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Commissioner wants unanimous vote on department consolidations

By Justin Boron

In anticipation of the results from an efficiency study, Clayton County Commissioner Charley Griswell Tuesday proposed a measure that would protect county departments from being dismantled without the approval of the county commission.

The proposal comes as a public service-arm at the University of Georgia is sewing up the final report from a study that looks at reorganizational opportunities in the county government. Griswell's suggestion also comes after earlier this year management of the county's emergency services was merged under the county police and fire departments without a county commission vote.

"I would like to see us bring a resolution to the board in essence saying that before we can dismantle any departments there must be a unanimous vote," Griswell said at Tuesday's county commission meeting.

"It's one of the most important decisions that the commissioners are going to have to make," he said in a later interview.

Griswell, who has spent almost 25 years on the commission, said he has never seen a dismantling or consolidation other than the emergency services.

In March, the county enlisted the Athens-based Carl Vinson Institute of Government to study the county's department structure and identify opportunities for cost-savings in the services the government provides.

In doing so, the study examines a concept called "span of control," which is the amount of supervision required for each level of government. In other words, it will define how layered the county's government is and whether its operation can be improved by adding or removing some of those layers, a Carl Vinson public service associate John O'Looney has said.

Over the past few months, speculation about the evaluation's results have fueled worries about possible consolidation of resources in some of the county's departments and divisions.

An open records request by the News Daily in early June did not produce any findings from the study.

But Griswell said he has not seen any parts of the report but had heard that members of the county staff had been privy to some of it.

County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said working documents had been exchanged between the county and the Carl Vinson organization but the final draft of the report is not complete.

He also said he has asked the Carl Vinson organization to make a presentation before the commissioners.

Commissioner Wolé Ralph said he would like to have a copy of the report before the presentation.

"It requires a lot of reflection and a lot of conversation," he said.