County Agencies Shuffled

Shake-up For Efficiency, Commissioners Say

May 12, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The County Commissioners announced a reorganized government Friday that dismantles the recently created environmental protection department, vaults several managers into positions of increased authority andshuffles numerous tasks among agencies.

The surprise reorganization, which also reduces the number of full-fledged departments from 12to eight, is designed to make government more efficient and to save money over the long haul, the commissioners said.

The plan, discussed behind closed doors with department directorsfor several months and revealed to all workers Friday, does not takeeffect until July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. An evaluationof the new system will be conducted after three months and again after six months.

Changes to the plan are likely over the next seven weeks, as department directors develop a structure for their reorganized agencies, including decisions on what agencies should be "bureaus" or "offices" -- and what the difference is. They are expected to report back to the commissioners by June 14.

"We wanted to streamline our operation," said Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr."What shows up in final form July 1 won't resemble too closely what we're looking at today. It's still in flux.

"We had to start someplace. We arranged it in a way we thought was intelligent and reasonable. It's riddled with flaws. But we intend, with the cooperation and input of all the people involved, to come up with a product that's not only good, but consistently good."

Commissioner President DonaldI. Dell said he did not expect too many changes to be made to the plan. Before he was elected last November, Dell said substantial changes should be made in the government's structure to increase efficiency. However, he said he did not lead the charge to make the changes, which come five months into the new board's term.

Commissioner JuliaW. Gouge said Dell was "particularly interested" in instigating changes.

"I don't think we made any bold changes," said Dell. "If we asked for every department head's resignation, that would have been bold. We went at it in a tactful manner and used common sense."

Three new departments have been created: General Services, AdministrativeServices and Citizens Services.

General Services unites development review and zoning functions and also includes the fledgling recycling program.

Administrative Services, headed by Robert A. "Max" Bair, executive assistant to the commissioners, encompasses a mishmash of tasks, including a new Office of Environmental Services, Public Information, Land Acquisition and Zoning Appeals and liquor boards.

Citizens Services will coordinate social issues, including elderly affairs, transportation services, adult and child day care and a variety of non-profit human services programs and support groups that receive government money.

One department -- Natural Resource Protection-- has been partially dissolved, with solid waste and recycling programs shifted to other departments. Environmental Services will focus on planning and complying with regulations.

The county attorney, finance and economic development departments will remain virtually thesame, though they have been downgraded from "department" status to "office."

The housing bureau was transferred from economic development to Citizens Services, where it will be reunited with a new Bureauof Aging. It had been under the current Department of Aging until about two years ago, when it was expanded and moved.

"We tried to bring like agencies closer together," said Dell.

Officials did not have specific estimates as to how much money the plan might save. No fiscal analysis has been done, Bair said.

Lippy said savings would be an inevitable result of a more efficient government, and that the new structure will give commissioners more flexibility in establishing job classifications and adjusting future pay.

"I think that's where we could see big savings," he said.

Dividing responsibilities more efficiently, such as returning day-to-day landfill operations tothe Department of Public Works while leaving monitoring duties with Environmental Services, also will save money, said Lippy.

Gouge said sharing workers among agencies and training employees in a varietyof skills could improve productivity and save money. Automation and use of advanced mapping systems will increase, she said.

Dell said, "I don't look for big savings. Efficiency is the main thing."

The plan was not devised to address any current or future budget problem, the commissioners emphasized. It will not affect the 1992 budget, except that money will have to be transferred between departments.

The commissioners said they have no plans for employee cutbacks. About 40 positions remain unfilled as the hiring freeze continues. The commissioners said they are striving to avoid hiring more workers by increasing productivity.

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