After two years of discussion between Purcellville Town Council members and four months of evaluations and negotiations, the Town of Purcellville’s day-to-day operations will finally be assessed.
The Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to contract with The Novak Consulting Group to perform an operational audit of the town’s government structure for $69,800. While town staff has estimated the audit to take 120 days to complete, Councilman Ted Greenly said the group could start work “within weeks.”
According to the request for proposals, the audit will “review and assess the town’s current organizational structure, operations and service delivery policies, practices, processes and levels of staffing” to improve operational practices and increase efficiencies.
“I think it will affirm that ultimately we’ve got an excellent set of professionals…and we are certainly not overstaffed,” Town Manager David Mekarski said. “I’m really excited about it.”
Throughout the four-month audit, the firm will solicit information and ideas from residents, review current town policies, analyze staffing levels, review procedures the town uses to project, assess and collect revenue and recommend changes to the organizational structure of each department. At the end of the process, the firm will meet with the Town Council in a public meeting to discuss the findings and gather input.
Once completed, the audit will be used to update the town’s operational practices, assess each department’s organizational structure and staffing levels and evaluate current policies to determine if efficiencies can be improved in overall town operations, according to the staff report.
Based in Cincinnati, OH, Novak Consulting has previously conducted organizational assessments in Virginia for the Cities of Charlottesville and Fredericksburg, the Town of Warrenton and Loudoun County.
According to the its website, the group evaluates and maximizes operations “at every level of an organization” by “evaluating current operations, analyzing the use of best practices and making recommendations for improving operational efficiencies.”
The selection comes two years after the Town Council initially discussed the idea of having an audit performed. At the July 12, 2016 Town Council meeting, Vice Mayor Nedim Ogelman mentioned that former town manager Rob Lohr indicated it might be possible to have an audit performed pro bono. Mayor Kwasi Fraser echoed Ogelman’s point, suggesting that council members “not get caught up on the potential cost of something,” according to the meeting minutes.
The council again discussed the idea at the Dec. 12 Town Council meeting, at which Fraser said an operational audit would be a way to stress test the town to determine its strengths and weaknesses.
The Town Council in March finally voted to authorize staff to advertise a request for proposals to solicit responses from independent firms. The town in April received interest from 14 firms with a price range between $86,600 and $125,113.
This prompted the Town Council to create a Proposal Analysis Group made up of Greenly, Ogelman, Town Clerk Diana Hays and Budget Specialist Tom Angus to individually review the proposals, negotiate a contract and make a recommendation to the council.
The group met twice in May to evaluate and score each firm based on a 100-point system, with a maximum of 40 points going toward their overall ability in addressing the scope of work, 30 points for their previous experience conducting similar studies, 20 points for their proposed schedule to complete the scope of work and 10 points for references.
“Each of us evaluated them based on criteria we were provided independently,” Ogelman said.
At its second meeting, the analysis group selected the top four firms and invited them for interviews during the first week of June, after which it unanimously selected Novak Consulting.
“All four of these firms came ready to play – you could tell they had done their homework,” Greenly said. “But clearly, I think we got a winner here.”
Although staff had originally estimated that the audit would cost no more than $45,000, the analysis group was able to negotiate the contract price down $16,800 from the firm’s initial $86,600 offer—since the town has technological tools that the firm can use and because the investigation into allegations against Police Chief Cynthia McAlister, led by the Wilson Elser law firm and former police chief Timothy Longo Sr., has already completed about 75 percent of the police department’s assessment, according to Mekarski. “We don’t have to go as deep as we do in other departments,” he said.
In addition to the audit, Mekarski has also been meeting individually with all 82 town staff members for 30 minutes each to better understand the town’s sentiment as a whole. With half of his meetings now completed, Mekarski said that he has rated more than 90 percent of the staff members he’s met with an 8-10 in terms of employ morale, fulfillment, job satisfaction, community contribution, dedication and commitment.
“That tells me that despite some of the bumps in the road that have occurred from some of the anomalous behavior of a few…that the employees have been resilient,” he said. “They haven’t lost their sense of tie to the cultural values of this community.”