Does nobody care?

The Tuesday, March 31, 2020 city council agenda has this item on it:

That the Mayor be authorized to sign an Interlocal Agreement between the City of El Paso (“City”) and the University of Texas at El Paso (“University”), for a period of 12 months, whereby the parties agree the University shall assist the City by assigning University employees, faculty and/or staff who are trained in, among other issues, nucleic acid extraction and PCR methods, to assist the City and the City Department of Public Health in the testing of community specimens for COVID-19.  This Interlocal Agreement requires the City to reimburse the University for services and equipment in an amount not to exceed $200,000.00 over the term of the Interlocal Agreement.

Got it

The public health department needs help in its laboratories.

Don’t understand

What we don’t understand is why the city has to pay UTEP.  Clearly there are a lot of UTEP laboratory trained people that have reduced work loads right now but are still being paid with public money.

Why can’t these people just volunteer?

Or absent volunteers why can’t UTEP just reassign the duties of a few of them while the need exists?

Why do local taxpayers have to fork over $200 thousand dollars?

Won’t the city have to assign an administrator to handle the billing?  Won’t UTEP have to assign an administrator to create the bills?  How much will that cost?

Leadership

Do the leaders involved think that the only way to get things done is to pay people?

Could it be that they would never think of doing something for the public good for free and thus cannot imagine anyone else doing it?

We deserve better

Brutus

 

16 Responses to Does nobody care?

  1. Read before you Copy/Paste says:

    You almost copy and pasted the whole thing correctly:

    “That the Mayor be authorized to sign an Interlocal Agreement between the City of El Paso (“City”) and the University of Texas at El Paso (“University”), for a period of 12 months, whereby the parties agree the University shall assist the City by assigning University employees, faculty and/or staff who are trained in, among other issues, nucleic acid extraction and PCR methods, to assist the City and the City Department of Public Health in the testing of community specimens for COVID-19. This Interlocal Agreement requires the City to reimburse the University for services and equipment in an amount not to exceed $200,000.00 over the term of the Interlocal Agreement.”

    Not one to base an entire blog post on a single paragraph of information as Brutus does so often, one can imagine that this covers consumable equipment (sevices AND EQUIPMENT) as well, which in lab settings is very expensive, as Brutus probably knows.

    UTEP labs probably did not budget to have their equipment used for this purpose, so they are asking for reimbursement to cover the costs of the consumable items that they use.

    Of course, that is based on one paragraph of information.

    Like

    • Brutus says:

      Going past the agenda and reading the proposed contract you should see that consumables and supplies are not to be provided by UTEP.

      The equipment only includes “powered air purifying respirators”. They will be provided by UTEP. The city will pay UTEP $2,800 for each one. UTEP will maintain ownership of the respirators even though the city paid for them.

      UTEP will charge $49.50 per hour per person for labor.

      I did read the agenda item and I did read the proposed contract before making the post.

      I find generally that the shorter I keep the post the better chance I have that the readers will stay interested.

      Like

  2. I. P. Freely (name used, gimme respect) says:

    UTEP is “serving” and “helping” El Paso by doing these things for money.

    Ask Dungan, he “served” as a nurse so understands the concept of “serving” the public while charging the public money for their “service”, then being self-righteous about “helping”.

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  3. Irma Gonzalez says:

    This is not a money grab. The law requires the agreement and the compensation for the goods and services provided. The intent is to prevent a public entity from going outside of its lane or being “looted”. I’m sure students who are paying tuition appreciate the fact that this is being done.

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    • Brutus says:

      Would you be kind enough to point me to the law that you mentioned?

      The city frequently gives things away to other government organizations and if doing so is illegal we should be able react accordingly.

      Again I ask “Why can’t these people just volunteer”. Why does UTEP have to be involved?

      Thank you for your involvement.

      Like

      • Irma Gonzalez says:

        There is so much to explain, and I ain’t got the time.

        First, as to the city, refer to Texas Attorney General Opinion JC-0212 for an explanation on limitations placed on spending by municipal entities.

        As to the university, how it spends its funds are dictated by the Texas Constitution, state law, and requirements placed on it by any other funding source (e.g., grants, donations, etc. . .). For example, take a look at the limitations placed in the Texas Constitution, Article VII section 17(a). Finally, the people simply can’t volunteer because they are being paid by the university, and I am sure this work will prevent them from doing university duties.

        This page calls for fiscal responsibility all the time, and this is an example of fiscal responsibility in action. Your proposal, on the other hand, calls for a gross misapplication of funds and places the burden for paying for those services not necessarily on those utilizing the services. The method utilized by the city is within the law, appropriately allocates the burden, and has not added any time or burden to anyone.

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        • Brutus says:

          Re: volunteering

          University of Texas Handbook of Operating Procedures

          HOP 1.1.2 Outside Activity Policy

          6.4 Categories of Outside Activity.c) Employees may also engage in activity that does not necessarily contribute to the mission of U.T. System or provide elements of professional development related to their U.T. System duties and responsibilities, so long as it does not reasonably appear to create a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment with the employee’s U.T. duties and responsibilities. Any such activity must take place only on the employee’s personal time, without use of U.T. resources, and be approved as required by this policy.

          They could volunteer.

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          • Irma Gonzalez says:

            Now you are simply being obtuse.

            Read what you cited and you can clearly see it contemplates conflicts with commitments. More likely than not, they have day jobs with the university, so they simply can’t volunteer without conflicting with that. Moreover, they need access to facilities that I’m sure the city and these individuals don’t have and would require cooperation with the UTEP.

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          • Brutus says:

            The clocks I have show that there are 24 hours in a day.

            The contract contemplates the work being done in city facilities.

            Like

        • Fed Up says:

          Down below you responded that “more likely than not, they have day jobs with the university, so they simply can’t volunteer without conflicting with that.” You must be kidding! Look at how many of the professors and staff do paid consulting and wage war on the side.

          Like

      • good governance oxymoron says:

        Hey Brutus your post seems out of character, so if you are open here is a different perspective for your contemplation.

        1. Covid-19 is a biohazard and considering the heightened risk of injury from exposure it is, in my opinion, insulting and offensive to expect anyone to volunteer and take that risk, especially since they would not be covered by workman’s comp.

        2. This agreement is probably the most cost effective and expedient way for the City to fill an immediate need with qualified personnel.

        I can almost guarantee the only local source of qualified people are at UTEP or possibly the Med School.

        Nucleic acid extraction and PCR methods use specialized equipment and requires people with a very specialized skill set and expertise.

        Most typically have at least a Masters in Biochemistry, so the City is getting a bargain salary wise compared to the industry average.

        3. These people are not getting double pay.

        The City is contracting with UTEP for temporary labor and reimbursing UTEP’s employment cost in exchange for reassigning their personnel.

        The rate of $49.50 per hr/person covers the cost of the salary, benefits, unemployment insurance and workmans comp.

        This is far cheaper for the City than adding new positions.

        4. UTEP may be able to acquire the PAPR’s cheaper or faster than the City and the warranties/maintenance agreements etc are typically not transferable.

        5. The form of this agreement may result in the highest reimbursement to the City from the Federal relief package administered by the State.

        Thank you for your consideration,

        Like

        • Brutus says:

          I meant neither insult nor offense.

          To your point number one, will UTEP expect their technical folks to volunteer?

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          • good governance oxymoron says:

            Hey Brutus, Thanks for your response.

            UTEP is part of the local emergency response network.

            Normally they would have an existing current list of qualified people who had signed up as available for an emergency response even before this emergency declaration.

            The staff assignments are being coordinated through UTEP’s Dept of Environmental Health & Safety which administers the Occupational Health and Safety Program and the Biological and Chemical Safety Program among others for UTEP labs.

            Also the City is funding the collaboration with an Emergency Preparedness Grant, so no general fund $$, CO’s, or budget fiddling.

            Like

          • Brutus says:

            We appreciate your participation.

            The blog does a pretty good job of getting differing opinions.

            From time to time the dialog gets somewhat testy but posts like yours help to calm the discussion.

            Like

  4. Ticked off taxpayer says:

    Watched part of today’s City Council meeting. So far no attempt to align their safety net discussions with the Federal government’s stimulus—but there has been one attempt (tabled) to cut property taxes for owners of commercial and residential property, even though the stimulus has a mechanism for businesses to take out forgivable loans to make payroll and pay rent through the shutdown. Also a fair amount of political grandstanding, that shows how clueless some of our reps are.

    Like

  5. Anonymous says:

    UTEP will likely provide, in part, students to assist. They won’t pay the students for their work, but will pocket the taxpayer money anyway.

    Like

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