Macon-Bibb government will include department head attrition

jgaines@macon.comDecember 11, 2013 

Newly elected Macon-Bibb commissioners are still feeling their way toward how the new consolidated government will work.

They got a look at the proposed organizational chart Wednesday, which includes reshuffling the functions of several departments, and heard that the consolidation charter states all department heads will have to reapply for their jobs after 90 days.

“It seems to me to say that for the first 90 days we basically have confusion,” Mayor-elect Robert Reichert said.

There are job slots available for all current employees, but at the end of March the positions of department heads will be thrown open to all applicants. In some cases, current department heads plan to retire, and some departments will function with two heads in separate locations for the initial period, Reichert said. But inevitably there will be a few choices for the new commission to make, he said.

The commissioners-elect met to hear the proposal for organizing the merged government departments, put together by Middle Georgia Regional Commission staff. The task force working on consolidation unanimously approved the current draft Oct. 23.

Department head positions will be restructured in line with the new organization chart, and anyone can apply for them, Reichert said. He, as mayor, will appoint people to those jobs.

Commissioner-elect Scotty Shepherd asked if that would require redoing the appointments that commissioners are required to make for the new government’s Jan. 1 start.

No, Reichert replied. Only six appointments are required then: a county manager, clerk of commission, fire chief, county attorney and finance director -- essential personnel for basic functions.

Commissioner-elect Gary Bechtel said the new government could make some department-head decisions early, but 90 days is a “line in the sand” to have them all done.

Commissioner-elect Elaine Lucas said the delay in decisions will give the commission’s committees time to debate those appointments.

“I like the idea of having that time in there,” she said. But Lucas said many city and county employees figure that many department-head appointments are a “done deal” already.

The combined city-county ordinances being prepared for the new government are written to reflect the organization laid out in the proposed chart, said Laura Mathis, the regional commission’s deputy director.

She described some departments in which big changes are planned. The organizational chart calls for one county manager and two assistant county managers, with one assistant overseeing “operations” functions such as finance and human resources, while the other will oversee “infrastructure” departments such as engineering, vehicles and streets. An attempt was made to balance department sizes and group similar functions together, Mathis said.

Many city and county departments, including Human Resources, Information Technology and Purchasing, are to merge with their counterparts. Some of them, such as Engineering, have already done so.

A Business Development Services Department is to be created by merging Inspections & Fees, Business Licenses and the Property Inspection Division, which is now part of the city’s Economic & Community Development Department.

That will leave ECD with management of federal Community Development Block Grant entitlement funds and economic development efforts, Mathis said.

The new Parks & Recreation Department will include those two named functions, along with the city’s Bowden Golf Course and the county’s Lake Tobesofkee, plus the grounds division now part of the city’s Public Works Department.

The Public Works Department will include what’s left of the current city Public Works, plus the Public Works Division pulled from the Engineering Department. New Solid Waste and Vehicle Maintenance departments will be set up separately.

Finally, traffic signals and signs will come from the city Central Services Department to merge with Engineering, and the combined general maintenance functions of city and county will be called Facilities Management.

The city and county handle garbage collection differently -- the county contracts it out, while the city does it in-house -- and the city landfill will always need special attention, Mathis said. That’s why a separate Solid Waste Department is being created, but it doesn’t mean any changes in real function unless and until commissioners decide to make any, she said.

“At the moment, the way that you deliver garbage service isn’t going to change,” Mathis said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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