Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel staying with the fundamentals while tackling several immediate goals.
Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel, with a few weeks of being the town’s new city manager under his belt, told his city council Monday that he’s developing some definite opinions about Newport City Hall, it’s department heads, employees and the city council. His overall opinion is that the city has a lot of great people working for it, all moving the city forward, but it needs to tighten up on the way the city operates at several levels.
Nebel told the council that getting a competent city finance director to come on board will help fix a lot of financial and budget issues with the city. He said he is still looking for a good one. The city is again advertising for applicants. The first batch, said Nebel, didn’t measure up to his expectations.
Nebel said having a part-time city attorney in Newport while retaining a large law firm in Eugene needs to be sorted out to get the best value from both. He said the airport management situation needs a thorough going over, especially as it relates to what’s called the FAA Part 139 certification, which primarily relates to scheduled airline service which the airport doesn’t have anymore.
Nebel said he detected a feeling by some city staff that when it comes to the city council it’s “Us vs. Them.” And that’s a problem, he said.
Nebel says the city’s organization is difficult to understand. He said the city needs to be better organized from the center-out. He also says the city needs to be more visible to the public and that it’s had too many personnel problems in the recent past that resulted in legal action.
Nebel also commented on the way the city council conducts its meetings. He said he would like to tighten up on that as well. Instead of what appears to be a fairly free flow of dialog between the council and staff during city council meetings, he would prefer that those questions go through him and he will have staff join the conversation as appropriate. Nebel said the procedure is to ensure that topics get covered efficiently without dragging out meetings longer than necessary. Nebel added that the council is certainly free to talk with city department heads, even city workers, one on one on specific issues, but not to the extent that those departments or workers are instructed to do certain things that have budgetary or work flow implications. Nebel said a councilor telling public works there is a nasty pot hole somewhere that needs fixing is certainly appropriate. Nebel said he has heard that certain city council members may be spending too much time with staff – some calling it “interference.”
On other aspects Nebel said the city should have a much greater presence on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). The city should post progress reports on major construction projects in a timely manner. Nebel also suggested that the city’s agenda items often are accompanied buy too much detail.
Nebel said city goals should drive the budget process and that visioning should be community based. He said the council seems to spend too much time on near horizon issues at the expense of long term ones. He recommended that the downtown needs a plan for urban renewal and that the visioning process should be championed by the Newport Chamber of Commerce or some other community-wide group.
Nebel said the city needs a clear strategy for economic development. He also said the city council posts too many goals so there’s no way to get them all done.
To be continued…