City looks to reorganize

Published 9:27 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A proposed reorganization of city operations probably would save the city a minimum $1.2 million annually, but would result in some City of Washington employees losing their jobs, according to City Manager Josh Kay.

The proposal was publicly unveiled at the City Council’s meeting Monday. Kay said the key component of the proposal is improving the services the city provides.

The proposed reorganization would occur during a three-year transition period, giving the council and city officials enough time to implement the plan and modify it if needed, Kay said. Kay reviewed the proposal with council members, city department heads and others who attended the presentation.

“It’s not perfect,” Kay said of the proposal, which would create some new city jobs, too.

The proposal did not give specific numbers on job loss or job creation. Those specifics and others will come as the city moves forward with implementing the proposal, Kay said. Some proposed job titles and some proposed realignments of personnel might be modified, he noted.

In addition to cutting annual operational expenses by at least $1.2 million, implementing the plan would create efficiencies in city government by combining “like” resources to allow greater flexibility in providing services to the public and providing shared support services in similar departments, according to the proposal. Under the proposal, the city would fully analyze the services it offers to eliminate those services that are not fully or efficiently utilized or expand services that are most important to the city’s residents and customers, according to the proposal.

The proposal would combine existing city departments into four departments: police and fire services, community and cultural services, public services and administrative services. The reorganization would focus the city’s resources into those four departments, according to the proposal.

“There will be a reduction in staff,” Kay said.

As for the reduction in force (or loss of city jobs), that would be mostly accomplished with attrition: retirements and employees leaving their city jobs for other reasons. Kay said 80 percent of the reduction in force would be accomplished that way.

“What this proposal will allow us to do is give us an opportunity to analyze what we’re doing, how we’re doing it,” Kay said. “There’s going to be opportunities, there’s going to be services and things that we’re doing that just don’t make sense for us to do. Can somebody else do it, or are only 20 or 30 people using it and what are those dollars we are expending? At the same time we’ll be able to say, ‘These are our primary core focuses, these are our services that we want to provide.”

Kay said the transition would be a slow process.

Councilman Doug Mercer, who has long advocated for a reduction in city staff, said he is impressed with the potential for the city to save more than $1 million annually if the proposal is implemented.

Councilman Ed Moultrie Jr. said he likes the proposal’s plan to use retirements and other attrition methods to accomplish most of the reduction in force and that no city employee would lose his or her job in the immediate future.

Councilman Richard Brooks said, “I’m hoping through retirement of personnel we can do this” in regard to the proposed reduction in force.

Council member William Pitt voiced his concerns over how the proposal would affect city employees. Pitt also said he wants the city, if it moves forward with the proposal, to make certain it maintains a high standard of providing services.

Councilman Bobby Roberson said if the city begins implementing the proposal it should also look at other related options that may surface and not be completely wedded to the proposal. He also said the council should keep the budget process in mind when considering the proposed reorganization plan.

Mayor Archie Jennings said, “I’m convinced this plan is designed to put the service back in public service. … I think this realigns us on that mission… This is more than just trying to save money. This is trying to drive the quality of our organization for the long term. Everybody benefits from that. The public benefits from that. The employees benefit from an energized, empowered employee base. That’s what this does.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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