Editorial: Does Concrete need a consultant?

posted 8.26.11

It all started in June, when Community Stew principal Eric Archuletta stood before the Concrete Town Council and offered a proposal: Consider bringing him on board as a paid consultant to help the town find its way back to the economic vitality for which it was known during the first half of the 20th century.

Archuletta has been volunteering his time in Concrete for three years. He possesses a unique skill set, with a background in planning and an M. A. in environment and community. He was a key player in the Imagine Concrete visioning effort that began in April 2009, and continues to serve that grassroots body on a monthly basis.
Archuletta’s proposal was met with varied reactions. His proposed fee—which worked out to $19,200 per year—was an immediate red flag for most of the council, even though at $80 per hour, the fee is below market rate.

How can we pay a consultant when we can’t even give our staff a much-deserved raise, some council members questioned.

Because we’re talking about bringing a person on board who has a skill set nobody else in town possesses. We’re not talking about whether the town staff deserve a raise. Of course they deserve a raise! The town deserves to have a full-time mayor too.

But the town also deserves a fighting chance at a long-term solution to the economic woes that have plagued it ever since the cement companies pulled up stakes and left town. We’ve waited 40-plus years for a change in the economic landscape; it’s time the council stopped looking at next year’s raises and started thinking about the next 5 to 50 years. If Concrete can win that war, it will surely win the battle of staff raises.

Finally, the council put out a request for qualifications and decided to require all comers to find their own fee via grants.

During the July 11 meeting, one council member said “yes” when I repeated what I thought I’d heard him say to me: “Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing and hope for the best.”

Right. That’s been working so well for us. Let’s do that some more.

J. K. M.

©2013. All rights reserved.