Sometimes the best way is to do it yourself
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | September 14, 2017|
A couple of stories that crossed our path this week have us questioning the value of consultants.
The first example is at the Township of Minden Hills. Every year it pays Cambium Inc. a hefty sum of money to advise it on its landfills. They are the supposed experts in their field.
So it left us scratching our heads, when the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently rejected the 25-year-plan for the Scotch Line landfill due to the planned placement of a transfer station.
Apparently the location picked by the township, as advised by Cambium, was too close to homes. Cambium should have known that. Surely it knows what the MOECC regulations are about placement of transfer stations.
Now, the municipality must spend more time and money to fix things up and re-file plans with the ministry.
The second example involves Dysart et al and consultant, ASI Water. ASI Water, which specializes in water and wastewater operations and engineering, has been hired to evaluate septage treatment options.
It now appears they’ve low-balled estimates for annual septage pumped per year in the township. ASI Water is recommending a new treatment facility, estimating the volume of septage pumped per year in Dysart at 3,900 square metres.
But local haulers are saying it’s much more than that. One company alone said it’s pumped as much as 3,250 square metres in a year.
A spokesperson for ASI Water told us they’ll have to go back and have a look at the numbers.
Rob Camelon, the municipality’s interim director of public works, then encouraged haulers to come forward and participate in the conversation. Why didn’t that happen before an Aug. 31 public meeting at the Haliburton Legion? That would have seemed a more logical sequence of events.
Municipalities hire experts for a reason. They expect jobs to be done accurately, on time and on budget. That can be elusive.
In some cases, it would be more cost effective, and accountable, to train staff to do these projects.
We’ve also seen a worrying trend of sole source procurements in the county. If only one company is bidding on the job, you’re stuck with them.
It’s like the Toronto man who built a set of stairs for $550, irking the city after it received a consultant’s estimate of $65,000 for the same job. The man’s stairs were ripped out and taxpayers were ripped off. Woe to anyone who expects common sense to triumph over government policies.
We would urge our councils to rely less on consultants when staff can do the job as effectively. If they can’t, training them once means the skills will be there for the next time. Sure, there are some fields of expertise that are too specialized for a small municipality to afford. But councils need to get a clearer picture of what they can and can’t do, and trust their own employees.
Consultants are far removed from day to day operations and our community. They may not always know best.. They used to say nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM. That may be true, but it often means somebody ends up paying a lot more than they have to.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.