Public Works Complex
In 2011, North Ogden City was faced with the prospect of replacing an aging public works facility that was not only failing to meet the needs of our city, but was a dangerous environment for our city employees. The city council and mayor at the time were considering locations where the city already owned property as new sites for the complex. This presented a serious "NIMBY" issue (Not In My Back Yard). The proposed complex was estimated to cost up to $10M despite the fact that our neighbor, Pleasant View, was in the process of completing a similar complex (although 1/2 the size of North Ogden's) for ~$800K. Residents were very vocal in expressing their opposition to both the proposed locations as well as the price tag.
Council member Wade Bigler helped to organize a group of residents to lead a petition drive. I authored the petition and assisted in the drive to place the project on the ballot for a public vote. The drive was very successful--obtaining more than enough signatures to place it on the ballot. However, the city filed a lawsuit against those who submitted the petition (myself and Kent Bailey--another council candidate) claiming it was not executed correctly. In order to ensure that residents had a voice, we re-organized the petition drive and again gathered the signatures needed (no small task for those involved). This time, the city accepted the petition and the plan to build the complex was put on hold. It was at this time that Kent Bailey, Cheryl Stoker and I were elected to the city council. Although it was difficult to wait for the vote of the residents before moving forward with changes to the public works complex, it was important to us that their voices be heard. We purchased a piece of property very close to the existing facility (with no resident opposition) and replaced the public works committee with a very experienced and fiscally conservative group of North Ogden residents.
Once the votes were counted and the old plan was effectively thrown out by an overwhelming majority, we worked hard to determine what our 'wants' versus our 'needs' were. We set aside $2.2M in cash from our enterprise funds and general fund balance without putting our city at any risk and sent out the RFQ late last year. We now have a reputable general contractor lined up to build a very functional and beautiful facility using cash we set aside for this project. Not only are we building what we need now, we've put together a plan that will accommodate public works for our entire build out over the next 30 years for many millions less than the original proposal.
As an elected official, it's my obligation to ensure that our residents' tax money is being spent responsibly. One of the issues that was brought to my attention was the perceived disparity between compensation of the public sector and private sector. Although raises were not given to city employees during the economic downturn, retirement, 401K matching, significant healthcare and other contributions continued to be given to city employees when these practices had been suspended in the private sector. I, along with others on the council, suggested we create an employee compensation committee to determine what the proper compensation would be for our valued employees. A group of extremely qualified residents from the private sector along with several of our city employees (utilized as support staff to the committee) looked at every position in the city and weighed their compensation against both cities of comparable size and scope as well as the private sector wherever possible. We did not give them a charter to reduce costs; we simply asked them to determine what our compensation structure should look like to remain competitive and retain good city employees.
After a significant amount of investigation, the committee returned with information regarding each position and what the compensation levels looked like to retain, maintain or replace each. Overall compensation packages were considered--not simply wages. We found that many positions needed to be 'right-sized'. The council has been working on correcting the employee compensation and has not only satisfied the interest of residents, but established a method for producing the best compensation studies into the future.
One of the issues that the council took head on was the matter of disproportionate fees. These fees were assessed to businesses in North Ogden based primarily on police response. The primary issue with this was that police response in high traffic areas that weren't necessarily associated with a business were still tied to the business--which meant that the business owner paid more in disproportionate fees. Not only was this a burden on our local businesses that went above and beyond sales tax, the administrative and required study costs were so high that the program was running at a loss. It was truly a re-distribution of money that didn't make sense and resulted in North Ogden being named a "business unfriendly" city. Bringing this to the council, discussing the impacts and ultimately deleting this from our books was the right thing to do for residents and businesses in North Ogden and has resulted in a much more business friendly environment.
Before I was elected in 2011, North Ogden had a part-time business development director who also served as our city attorney part time. Steps had been taken by (now) Mayor Brent Taylor to put an economic development plan in place, but the plan had yet to be solidified and executed. I suggested to other members of the council and mayor that we consider looking at professional help from outside of our current staff to help put us on a path to solid economic growth. I subsequently approached Matthew Godfrey (former Mayor of Ogden) who was running an economic development firm called Better City and discussed the possibility of having them take us on as a client. Our city manager put together an RFP and Better City was selected as the most qualified candidate. Since that time, we've seen several major commercial developments come into the city or be proposed to the planning commission. Matthew and his firm have performed a significant service to North Ogden by bringing in needed products and services to North Ogden's bedroom community. The largest of these projects is underway near Washington Blvd and 2700 North where a new Smith's Marketplace is being constructed.
Privatization of Services
I've worked as an outsourced service provider for about 10 years out of the past 14 and understand how outsourcing works. My proposals to North Ogden have included outsourcing lawn care and other seasonal services that would reduce our costs while delivering the same results to residents. It's important that we take care of our parks, streets and other resources. We have not pursued outsourcing to date because of some restrictive reduction in force requirements. However, at some point in the near future, this type of outsourcing will make sense for our city and will likely be pursued. One of the most important aspects of this type of change is that options be considered. When we fail to consider options based on our own perceptions or experience, we give up an opportunity to become educated.
Long-Term Capital Improvements
In the wake of the first public works complex bond parameters (up to $10M), I've suggested we consider looking not only at the long-term infrastructure of our water, sewer, storm water systems, etc., but also at our long-term capital improvement (replacement) projects. We need to be looking at the usable life expectancy of our offices and other facilities to determine when they will need to be replaced. It was evident that the public works facility needed to be replaced many years ago, but we failed to start saving until just a couple of years ago--forcing us to consider bonding for a large sum of money and placing residents into long-term debt for decades to come. By determining the life of our buildings, we are now able to set aside a portion of our surplus each year toward those projects in order to keep our debt at the lowest amount possible.
State Legislature Voting Records
Below you can take a look at my voting record in the State Legislature.
My record from the 2015 Special Session - Fawson2015S1.pdf
My record from the 2016 General Session - Fawson_Voting_Record_2016.pdf