Budget pressures in the late 1980s caused city officials to change
restroom cleaning from a city staff responsibility to a service
provided mainly by outside contractors. But, as officials learned in
a study session on restroom cleaning last month, you get what you pay
for. Contracted workers who make less money and enjoy fewer benefits
than city staff just don't have the incentive to work as hard.
This reality became glaringly obvious in July 2000, when a new
contractor's workers took one look at the atrocious condition of some
beach restrooms and refused to do the work. As a result, the firm
reneged on its contract with the city on the very first day it was
supposed to provide services. Who stepped in? City staffers, who were
paid overtime to clean the restrooms.
Currently, two city staff members supplement the work of two
companies that contract with the city for beach restroom cleaning.
The total cost of about $225,655 a year hasn't been enough.
Department heads in the last budget requested an additional $20,000
for beach restroom cleaning. They were shot down. But last month,
Councilman Gary Adams requested the city find a way to improve the
bathrooms' condition. The solution officials agreed on: An additional
$43,000 in the budget to pay for more contracted cleanings.
Officials opted to use a contractor for the additional cleanings
because, again, money is tight and the city can't afford the
higher-priced staff workers.
"We get a lot of people saying, 'We have too many employees. Why
don't we contract out?'" Adams told residents who questioned the
decision to hire a contractor. "But when we contract out, people say,
'Why can't we do it with city employees?'"
Only time will tell whether Tuesday's move will result in more
presentable restrooms in an illustration of the cliche "throwing good
money after bad."