More than 100 will lose jobs under Neall plan Agencies to merge in reorganization

January 15, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall unveiled his comprehensive reorganization of government yesterday, warning employees that more than 100 of them will lose jobs through the consolidation.

Mr. Neall, speaking to four employee forums during the day, said the county faces sharply reduced revenues in the coming years, thanks to the property tax cap approved by voters in November and cuts in state aid.

The restructuring is necessary, he said, to create a "robust, healthy organization" able to provide citizens with essential services and employees with wage increases that have been denied in recent years.

He estimated that 5 to 8 percent of the county's work force of 4,000 will be cut as a result of the reorganization, which means a loss of up to 320 jobs. Some employees whose positions are eliminated will be transferred to one of the 200 vacancies the county now has.

Many of those who will lose their jobs are long-term contract employees, hired year-to-year. Some have been with the county for more than a decade.

Mr. Neall said last month that the county would no longer offer fringe benefits to contract employees. Yesterday, he said contract employees either will be hired as merit employees, have their positions privatized and moved off the budget, or lose their jobs.

"It's a very, very difficult issue to deal with when you have contract employees who have been long-term employees," Mr. Neall said. But, he added, they were an obvious group that could be trimmed.

An early retirement program, like the one offered last summer, was ruled out because it would cost more than it would save.

Mr. Neall tried to reassure unsettled county employees, who were generally subdued at the four forums yesterday, a contrast to past forums when the executive often faced heated questions.

"I know people are worried. Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, I am worried," Mr. Neall said at one meeting.

But once the county takes its bitter medicine, he told employees gathered at the Heritage Center in Annapolis, the government will be healthier into the next decade. "This isn't temporary, this is forever. And if we do it right the first time, we won't have to do it again."

One female employee at the Arundel Center asked whether any provisions were being made for married couples who both work for the county, to ensure that both were not laid off. Mr. Neall told her steps to avoid that were being considered.

After a Glen Burnie forum, a group of public works employees gathered in a small circle and nervously discussed their prospects. "I think everybody is waiting to see what's going to happen. Everybody's unsure," said J.C. Burkett, a roads operations worker from the Western District. "Right now, I think that morale is pretty bad. And it's only natural that it should be."

Councilman Carl G. Holland, R-Pasadena, listened as Mr. Neall addressed the group in Glen Burnie. "I just hope that the citizens of the county understand that if services are reduced, that it is a direct result of the tax cap," he said.

He praised Mr. Neall for being candid with county employees about his plan and its possible repercussions. "They know everything we know at this point," he said. "He has laid everything out to them."

The restructured county government would consist of four "core groups": human services; land use and environment; administration; and public safety. Six departments would be merged: Planning and zoning will be combined with inspections and permits; utilities will be part of public works; and the budget office will merge with finance.

The human services core will be headed by Ardath Cade, currently director of planning and zoning. She will supervise the departments of aging, health, housing and community development and social services.

Tom Andrews, the county's health officer and a former deputy director of the state Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of the Environment, will be in charge of the land use and environment core. He will direct the departments of planning, zoning and regulation (the result of the planning and zoning and inspections and permits merger, to be headed by current inspections and permits chief Robert J. Dvorak), recreation and parks and the merged public works and utilities.

The administration core will be directed by Dennis Parkinson, currently the chief administrative officer. Included in this core are the merged budget and finance offices (which will be directed by Budget Officer Steven Welkos), personnel and central services.

Mr. Neall said central services could be split in two, with its purchasing, risk management and telecommunications functions remaining in administration, and maintenance and garages going public works. Controller Walter Chitwood would head central services, while its current director, Jerome Klasmeier, would head public works.

The public safety core, which is headed by Mr. Neall, includes the police and fire departments and the detention center. Mr. Neall said these departments would be basically unaffected, although he asked them to attempt to reorganize their administrative functions to provide savings.

Mr. Neall said he would send his proposal to the County Council Feb. 1, and have all the details worked out within 90 days.

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