Monday, August 29, 2011

Does the City of North Canton Manage City Property & Personnel Effectively?

Prepared Comments Made to
August 29, 2011

I have observed over some time now the business of city government and I am prompted to ask the question: Does the City of North Canton manage city property & personnel effectively?

A few days before Christmas of 2010, a family on Pittsburgh Avenue suffered an estimated $250,000 in damages as a result of a fire. What caught my attention was the fact that firefighters were unable to use two nearby city fire hydrants. According to a Repository story dated December 20, 2010, fire crews tried to connect to a hydrant on the corner of Portage and Pittsburgh. That hydrant failed and when crews hooked to a second hydrant further north on Pittsburgh, that hydrant worked but broke within a few minutes.

Now, we are just seven months later and we have city residents dealing with sewer backups. In a Beacon Journal story dated, August 25, 2011, Mayor Held states, “the city will work on possibly clogged sanitary sewer lines.”

Problems with infrastructure are happening all too frequently. Is North Canton being effectively managed? Factoring in the repeated storm water flooding in the city that we are all too well aware of and one would certainly wonder what is going on with management of the city’s infrastructure.

Not as critical as the infrastructure failures noted above, but important just the same, is what I perceive to be a misuse of city personnel. Anyone who has ever attended a State of the City speech has surely noticed the abundance of city personnel who turn out. Many of these events have taken place during the workday. Clearly, city personnel cannot be doing their jobs if they are attending these political events.

How many city employees were ushered over to the Suarez event, less than two weeks ago, on August 18, 2011, while on the clock? We all know this has gone on but is this an effective way to manage city personnel?

My motivation for asking whether North Canton is effectively managed came to me on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. It was on that day, at approximately 1:15 p.m. that I saw four city employees in a city vehicle, waiting at the traffic light at the intersection of Dressler Road & Belden Village St., ostensibly coming back from lunch.

When I noted to one of the passengers in the car several days later that I had observed him in Belden Village in a city car around lunch time a few days earlier, he told me that the driver of the city car was looking at city water lines. Why would four city employees need to be riding around Belden Village looking at water lines at lunch time? Do you think the three passengers enjoyed spending their lunch hour looking at city water lines?

I have learned that only the city’s Fire Chief has a vehicle available to him to use on a permanent basis. I have consulted the North Canton Personnel Handbook and it states, “City Vehicles are to be used for City business.” Is the city’s vehicle use policy enforced?

Is there a policy regarding the misuse of city employees? Apparently, there should be one.

The instances above do not make me feel that North Canton is managing city property & personnel effectively. Given the city’s ongoing precarious financial situation, one would think we could do better.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton