LETTER: Town Paying $10,000 for Free Information

February 24, 2014


I recently attended a Cape Charles Town Council Meeting and heard that our Town Manager, Heather Arcos, had proposed a wage hour survey be conducted for $10,000 and has already selected her preferred vendor, Springsted Inc., to do the work.  Surprisingly, without any discussion, the Mayor and Town Council approved the request.

I don’t disagree with doing a wage hour survey to determine if our town employees are properly compensated for the work that they do.  I spent over 35 years in the Human Resources field and have considerable experience in compensation, benefits, recruiting, employee/labor relations, training/development, and succession planning for some of the top companies in America. So I have some background to reasonably discuss the topic.

When these studies are done in the private sector, overpaid employees’ salaries are reduced or frozen, underpaid employees are gradually brought up to market, and redundant positions eliminated. Is our Council suggesting that they will take similar action with our town staff? Who is going to ensure that this is not merely a mechanism to increase town management salaries?  It seems like a conflict of interest when you hire a consultant, pay $10,000 and ask them to tell you if you are being paid enough.

I feel that it is irresponsible for the Mayor and Town Council to spend taxpayer dollars for information that is readily available for free in the public domain. Every town in Virginia is required to provide employee compensation information requested by the public (Virginia Code 2.2-3705.8.A). So why has the Town Council approved paying $10,000 of your money to an outside agency for this information that could be obtained for free? And why was the work awarded to Springsted without going through the competitive bid process? If we agree that a salary survey is the right thing to do, shouldn’t we be sure we are getting the best price for our tax dollars by competitively bidding the project?

I have done some research on Springsted, Inc., and it appears that their primary business is public sector financial advising. As a sideline they also consult with town governments to plan effective taxing strategies, develop options and schemes to fund projects, and manage the town’s organization and staff through fee-based recruiting services. In my opinion, they have built a full-service consulting business to help themselves and local government get more from taxpayers.

The Council’s most recent experience with a no-bid financial advisor resulted in a $40,000 fee and the citizens of Cape Charles taking on $1.2 million in new debt. Our Town Council is not the Federal Government. They can’t print money. When our Council increases our debt they increase our water/sewage fees and taxes. Can we really afford the freewheeling and unbudgeted spending by our current Town Council?

Cape Charles

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2 Responses to “LETTER: Town Paying $10,000 for Free Information”

  1. Pamela Parris on February 24th, 2014 7:44 am

    Obviously, this letter went unanswered by the Town Council. Unbelievable! The citizens need to wake up, work together and provide a larger voice. One man cannot do it alone!

  2. Deborah Bender on February 24th, 2014 10:09 am

    Thank you David. Excellent information.
    Pamela — The town council in Cape Charles never answers our questions. It is a sad fact that this town is being run into financial ruin. Higher taxes and utility bills — I think not!