Contract Management in Contract City: The Case of Weston, Florida

Article excerpt

City and county managers often manage contracts, but managers rarely devote most of their waking hours (and occasionally sleepless nights) to contract management. But the job of the city manager of Weston, Florida, a city with only three municipal employees and about 400 contract employees, is to be the contract manager of Weston for service delivery and finance.

In Weston in 2007 the three employees who are on the city payroll are the city manager, the assistant city manager/chief financial officer (ACM/CFO), and the city clerk. The 400 others are employed by contractors who perform the services that are typical of a community of more than 60,000 residents. This article describes the nature of contracting in Weston, the functions of the manager, and some of the challenges and solutions that have characterized local government management in Weston.

The demographics of Weston are important. It is in Broward County, Florida. Miami is 31 miles to the south and Fort Lauderdale 18 miles to the east. A young, ethnically mixed, and affluent group of residents lives within Weston's 26 square miles. In 2005, 47 percent of Weston's inhabitants were white and 41 percent Latino, with African Americans and Asians constituting the remainder. The median age was 34.2 years, with females outnumbering males by 53 percent to 47 percent.

Weston is a community of homeowners; in 2005, 80 percent owned their own residences. Most significant perhaps is the $91,851 median family income, which is 41 percent above the median Florida income and 39 percent above the U.S. 2005 median income. Weston's tax base extends beyond its residents, whose local tax rates are among the lowest in Florida. In fact, tax rates in Weston have been unchanged for 10 years. Weston receives much of its revenue from its 7 million square feet of industrial, office, and commercial space.

The location, affluence, and demographic makeup of the community have much to do with Weston's service obligations to its residents. Many of its crucial services are provided by either the county or the state. Social services for the elderly poor are not an issue because few if any such individuals live in Weston, and the local hospital in Weston is funded privately. Similarly, the local elementary and high schools are not a Weston responsibility; administration, education policy, and funding lie in the hands of the school board of Broward County.

Nevertheless, Weston's city government--organized in a council-manager model with an elected mayor and four city commissioners--undertakes a broad variety of duties for its residents (see the first column of Figure 1). Notable among them are public safety--police and fire response--solid waste collection and disposal, infrastructure maintenance and repair, and recreation and cultural activities. All of these services are provided by contractors. The second column of Figure 1 lists the nature of the contractor, that is, whether the service is provided by a government authority or a private enterprise.

Weston's decision to contract is not just pragmatic; it is inherent to the philosophy of Weston as expressed in section 3.11 of its charter:

It was the original intent of the city to provide traditional municipal services [i.e., public safety, public works, administrative services, community development, and community services] through public and private contract providers. Accordingly, traditional municipal services shall be rendered through contract providers, not city employees....

THE NATURE OF CONTRACTING IN WESTON

While technically Weston is not subject to the contracting statutes of Florida, it has voluntarily subscribed to the intent of Florida's laws that require competitiveness in contracting, transparency, and effective contract monitoring (Florida Statutes, Sec. 287.001). Thus, Weston abides by the financial triggers in the state's laws that mandate competitive bidding for contracts that exceed a stated dollar sum. …