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Oak Harbor mayor defends hiring consultant

The heat is on in Oak Harbor despite the cool, cloudy weather.

Mayor Jim Slowik and the City Council are getting some flak for considering a new $60,098.86 marketing contract with EnviroIssues, a Seattle-based consulting firm.

There’s no way the city’s current staffing levels can handle the work, which amounts to a full-time position, Slowik said in defense of the phase one and two contracts that total roughly $90,000. The goal is to prepare the public and downtown business owners for major Pioneer Way reconstruction next year.

“It’s 660 man hours of time to do all the necessary communication,” Slowik said of the work outlined in the contracts. The mayor had the spending authority to authorize the first agreement costing about $30,000 on April 7. The Oak Harbor City Council has to approve the more costly second phase, which it will consider on June 1.

“When we can, we use city people,” Slowik said.

The marketing contract was not advertised; rather, city staff sought out and selected EnviroIssues for the job.

Slowik said the firm will deliver on its promise to provide a report to the city by the end of May, which was in question when the second phase contract first went before council on May 18.

The contract didn’t pass because it required a “yes” vote from the majority of the full council. Only five of the seven members were present at the last meeting, so the vote failed with a 3-2 count. Rick Almberg, Jim Campbell and Jim Palmer voted for the contract; Bob Severns and Scott Dudley voted against it; Danny Paggao and Beth Munns were absent. A fuller council is expected next Tuesday.

Scott Wotring, owner of Good Times Pizza, is one critic of the mayor’s decision to sign the $29,986.04 initial agreement with EnviroIssues without a public vetting and then asking the council to approve a second $60,098.86 contract.

“I think it’s backhanded,” he said.

The mayor counters that he didn’t see any harm in signing a nearly $30,000 contract, without council consideration, to get the ball rolling. If the council doesn’t like EnviroIssues’ work after the first phase is completed, they can hire someone else for the marketing phase, he said. The first phase includes a survey of downtown business owners.

“All they did in phase one was gathering information to figure out a marketing plan,” he said. “It wasn’t anything special.”

The June 1 City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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