The idea of contracting services is not a new one. The corporate world has used private contractors to extend their capabilities as organizations, while staying focused on cost control and the core competencies of their respective businesses.
This same approach has seemed to run into trouble when it approaches the door of municipal government, but I think the concept deserves a look in the age of higher demand for services and climbing costs for said services.
It could be argued that municipal governments have strayed away from the true core responsibilities they carry; providing clean water, sanitation, public safety and transportation.
What if there was a different way to provide services in our community? Could we keep comparable service levels, but remove the overhead from our collective ledger?
As dirty as it sounds, could outsourcing Squamish leave us better off than we are today? Maybe. Does it deserve a look? Absolutely.
For an extreme example of private delivery of municipal services, we should look at Sandy Springs, Georgia. Incorporated in 2005, Sandy Springs is a city of roughly 100,000 souls just outside of Atlanta.
They offer the same amenities found in most North American cities, and manages the whole operation with a municipal staff of seven. And yes, I have the numbers in the right order.
To achieve this, Sandy Springs hired private contractors to deliver every municipal service, with the exception of police and fire.
While the costs to deliver the service to the consumer are similar, the city realized significant savings by not having to provide support for those services.
No municipal buildings, vehicles, public pensions or benefits. To reinforce this dedication to cost control, even the city council chamber is rented space!
In turn, the city reinvested those savings into public infrastructure; paving roads, building parks and sidewalks, and doing it all with a static tax rate and no long term debt.
The model has proven so effective, delegations from countries as diverse as China, South Korea and Norway, to name a few, have studied how to apply the Sandy Springs model in their own countries to counter the climbing costs of urban living.
It would be impossible to say if our community could realize the same benefit as Sandy Springs.
Still, with Squamish consisting of 164 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions to deliver service to 17,000 people and with tax and utility rates climbing year over year, the need to radically change the way we do business is here.