When city project managing firm J5 Broaddus began overseeing Columbus’ public works department on April 15, the arrangement was supposed to last a month.
Widespread tornado damage on April 28 in the city changed those plans. Public works crews spent the next five weeks cleaning storm debris. Now, J5 Broaddus is prepared to manage public works through July.
The move was made after a study of the department revealed a possible $1 million in waste.
J5 Broaddus Senior Project Manager Robyn Eastman said one improvement that has been made since the firm began running the department, which has a $3.5 million budget, is time management.
“We have a schedule that is a lot more detailed, easily followed up and verified if the work is being done,” Eastman said. “We’ve got GPS units on all the trucks that tell us if they go outside the geographic fence or if they speed or idle.”
The next overhaul taking place is inventory management, Eastman said. The department has an asset management system that has not been updated since 2011, and the last known fiscal inventory took place in 2009. Emphasis has been placed on a wall-to-wall inventory for a week, and Eastman said that process will likely take three more weeks to complete.
“Nobody’s ever signed something out from public works,” he said. “If you needed something, you went and got it. If you didn’t bring it back, nobody knew. If you check out five shovels, I’m going to expect you to bring five shovels back.”
Eastman said once J5 gives full control of the department back to director Casey Bush, he will ask the council if the firm can conduct a second study in October to gauge improvements.
The study, which included installation of GPS on work trucks and following employees around during their work days, showed three alerts of city-owned vehicles in idle for long periods of time (one for 43 minutes, another for 37). J5 employees followed one crew around who drove 102 miles in a day, never left the city limits and never went over 34 miles per hour.
Eastman said the nationwide normal productivity percentage of groups that do tasks assigned to Columbus Public Works is about 88 percent a day. Based on the study, the city is getting about 45 percent a day from its public works crews, the study concluded.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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