City workers brainstorm to save own jobs in Sparks |

City workers brainstorm to save own jobs in Sparks

SPARKS (AP) – Close swimming pools. Charge for parking at city garages. Turn off every other street light. Rent paddle boats at the Sparks Marina.

It’s amazing what city employees can come up with in the face of layoffs.

Those ideas are among more than 500 proposals Sparks city employees have offered up as a way to bring in more revenue and cut spending without further staff reductions.

Negotiations with employees are ongoing, but city officials say if new agreements are not reached before April 1, layoffs may be necessary given the looming budget deficit of nearly $5 million over the next biennium.

“It certainly motivates people,” said Chris Syverson, Sparks human resources manager.

“People will do whatever it takes to save their jobs or someone else’s,” she told the Sparks Tribune.

Syverson was the de facto head of a group of 117 city employees who were randomly selected to serve in focus groups to come up with new proposals contained in a 20-page report presented to the city council this week.

Other ideas included eliminating city cell phones, turning off courtyard fountains and charging a fee for fire department medical calls.

“Part of the process was silent brainstorming, with a requirement that you could not be judgmental,” Syverson said.

“No negative or positive comments,” she added about the process, meaning all ideas were taken no matter how seemingly farfetched or mild-mannered they were.

Some suggested setting up a city-owned towing facility and garbage company to bring in more revenue. Other revenue suggestions were city-sponsored license plates and the creation of a fire district.

Other ideas:

• charge a fee for dog walkers who don’t pick up after their dogs

• charge for parking at special events

• sell bonds to the public with interest

• sell advertisements at parks

• waive business fees for the first six months until businesses become established

• annex Spanish Springs

• develop a sliding scale for special events fees (big vendors pay more while small vendors pay less)

• increase fines for driving under the influence

• use paperless bills/payroll checks

• evaluate city storage costs

• obtain Bureau of Land Management land and rent out for camping

• close fire station 5 (on Vista Boulevard)

• turn off park lights after 10 p.m.

• start an employee work-from-home option

• freeze parks construction.