City hires firm to study consulting process

Asheville officials are hiring the Charlotte-based organizational-development firm Greeley and Williams to determine whether the city is spending its money wisely on consultant fees.

“The city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during the last few years on consultant fees,” said Mayor Leni Sitnick. “Council is wondering whether the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.”

In recent years, Asheville City Council has hired consultants to study: what to do with the Asheville Civic Center; whether citizens in annexed areas are getting their fair share of city services; whether the cable-TV franchise holder underpaid the city; how to solve the city’s stormwater-runoff problems; whether dogs should be allowed in Riverside Cemetery; whether to change the day and time of City Council meetings; whether to change day to night, and night to day; and whether city employees should be allowed to moonlight (or moon) in topless clubs.

Longtime Council watchdog Ralph Bishop is skeptical of some of the studies. “Frankly, Council should be able to make some decisions without hiring a consultant,” he declared.

But Council member Earl Cobb said many decisions are too technical for Council members to understand. “I know the idea of hiring a consultant firm to study consultant studies may sound a bit redundant,” Cobb said. “But, as part of its study, Greeley will be evaluating the effectiveness of its own study, too, so we’ll get be sure to get our money’s worth. This Council is committed to stretching every public dollar to the max.”

Former Vice Mayor Chris Peterson blasted the Greeley contract, saying, “Pretty soon, all our tax dollars will be going for studies, and there won’t be any left over to run the city with.”

Peterson headed up an irate delegation that challenged Council on the planned study during last Tuesday’s Council meeting. Faced with a room full of angry constituents, Council agreed to table the idea and directed staff to study it further.

City Manager Jim Westbrook said staff plans to bid its study out to Duey Cheatim & How, a Woodfin-based firm. The firm’s study should be ready by April Fools’ Day.

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