CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council voted unanimously to pursue an option that would outsource all park maintenance services and that would potentially impact close to 50 city employees.
The city chose to move forward in collecting more data before executing any final decision. The move by the city has triggered a “meet and confer” process with the CCEA (Carlsbad City Employees’ Association), the park maintenance employees’ union.
The accounting firm Baker Tilly provided a comprehensive report to Carlsbad which showed that contracting out park maintenance could save the city anywhere from $1.7 million to $3.8 million annually.
Deputy City Manager Cynthia Haas addressed the city council reminding council members that, during the annual goal-setting workshop 18 months ago, staff was asked to explore the idea of contracting out more of their services as a way to further reduce operating costs.
“But it was with the caveat that the high standards that we have in place would not be sacrificed,” Haas said. “We are back again to explore the various programs and approaches.”
Earlier in the year, the city contracted Baker Tilly to conduct the analysis.
Haas pointed out that the city already has contracts with outside vendors to perform services as tree maintenance and open space care.
With the Baker Tilly report, staff recommended three options to the city, which were to either outsource all parks maintenance services, outsource only tree and landscape maintenance, or remain status quo.
“I do want to emphasize that we are not talking about recreation services,” Haas said when talking about option one. She continued, “We are talking just about park maintenance activities.”
Councilman Keith Blackburn did express concern over children’s safety from not having control over the outsourced employees. Before he stated his opinions, he said he would be as tactful as possible.
“Parks are for our local children,” Blackburn said. “My concern is right now with our consistent city employees we don’t have problems with, accusations of our employees being too friendly with young kids, and things like that.”
Blackburn turned to Parks & Recreation Director Chris Hazeltine for answers on how contracted employees could be screened so the city does not have problems with them interacting with the children.
“We can state right in our contract that all employees of the contract must have background checks, must be fingerprinted, and must have Live Scan,” Hazeltine said. “We can go so far as to put contract administrators in place to make sure that it is actually happening as well.”
Blackburn has heard concerns from mothers who frequent the park with their children regarding outsourcing contract employees.
There is a level of comfort that families have when they go to the park and let their kids run free, Blackburn said.