Yakima spends millions on outside professionals

Yakima spends millions on outside professionals »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Not all city jobs are performed by city employees. Yakima spends millions of dollars on outside professionals. KIMA asked the city manager who they are and why they're needed.

City Hall is home to roughly 750 workers. But, they're not the only ones getting a paycheck from the city of Yakima. To keep things running, Yakima hires outside professionals.

"We're generalists, so when we have unique demands, we have to go out and hire for that," said Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke.

Among those hired: lawyers, architects and consultants, to name a few. And, the price is going up.

Last year, Yakima spent about $13.5 million on professional services. That's up about $2 million from the year before. Yakima has budgeted to spend more than $15 million on contractors this year.

O'Rourke says big ticket items include engineering services for the wastewater facility, indigent defense, Dial-A-Ride services and medical care for employees and retirees. Doctor bills for police and fire retirees alone cost the city more than $1 million last year.

"Like every other jurisdiction and community, our medical costs continue to rise," said O'Rourke.

Yakima also pays outside attorneys to represent the city in lawsuits.

"We're in an environment where people are litigious when something goes wrong, so we have to spend more money both on insurance premiums and also legal defense," O'Rourke said.

The city also contracts people to run Yakima's tourism programs and the Capitol Theatre, a city asset. But, there are also the longer-term capital improvement projects like the Cascade Mill site.

"To try to acquire that expertise would be cost-prohibitive," said O'Rourke.

He maintains it's less expensive to hire an expert to deal with a problem, get it resolved and then end the relationship, rather than taking on fixed costs like a salary and benefits.

Other outside professionals hired by the city include a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., security at Municipal Court, animal control officers and crews to handle snow removal, among others.