Bainbridge city manager sets his priorities for the new year

The city of Bainbridge Island faces a slew of tasks in the coming year. Among them are a roads bond, an island TV channel, and changes to the operations of city hall itself.

City Manager Doug Schulze lays out his 20132 list of priorities at the city council's retreat at the Bloedel Reserve on Jan. 6.

The city of Bainbridge Island faces a slew of tasks in the coming year.

Among them are a roads bond, an island TV channel, and changes to the operations of city hall itself.

City Manager Doug Schulze has been with the city since November. He has spent much of that time getting up to speed, and giving little details regarding any concrete plans for the city.

But the city council’s annual retreat Sunday, Jan. 6 provided a peek into Schulze’s vision for Bainbridge Island over the coming year. Going quarter by quarter, the city manager presented the council his priorities for the island in a comprehensive guide into what the city faces in 2013.

While the list is extensive, one theme stands out: More change is yet to come, and not just with the new attorney and police chief yet to be hired. City hall is going to get a makeover.

Schulze is currently in the process of completing a “peer city comparison report.”

The information will consist of 10 cities above and below Bainbridge Island’s population. From there, he can compare and contrast how the island holds up against similar municipalities.

“I’m going through all kinds of different data to do comparisons,” he said. “We can look at, for example, how many employees we have in public works per thousand compared to a likewise city.”

Schulze notes that it’s not as simple as lining cities up alongside each other.

“Mercer Island has a parks department and we don’t. They also don’t have a sewer utility and we do,” he said.

The idea is to learn how city hall can work more efficiently. It won’t stop with the report, he said.

Within three months the city’s building permitting process will go through a “Kaizen event.” The lean management tool is popular throughout corporate America as a means of identifying what can be done better and what is wasteful.

“It is a brainstorming event with a group of participants that are involved in a certain process,” Schulze said. “In this case we are focused on the building permitting process.”

By the second quarter, Schulze lists an “organizational structure modification” as yet another priority; meaning how the city runs and who runs it may be altered.

“For example, in the police department we have the commander position vacant right now and four lieutenant positions,” Schulze said.

“We look at the operation to determine if that’s the right structure and make changes to it. Do we need four lieutenants and a commander?” he asked city council members.

But city hall isn’t the only thing on Schulze’s mind. The city council has been steering around talks of issuing a roads bond for some time, but hasn’t acted on it.

Schulze wants to be prepared.

“I just know it is a council goal and something they’ve been talking about,” he said after the retreat.

“If they are planning to put something on the ballot in November 2014, some time in the last quarter of this year we need to start planning for that,” he said.

Contract negotiations around the city’s public access cable channel will also be on the manager’s to-do list.

The city will be in talks with Comcast over the next few months, and the negotiations could lead to the return of an island channel.

“The idea is that it would be a Bainbridge Island TV channel,” Schulze said. “What that looks like is yet to be determined. We don’t anticipate that it will be operated by the city.”

But perhaps one of the biggest changes that Schulze will bring is improving communication.

At the retreat he spoke of getting out into the community to discover how to fix the city. He mentioned setting up a city tent at events such as the Fourth of July celebration.

“The old style of ‘We are going to have a meeting at city hall and expect people to come to us’ just doesn’t work,” he told the council at the retreat.

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