happen before you make a decision. Or if you want to meet Mr. Goldberg, he’s actually here in St. Louis. I know it’s a little more difficult for Mr. Saunders. But time is of the essence as we move forward. Both of these individuals have incredibly busy schedules. And to get them to be here this evening logistically, it wasn’t practical …”
“The reason I ask that question is because I and myself as well as a few of the other board members have already had the experience with Lyle,” Nieder said. “And we know what he’s about and interact with them. I’m a little cautious about I guess extending that experience to another … starting with another person without at least meeting him ahead of time.”
Mayor Roy Robinson said that after meeting with Saunders, he is in favor of employing him, but that he would be opposed to Nieder’s idea to pay for prospective consultants to travel to Crestwood to meet with aldermen before they decide.
“I really felt that (Saunders) is more in tune in what goes on in the city than I did with Mr. Sumek,” Robinson said at the work session. “And I just want all of you to know I would not prefer that the city administrator brought in these people and had to pay expenses for them to present this. As far as I’m concerned, two of these are out of range for this city to look at. I think there’s only one on the table that I could support that we use and that’s the one for Mr. Saunders. I just think that we don’t need a complete revamping of our strategic plan. What we need is someone to bring the new aldermen up to the point to get their input in and recognize what has been accomplished up to this point and move on and work on the things that we’ve already established.”
Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel said because Myers already has met with each of the prospective consultants, he sees no need in asking them to come to Crestwood and believes that aldermen should trust Myers to perform his job duties.
“I just think again this is a situation where we’re paying Frank to do the job,” Pickel said. “And Frank has met with all these individuals. And I’m not sure if the board needs to micromanage to the level of meeting with them and interviewing them.
“In my mind, if you’re going to hire an economic-development director, we’re not all going to be interviewing them. That’s your (Myers’) job. That’s what they pay you to do. So if that’s your comfort level, that’s my comfort level,” he added.
Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said while he would accept the consultant chosen by a majority of the board, he would like to see some changes to this year’s evaluation of the strategic plan.
Miguel said he believes the plan has turned into a “bureaucracy” with too much work to be completed by a small number of employees and that the strategic plan often overshadowed other needs in the city. He also proposed reducing the number of annual goals in the plan from 25 to as few as 10.
“I sense that this has turned into somewhat of a bureaucracy,” Miguel said. “There’s a tremendous amount of paperwork associated with this. I’m concerned about the amount of paperwork that generated. My other concern was that it appeared to me that some of the tasks that made it into the strategic plan superseded some other tasks that were really, in my opinion, of a higher priority …
“I think the business-license review is one item that did not get done. And that was not even part of this strategic plan. So I’m concerned that we not let some of these things get out of focus. You know, what makes it into this plan, I don’t know whether there needs to be a magical number or there needs to be a target of 24 or 25. Perhaps 10 or 12 really core items spread out over the course of a year would be strategically more significant and eliminating some of the fluff …
“Now that said, I think there were certainly a lot of benefits that came from it, especially at a time when there was a lot of turnover in the city and there was a definite need for a morale booster. So I think overall it’s a positive. But I think we need to be careful that we target this and perhaps go from our experience over the past year and spread the burden.”