For the City of Carpinteria, extension-of-staff is key for supplementing the 30-person city staff during busy periods. Despite a full-time population of 15,000, Carpinteria is active with municipal projects as a result of its location along the heavily-trafficked Los Angeles – Santa Barbara Central Coast corridor.
CalTrans’ focus to improve mobility within this corridor has resulted in simultaneous projects to widen U.S. Highway 101, replace interchanges and add High Occupancy Vehicle [HOV] lanes. The projects’ impacts on Carpinteria prompted the city to hire Dudek to provide planning and environmental services on an extension-of-staff basis.
“These are complex projects and with all three happening at the same time it was too much for city staff to keep up with in addition to their usual workload,” said Jackie Campbell, Carpinteria’s community development director who leads a nine-person department.
Campbell said decisions to use extension of staff are based upon the city’s ability to meet project commitments with available city staff; the level of existing project commitments; and availability of appropriate in-house technical expertise.
Managing a Successful Approach To Extension of Staff
Once a decision is made to use extension of staff, Campbell said she uses the following approach to successfully manage those projects:
- Establish a clear, upfront project understanding. “We want the contract staff to know why the city is using a consultant firm or another public agency in this particular role and what they will be doing,” Campbell said. “We scope extension of staff contracts carefully to make sure we have a clear understanding between us and the firm of what is expected.” (The city contracts with the County of Santa Barbara to provide specialized expertise on oil and gas projects within Carpinteria).
- Supervise closely and provide feedback. “Contract personnel are not in our building every day and sometimes not even located in the city’s jurisdiction,” she said. “It’s our responsibility as the contract agency to inform the contract staff of anything going on in the community or the local politics that may impact their assignment. The contracting supervisor needs to give good feedback.”
- Expect questions from the contract staff. “I expect them (contract staff) to ask questions to make sure they are well informed. I expect feedback on a regular basis on how things are proceeding; where city staff may need to get involved or if something may be coming up that would be a workload issue.”
- Manage the relationship. “The relationship of the assigned contract personnel with city staff is key,” she said. “Contract staff must be experienced in their field and savvy about working with government agencies.” Campbell said previous experience working in government is often a plus for contract staff.
Carpinteria’s small town atmosphere makes one other element essential to extension-of-staff success.
“As a small city, the community is close to staff,” Campbell said. “We measure success partly in subjective terms, ‘Is the community being served well?’ We have an active and involved community so we want them to know the work is being done and done well.”