The latest in what has been a string of consulting contracts funded by Longview taxpayers didn’t get approved Thursday without one councilman raising questions and concerns.
District 6 Councilman Steve Pirtle joined in the Longview City Council’s unanimous approval of a consent agenda item that included a $50,000 contract with a Chicago-based risk management firm, but for several minutes, he questioned Director of Administration Mary Ann Miller about why the city needed to spend the money — then expressed his growing displeasure with consulting contracts and their costs.
“The problem I have is we’re constantly getting bombarded with consulting fees (and) consulting services,” the second-term councilman said, “and since I’ve been here, we’ve spent a half-million dollars on consulting services, and it’s just getting kind of routine.”
Council members Thursday also designated the Boy Scout Troop 201 cabin as a local historical landmark, spent $184,000 for traffic signal installation at the Hawkins Parkway-Heritage Boulevard intersection and approved a property tax rate of 55.89 cents per $100 valuation for 2019-20.
Over the past 7 years, the city has spent well more than $1 million on at least 15 different consulting contracts on issues ranging from development plans to salary studies.
The contract approved Thursday with Hub Consulting calls for property and casualty insurance consulting services intended to help the city mitigate risks on policies regarding property, automobiles, general liability, law enforcement liability, workers’ compensation, boiler and machinery, cyber crimes and other insurance coverages, Miller said.
Hub Consulting will evaluate the city’s current coverages, identify funding gaps in those coverages, administer a proposal process that ensures the city awards the carrier that has the most favorable pricing and terms for each insurance coverage, she said, at a cost of $50,000 per year.
The agreement is for a one-year term with renewal options.
“I believe that I can personally lay my head down on a pillow at night more comfortable that we are properly insured,” Miller said, “and I believe that we will see a cost savings.”
Pirtle asked Miller why the city needed out-of-town consultants rather than city attorneys, staff or already contracted insurance companies to determine what the city needed or lacks. He also asked whether the contract was sent out for bid or if staff simply picked Hub.
Miller answered that the city needed “a certain level of expertise” that is required when looking at whether or not to stay with a current worker’s compensation liability firm or go in a different direction. She also said that under state law, the city didn’t have to go through the bidding process for a professional services contract.
The city’s risk management division has had “some concerns” within the last year and want to make sure that the city is covered correctly on all fronts in which it has insurance, she said.
Pirtle then asked, “Well, why didn’t we ask our insurance provider about those concerns instead of spending $50,000 to bring somebody in?”
“We have,” Miller asked, noting that the city has general liability and workers’ compensation through the Texas Municipal League, but that the agency says that Longview is “too big” to be covered by the league for several other types of policies.
After some back and forth, Pirtle then said, “OK. As long as you feel like we can justify this by recouping this, then I feel like I don’t really have that big of an issue, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Funding for the contract is available from the city’s Risk Management Fund, Miller said.