North Las Vegas auditors on Dec. 22, 2010, issued a park maintenance audit covering July 2009 through September 2010, concluding the city could save more than $1 million a year by outsourcing park maintenance.
* The city's in-house park maintenance costs were $80 to $100 an hour, compared to the $25 to $35 an hour typically charged by contractors. The audit stated that government employees are more expensive than contracted ones because of higher costs associated with wages, benefits, equipment, tools and overhead.
City park maintenance workers at the time were paid about $30 an hour in base pay for 36 hours of work per week. Add 40 percent for benefits and the cost grows to $42 an hour. Excluding non-working days for holidays, vacation and sick leave, full-time employees were paid 1,872 hours annually but worked only 1,584, driving up costs to $50 an hour. There are also indirect costs for administrative and supportive staff (including management, mechanics and office assistants) and overhead costs for vehicles, equipment and tools.
* Maintenance workers spent 26 percent of their days (or 2.47 hours) driving and 12 percent (or 1.14 hours) on lunch and breaks. In the latter case they are allowed only a total of one hour for lunch and breaks. "Productivity could improve if workers stop making unnecessary trips back and forth between their work sites and the office, for punching time cards, taking breaks, or other activities due to poor training," the audit stated.
"Some workers spent approximately one hour each day driving back and forth to punch time cards. Several workers, especially the weekend crews, spent a lot of time driving from park to park to unlock gates and restrooms, and perform trash removal in the morning. Some employees frequently drove back from their parks to the maintenance office during the day for lunch, breaks or other activities. Each return trip usually took 20-30 minutes of drive time."
* Due to budget cuts and staff reduction, maintenance workers were "inundated by the labor intensive tasks, such as picking trash and cleaning restrooms," the audit stated. "As semi-skilled labor, the full-time workers should focus their efforts on landscape maintenance and fixing irrigation problems, instead of the low-skilled cleaning tasks, which would be more cost effective to be performed by community service workers."
* Due to staff reduction over the previous two years, each maintenance worker has had to cover more parks and acreage, resulting in lower service levels. "Based on their deteriorating conditions, the irrigation systems, turf areas, plants and trees had apparently not been properly maintained, and might result in costly repairs or replacements of these valuable city assets," the audit stated.
* Most workers began their shifts at 5 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., but during the winter the sun doesn't rise until 6:30 a.m. on most days. "Without adequate lighting, work productivity in the parks could be negatively impacted," the audit stated.
* The city spent $447,000 annually on parks division vehicles and large equipment. With more than 30 vehicles, the division had more vehicles than employees. The audit said that because vehicles were assigned to individual employees the trucks sat idle in the maintenance yard when the workers were off duty. "Consequently, these city vehicles had relatively low utilization," the audit stated.
The parks division also didn't formally track its equipment utilization, repair and maintenance. "As such, it was impossible to determine whether a piece of expensive equipment had been regularly serviced to meet the warranty requirements, and fully utilized to justify the cost of ownership," the audit stated.
* City parks spent more than $1 million a year on water. The costs ranged from $1,235 a year per acre at the 14.7-acre Sandstone Ridge Park to $5,467 an acre at the 20-acre Nature Discover Park. Newer parks such as Sandstone Ridge (built in 2007) cost significantly less to water than older parks such as City View (built in 1968 and costing $5,464 an acre to water annually) because of differences in design and water conservation emphasis.
"If 10 percent to 20 percent of the existing turf areas, especially those located at the perimeters, slopes and medians, were converted to desert landscape, the city could save at least $100,000 annually on water," the audit stated. "Most of the city parks, especially the older ones and some built by developers, were not designed with water conservation in mind."
These were among the responses to the audit from city management:
* A cost containment plan could be developed. But at the time of the audit, the city was already at a "very lean level of maintenance."
* A way for the city to eliminate the need for workers to punch a time clock would be by simply developing formal expectations for their jobs, with evaluation based on their ability to meet expectations. But management said park maintenance workers couldn't begin and end their work shifts at their assigned parks because they have to pick up their trucks and tools at the main yard.
The advantage of the main yard on Brooks Street is that it is a secure location, making it difficult to vandalize the trucks. Some parks have restrooms that can be used to store maintenance supplies but not all parks have restrooms.
* Management said it would work with detention services to try to guarantee a set number of community service workers to help with parks maintenance.
* Management said it reduced the parks maintenance fleet to 24 vehicles, having turned over four vehicles to the city for other use. A plan also was in the works that would allow multiple employees to work at a park site so that they could share vehicles and take lunch breaks together, reducing total drive time.
* Management said it would look at areas within parks where turf is used as an aesthetic feature that could be converted. Landscaped medians and buildings also would be examined.