City labor groups question possible purchase of video conferencing gear
January 29, 2010
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The South Lake Tahoe City Council balked at spending more than $126,000 on a new video conferencing system at its Tuesday meeting, expressing concerns about a lack of information on purported cost savings associated with the system.
The video conferencing equipment could save the city money by decreasing staff travel time to certain meetings and reducing how much the city spends on consultants’ travel costs, according to a staff report by City Buyer Gary O’Neill.
But there wasn’t enough information on the savings for the Council to sign off on the purchase on Tuesday.
Purchase of the video conferencing system would be “putting people second,” said City Councilman Bill Crawford.
At a time when the city has implemented mandatory furloughs to ease budget concerns, the purchase of a $126,614.95 system was also criticized by the leader of two of the city’s seven labor organizations.
“That is a considerable expense
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at any time, but at this point in time, it seems all the more so,” said Jere Copeland, executive director of the city’s employee association and its administration and confidential employee association, in a letter to the Council. “During a a time when we have experienced layoffs, early retirements and forced furloughs, an expenditure of this amount is hard for employees to understand.”
“For the city to tell employees they must give up 9 percent of their pay and then finds $120,000 to spend on a new program is just difficult for us to fathom.”
Copeland said he understood the video conferencing could equal long-term savings for the city, but said he would like to see documentation detailing those savings.
The Council unanimously voted to delay discussion on purchase of the video conferencing equipment until more information on the system became available.
City Public Works Director John Greenhut said there may also be money available from California and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to pay for the video conferencing system. Greenhut said he hoped to know more about possible alternative funding by the time the potential purchase comes up at a future City Council meeting.