Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Town Council Faces Bridge Dilemma Because Of Poor Oversight By Town Manager Wilkins

Lack of oversight causes delayed decision regarding the bridge on Hole 7 of the Pusch Ridge Golf Course
Tomorrow night, the Town Council will consider what to do about the unsafe, closed bridge between holes 7 and 8 at the Pusch View Golf Course [Agenda]. This is the second time they will be discussing this situation. Why? Because Town Manager Jeff Wilkins has failed to provide proper oversight of town staff. Wilkins is one of three people who report to the Council. Town staff reports to Wilkins. Yet, they address the council directly at meetings and they do so without proper oversight from Wilkins.

Two month saga of ineptitude 
Let's go back to the night of February 7 when the council decided to keep the Pusch View Golf Course open. At that time, Carl Shaddock, a staff management analyst, discussed capital investment needs at the Course. He noted capital projects: “...First, the Hole 7 Bridge reconstruction, estimated at about $318,000, and anticipated in fiscal year 2026.”

Apparently, however, Wilkins had never asked Shaddock whether he or town staff had actually visited the course and evaluated the bridge to make this determination. We were told by a reliable source that they had not.

The next day, February 8, staff rushed to the course to look at this bridge. Why? “…given the statements [by speakers at the meeting of February 7] of 'repairs' by community members, staff needed to immediately review what had been done and visited the site on February 8th.”

The repairs done by residents are obvious: Some painting and shoring up the deck. Had staff actually gone to the course they would have seen this.

Suddenly, that visit sparked staff concern. The bridge looked unsafe. So, on February 20, the Town contracted a structural engineering consultant, Structural Concepts Inc., to evaluate the bridge. This was done on an emergency basis.

On February 22, the consultant visited the course to gather necessary information to conduct an evaluation.

On March 8, the consultant issued a report recommending closing the bridge “…until structural repairs, strengthening, and/or replacement components can be installed.”

Staff closed the bridge shortly after that.

This mess happened because Wilkins never challenged town staff
Apparently, Wilkins never challenged Shaddock, the town Parks Department or the town’s public works department regarding the capital expenditures they presented to council on February 7. Essentially, Wilkins allowed the staff to present incorrect information regarding the condition of the bridge on hole 7. Council relied upon this information to make its decision on future course operations.

Wait, though, it gets worse…Now its an emergency
Two weeks ago, Wilkins jammed an item into the March 13 council agenda, with, of course, the Mayor’s approval. The item was for council to approve funding for how staff wanted to fix the situation. This was, after all, an emergency. Shaddock’s statement “Maybe we fix the bridge in 2026”; became a “We have to fix it immediately.”

...Council goes “Oops” ...Approves staff solution...failing to consider the impact on those who walk the course
A one-hour discussion ensued at the meeting in which the council initially approved funding of the staff’s recommendation. Then, realizing that he had forgotten two “Blue Card’ resident speakers, Mayor Winfield reopened the discussion to learn that the fix they had approved created a problem for those walking the course. 

...Then gets the straight scoop from a resident
Resident Scott Hunt pointed out that there was a purpose for the bridge being there in the first place.  By the time a walking player would reach hole 8 under the staff solution scenario: “You've walked up five stories, essentially. Now you've got to walk down three stories and then up two more stories to get up to the green [hole 8] with this path that is being created. So essentially you've doubled the climb for anybody who's using the thing without a cart.”  

... Then rescinds approval of the staff solution.. asks staff to provide alternatives at the next meeting
Scott Hunt’s comment resonated with the council. They “rescinded” their approval of the staff’s recommendation and asked for other options, like rebuilding the bridge so people wouldn’t have to have the stamina of a Big Horn Sheep to walk the course.

Staff knew the preferred player solution.. they never presented it... did Wilkins did not think they should consider it?
Apparently, Staff had decided that their solution was the only one council should hear even though staff had met with course players who said clearly that the bridge should be repaired or rebuilt.  They told this to Assistant Town Manage Cornelison, Public Works Director Keesler, and a representative of course operator Indigo Golf.  Either Wilkins was never informed of this preference, deliberately chose to overlook it, did not think of it, or delegated the decision entirely to Cornelison.

Wilkins is the town manager. He needs to “up his game.” 
Staff reports to Wilkins, not to the town council. It is his job to assure that staff presented items are accurate and thought through before they are presented to council. Perhaps Wilkins assumes the professionals on town staff never make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Wilkins job is to catch them. He is the buffer between town staff and the Council and any mistake they make that gets to the council is his mistake.  That is why he has the job. He needs to make sure he knows that what staff is presenting to the council is accurate and considers “all angles.”

He failed to do that in this case.

Wilkins’’ failure to fulfill this crucial oversight role has not only resulted in inefficiencies and missteps but also squandered valuable town resources.

And there is more… 
There are other examples of issues with Wilkins' job performance. Visit TakeBackOV Facebook for more.