City employees with money-saving ideas better act fast: Their suggestion box might get the ax. Officials say it hasn't been worth the effort.

Started in mid-2007, "My Idea Work$ " was designed to solicit cost-cutting ideas from the city's 7,100 employees. If one is used, the person who submitted it gets 5 percent of the savings, or $2,500, whichever is less.

Almost 100 ideas later, only two have been adopted. The savings: $3,796. The total payout to city workers: $190.

Despite the program's lack of success, a review of My Idea Work$ provides a look inside the city's bureaucracy.

Some ideas were easy to dismiss, such as the treadmill desk, which a Parks and Recreation employee wrote is "designed to provide exercise while typing, answering the telephone, doing research, using the Internet, reading reports and similar duties."

A suggestion for solar trash compactors at the Oceanfront was vetoed because they'd cost too much.

Tony Russo in economic development pitched charging $10 a month for trash and $5 a month for recycling. The city has no trash or recycling fees. Assistant Budget Director David Bradley, who responds to each suggestion with a letter, wrote that would be met with "significant political opposition."

Karen Havekost in the Communications and Information Technology department suggested cutting the $500 monthly car stipend given to department directors who don't get a city vehicle. Make them fill out mileage forms like everybody else, she said, writing in her suggestion, "A director would have to drive about 1,400 miles every month to reach the $500 payment. "

Car stipends are an "executive benefit," Bradley responded, needed to keep Virginia Beach competitive when recruiting.

Public Works employee Leon Old suggested cutting some holidays. The city grants 9.5 paid holidays.

"We will gain both financially, by avoiding holiday pay rates, and politically as citizens will see city members working a more 'normal' schedule."

Not a chance.

"Given the city's current economic situation, and our need to benefit from savings as quickly as possible, that payback period is too long," Bradley wrote.

Two ideas were accepted.

Custodian Jeffrey Shank noticed that potted plants in the recreation centers were looking sad. He suggested getting rid of the company that cared for them.

City officials agreed. The $2,796 contract was terminated. Shank's 5 percent cut: $140, a "My Idea Work$" duffel bag and a letter from City Manager Jim Spore.

Joseph Wood, a production technician, suggested using different light bulbs in the city's big-screen projectors mainly used at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

A 40-page file details the old light bulb contract, e-mails from five city officials, a list of the location of every city projector, draft text of an article on Wood for the city newsletter, a note about shipping costs and a special form for "nonrecurring earnings."

Another major source of ideas was saving energy.

City Clerk Ruth Hodges Fraser is a stickler for shutting off bathroom lights.

"She tries to encourage this habit in our office and the rest -rooms on our floor," a staffer wrote in a suggestion on behalf of her boss.

Another employee suggested motion sensors in bathrooms to keep light bills down.

The city tried that before, maintenance engineer Eddie Barnard explained.

"They were not well received as there were flaws in the operational design… sometimes they would turn lights out when the spaces were being occupied."

Patricia Davis, a human services instructor, suggested lowering the winter daytime temperature in municipal buildings to 69 degrees.

"We have already reduced the winter day time temperature to 70 degrees," wrote Chuck Davis, the building maintenance chief. "This was NOT well received by employees." He warned a further reduction could "create significant morale issues."

Some ideas required deeper analysis. Alice Striffler in Parks and Recreation suggested replacing paper towels in bathrooms with electric hand dryer.

At $3,000 per unit and the need for 150 units citywide (two for women's rooms and one per men's ) the total investment would be $450,000. The city would save $100,000 every year in paper towel expenses, an analysis found.

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