City of Victoria contracting out questioned

Tree maintenance specifically, privatization in general, the bees in Isitt's' bonnet

In 2011, the city paid $72 million to external parties, much of which went to private companies for goods and services. That’s up from $60.2 million in 2007.

It’s what Coun. Ben Isitt refers to as a “creep of contracted services.” He points to tree maintenance as an example.

In 2011, the city paid Bartlett Tree Experts $551,959 and Davey Tree Services $245,666.

“These two companies provide staff, expertise and equipment which the city does not possess,” said City of Victoria spokesperson Katie Josephson, noting their services include “maintenance of hazardous trees, maintenance work where higher capacity aerial trucks and climbing is required.”

Isitt, however, argues that keeping the work in house “would be way more cost-effective for the city.” Aside from cost, he supports maintaining control over services. Commissionaires, for example, have the power to levy parking fines, but do not report to city management.

“Does the city have enough control to provide a service that doesn’t deter people from coming downtown?” Isitt asked.

Privatization of services is a philosophy and a growing preference, he said. “I think we have to revisit that.”

Coun. Geoff Young said he has no philosophical bias in either direction.

“Ben tends to stress contracting in, but I think he would concede that it would make equal sense to look at contracting out if money saving, rather than political philosophy, is the issue,” he wrote in an email to the News.

When contracting services, city policy stipulates that all contractors and sub-contractors must provide wages that are at least equal to those paid to city employees doing similar work.

rholmen@vicnews.com