BARSTOW - The city should reorganize its staff, review its procedures and perform additional planning to prepare for future growth and improve services, according to a consultant.

The Matrix Consulting Group studied all city departments except for the Barstow Police Department and gave 108 recommendations to improve efficiency. The 144-page report states that in order to meet projections of population growth, including a 25,000 home development to be built by SunCal companies over the next 20 years, major changes in the city's organization have to be made.

"The assessment of the Matrix Consulting Group is that the city is unprepared to effectively respond to the workload and service level demands posed by this development," the report states. "The city needs to make dramatic improvements in its leadership and direction, customer service, and service delivery to meet this challenge."

The report acknowledged that while the city has taken steps to computerize some of its procedures and update policies, more needs to be done.

"Overall, however, the management systems in the city are archaic. Managers and supervisors have little or no information with which to make key service delivery and budgetary decisions," the study states. "Policies and procedures, management controls and business processes do not reflect best practices."

Gary Goelitz, vice-president with Matrix consulting group, said that readying for growth involves reorganizing staff and not simply creating additional positions.

"It's not just add more people. You've got some management systems challenges, policy challenges and managerial challenges that need to be resolved for growth to occur," he said. "They need to be in control of that growth, they can't let the growth control them." The city currently has 122 budgeted full-time employee positions.

Council members received the report on Jan. 7, but are waiting until an interim city manager is in place to begin discussing the possible implementation of the report's recommendations, said Mayor Lawrence Dale. He said he agrees with the idea that the community development department should do more to prepare for future growth.

"We need to do everything possible to see that we have people in place to react to and respond to these developers and individuals who want to come into our city to build new businesses and homes," Dale said.

Council member Steve Curran said that while he'd like to see more clarification from Matrix before recommending any staff reorganization, he agreed with the report's theme that additional sharing of information between city staff is needed.

"I thing the key thing were lacking is a means of communication between department heads and from departments heads to their departments," he said.

Some officials from cities which have recently experienced large population increases agree that sometimes growth can place additional stresses on a city's staff. In Goodyear, Ariz., which went from a population of 6,000 to 56,000 in 17 years, the quick pace of development caused rapid demand for city services. The city staff grew from 68 to 580 employees during that period said Goodyear's Deputy City Manager Mark Brown.

"(City staff) get asked to do more with not necessarily less, but at least the same amount until growth becomes stable," he said. "If you're not planning now, you're behind the curve."

In Victorville, which has added nearly 32,000 people to its city in five years, growth allowed the city to combine some departments to provide services more cheaply, said city spokeswoman Yvonne Hester. She said housing and commercial development applications created additional work for the city's engineering, planning and fire departments.

"When we received this huge influx of building permits, we weren't able to respond to them as quickly as we would like," she said "We were just getting snowed under."

She said that responding to growth while it is occurring is a major challenge for any city.

"It's very hard sometimes when your in the middle of the process to see another way of doing things but Barstow seems like it's on the right track."

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Selected recommendations for improving service and preparing for growth at the city o The city should develop a multi-year strategic plan to guide policy and management for the next five years.
o Within the next five years, the city should establish a public works pepartment with a public works director/city engineer who would supervise engineering and public works
o The finance department should develop an updated written-set of policies and procedures for all major finance functions and ensure all finance employees are familiar with them.
o The human resources department should conduct annual salary surveys of other High Desert cities and report the results to the city manager, mayor and council.
o The public works manager should develop a five-year replacement plan for the city's vehicle fleet.
Source: Matrix Consulting Group report