Consolidation plan unveiled

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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GATESVILLE – The Gates County Board of Commissioners have been presented a plan regarding reorganization of three county departments.

County Manager Tim Wilson presented the plan to the commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting here Dec. 15. He noted that the commissioners had previously directed him to devise a reorganizational plan and come up with proposals that would lead to increased efficiency.

Wilson’s plan includes reorganizing the Planning Department, Building Inspections, and the Customer Services Department.

“They seem to me to be the best candidates for reorganization,” Wilson noted.

As for the Planning Department, Wilson said that entity consists of the County Planner, who serves as the department’s manager, as well as a Code Enforcement Technician and an assistant.

“The Building Inspections Department works closely with the Planning Department,” Wilson said. “Building Inspections manages the accountability of applying our building codes.”

Wilson proposed merging those two departments and rename it Planning and Development.

“The zoning and the building permits often run hand-in-hand,” Wilson remarked. “Having this under a single department leads to the possibility of better organization of those functions.”

He added that the responsibilities of the current staff within those two now separate departments will remain the same when and if they merge. Wilson suggested that the current County Planner become the director of the merged departments.

“They’re already located in the same office, so there’s not much to take place in terms of merging these two departments,” Wilson said.

The Customer Services Department employs three workers – the director and two Customer Services representatives, one of which is currently vacant.

“By in large, what they do is intake money for the county, everything but taxes,” Wilson explained. “The director manages the performance of the other two workers. The principal of that is the administration and processing of the utility [water and sewer] billing.

Wilson’s plan is to eliminate the Customer Services Department.

“My main reason for looking at that department is the two Customer Services representatives,” he said. “Those two individuals are responsible for the intake of the money for the county. As you know, the Finance Officer is ultimately responsible for the management of the money that comes into the county. However, the Finance Officer does not have any managerial oversight of those two employees.”

Wilson said he felt it to be appropriate that the money coming into the county needs to be under the control of the Finance Officer.

He suggested that the Customer Services Director become part of the Utility Department, where the water/sewer billings originate, possibly in a supervisory role as a Billing Administrator.

Wilson told the commissioners if they accepted any of his recommendations, he would prepare the appropriate job descriptions and make changes to the county’s organizational chart. The commissioners would need to approve both.

Commissioner Jonathan Craddock asked if the changes would be cost neutral.

“There would be some small costs involved, especially on the Planning and Development side,” Wilson replied. “I would probably look at an adjustment to the salary of the director of that department, as I would any position where they are required to take on additional responsibilities.”

Commissioner Jack Owens noted that at the present time these are only recommendations.

“We need to individually take these recommendations under consideration and contact the county manager with our individual questions before taking a vote,” Owens stated.

Owens said he liked the idea of creating a Planning and Development Department, saying it would create a “seamless procedure” for those needing those types of services.

“Planning, Building, and Inspections need to be customer friendly,” stated Commissioner Linda Hofler.

She asked for a diagram, a chart to better understand what Wilson is proposing.

“It’s better for me to see it on paper,” Hofler stressed.

Craddock said he needs to meet with Wilson to gain what he termed as “supporting documentation” to what the county manager is proposing for the reorganization of Customer Services.

“Please share with us what questions were asked and answered in our individual meetings with the manager,” Hofler suggested.

Commission Chair Dr. Althea Riddick said she would like the board to act on Wilson’s plan, yes or no, at their February meeting.

“We don’t need to drag this out,” Riddick said.

In a related matter, Wilson, answering a question from Commissioner Ray Freeman regarding an analysis of Emergency (911) Communications, said the state has a program – especially with small rural counties – that promotes the consolidation of those services among neighboring counties.

“I have reached out and had meetings and discussions with other counties in the area to see if, in fact, they are interested in collaborating to do joint 911 dispatch,” Wilson said.

He added if that does come to fruition, all parties would, “enjoy the efficiencies in services and cost savings.”

“This consolidation does have merit. I’ll keep you updated as these discussions progress,” Wilson concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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