Less than a year after the city devoted staff and taxpayer resources to roll out a new website the Manteca City Council has approved spending $57,500 to revamp it.
The current website is the same one that just eight months ago the entire council lavished praise on the staff for creating.
The $57,500 expenditure is part of a $330,000 spending plan advanced by City Manager Elena Reyes and unanimously embraced by the council on Tuesday to amend the city’s $35.3 million general fund budget.
Reyes plans to use a consultant that San Joaquin County employed while she was there that redid the county website that was rolled out this year. Under new rules adopted earlier this year the city manager is allowed to spend up to $75,000 on retaining a consultant for work the council OKs in adopting or amending the municipal budget without getting approval from the council.
Councilman Vince Hernandez placed high hopes in the $57,500 branding proposal that included revamping the website as a way to generate more jobs in Manteca as he expressed frustration at how Tracy and Lathrop were landing businesses and Manteca wasn’t.
Reyes’ report to the council, though, didn’t connect branding with job creation nor did it make any mention that “funding for a branding study for City of Manteca government” had anything to do with economic development.
In her report Reyes notes, “branding is a key element to providing quality customer service. Brands connect to customers, forms focus, motivate employees, create an experience, are a promise, provide value, create consistency and recognition. Branding includes IT enhancements to the City’s website and social media throughout City government. The Vision Manteca Team has initiated identification of the City’s values, and are prepared to lead the Branding effort to completion.”
Councilman Debby Moorhead was hopeful that the branding effort wouldn’t be a “big disaster” as an effort the city undertook a number of years ago that she said resulted in a lot of time and tax dollars being wasted.
Moorhead was executive director of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce at the time as well as serving on the council. She took exception to the colors and theme that was adopted — “Hook, Wine & Sneakers” — that reflected the goals of the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau that was headed up at the time by Linda Abeldt. “Hook, Wine & Sneakers” referred to Bass Pro Shops and nearby fishing, Delicato Vineyards and other wineries as well as recreational sports opportunities afforded by endeavors such as Big League Dreams and regional soccer tournaments at city parks.
A prototype design of directional signs were made and was parked in former City Manager Karen McLaughlin’s office for years before being disposed of shortly before she retired.
Moorhead wanted the signs to have red, white and blue that reflected the chamber’s color scheme plus a branding moto that reflected Manteca’s patriotism and the chamber’s signature Flags Over Manteca endeavor.
Councilman Richard Silverman at first had reservations saying he didn’t want the $57,500 branding expenditure to be the tip of the ice berg followed by spending for things such as new logos, business cards and stationery.
Councilman Mike Morowit said since the city was no longer funding the Convention & Visitors Bureau to promote tourism he felt comfortable spending the money on branding noting it was important that the city do something to seek more employment opportunities.
The council also approved:
u$5,000 for the city’s first State of the City event on Jan. 25, 2017 that will feature guest speakers from Google and the University of the Pacific and will take place at the MRPS Hall. The public will be allowed to attend the event where Reyes hopes to unveil Manteca’s new brand.
u$5,000 for executive team training and strategic planning sessions for City Council members with the main cost being the hiring of facilitators for $2,500 for both the management team as well as the council and city manager. Reyes said the goal will be to determine, “what does success (for the City of Manteca) look like for 2017” as well as 2018 and 2019?
u$9,700 for information technology for administrative offices and a conference room as well as essential office equipment. Two walls and two doors would also be installed to create two additional offices including one that will be used primarily by the mayor and council members
u$253,421 to hire a deputy city manager and an administrative staff technician to be part of Reyes’ staff. Council agreed the workload was too heavy and lack of staffing was causing the city to miss out on economic development opportunities that Tracy and Lathrop are enjoying.
The last item prompted two employee bargaining groups to express concern that the city had found money in the general fund to hire additional personnel after they had settled re-openers for the general workforce. They noted that city staff had been hit with a 20 percent loss in compensation to help keep the city afloat during the Great Recession that they have yet to make up.
Finance Director Susan Mallory noted the reserves being touched — economic revitalization and undesignated general fund reserve — are not the same ones that had to be made whole in memorandum of understandings before pay would be adjusted for city workers.
Even so, Manteca Police Officers Association Stephen Schluer expressed concern that the city was hitting reserves intended for one-time expenditures that will become ongoing expenditures starting with the next budget on July 1, 2017.
Schluer said he didn’t debate that the positons were needed in the city manager’s office. Instead he noted the council was making a decision ahead of contract reopeners to add additional staffing that would cut into the general fund revenue pool left for employee compensation.