Macon, Bibb HR departments begin merging

pramati@macon.comDecember 4, 2013 

For more than a year, officials from Macon and Bibb County knew they were going to have to prepare to merge the staffs of most of its departments to be ready for the Jan. 1 consolidation of the two entities.

The process isn’t a simple one. Not only did officials have to try to figure out the best use of space for different departments, prepare that space for the transition and physically move the workers’ effects, but they also had to do so while keeping those offices open.

The first big domino of the merger took place this week as the staffs of the city and county Human Resources Departments began moving into refurbished space on the fourth floor of the City Annex building at the corner of Cherry and First streets.

Chris Floore, spokesman for Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, said other departments scheduled to move into the annex this week include risk management and purchasing. The finance departments will merge into the existing city finance offices at Macon City Hall early next week.

The moves will allow the Bibb County Courthouse to be used exclusively for court-related business.

“The intent for the courthouse is for it to be a courthouse,” Floore said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

Floore said Macon’s Municipal Court eventually will move to the courthouse, but a final date for that move hasn’t been decided.

City Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard said he and his county counterpart, Bel Wall, have been meeting at least once a week for the past year to help plan benefits for the new government’s employees as well as handle the regular day-to-day benefits questions both departments deal with.

“We’ve been working together since the beginning of the year,” he said. “We’ve done pension and benefits. We’ve put together a policies manual. I’m sure we’ve had a few hits and misses, but we’re still answering the phones and answering people’s questions. It’s been fairly smooth overall.”

Wall said employees from both governments will see elements of the current human resources departments when the newly merged one takes effect.

“We’re coming out with the best of both departments,” she said.

Hubbard said he and Wall will share management duties until the new government chooses a permanent head of the department.

Charles Coney, special assistant to Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson, has overseen the move for the county. Coney said the timing of everything moving at once has been one of the biggest challenges.

“We have to make sure we keep the governments running with minimal impact to the public,” he said.

Coney said the costs of all the moves should be fairly low, since the moving and refurbishing of offices is all being done by city and county workers. He said there’s no estimate yet for costs.

Officials said computers have been set up to handle the current operating systems and the new software the new government will use. In addition, all of the current phone numbers for both human resources departments still work. Wall said even though she has a new phone number at the annex, the phone system will transfer calls from her old number to her new one.

Floore credited local architect Bob Brown of Brittain Thompson Bray Brown Inc. with helping make the best use of existing space to house the merged departments.

Floore said people who need service won’t see many major changes other than location for the near future.

“From a service point of view, until we say something changes, it will stay the same way we’ve done it before,” he said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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