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Clayton dept. cuts 10 positions

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Transportation and Development Department eliminated 10 jobs this week in an effort to reorganize the department.

As a result, Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., will become a grant-funded program under the department, rather than a salary-funded one.

In December, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners expressed support for a request from Transportation and Development Director Jeff Metarko to cut seven vacant positions and three filled positions to reduce the county's salary obligations. On Wednesday, the Clayton County Civil Service Board approved the reduction in staff, making it official, according to Metarko.

"From my understanding, the chief of staff is making a concerted effort to look at all county operations, to look at inefficiencies and ways we can tighten the reigns to operate better," Metarko said. "These positions were ones that were not critical or central to our mission. Most of these positions have been vacant, and we have been functioning without them for a while. We don't anticipate with the reduction of these 10 jobs that any service levels will be reduced."

According to Metarko, the unfilled positions being deleted include: C-TRAN public transit coordinator; C-TRAN public transit operations and maintenance technician; C-TRAN transit crew worker (responsible for picking up trash around bus stops); Tara Field maintenance worker; survey crew technician; and two public works equipment operators.

Filled positions being eliminated include: Transportation concerts administrator; Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., secretary; and Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., manager.

Metarko said the reorganization will result in more than $300,000 worth of savings for the department.

Chief of Staff Alex Cohilas said, due to a high number of upcoming Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) projects, the county has been in need of more professional consulting services. He said the money saved in the reorganization will help reduce the county's dependence on outside contractors.

"We have been in the process, through all of 2009, of looking at one department at a time, and looking at ways we can improve efficiency, maintain costs, and increase skill-sets," Cohilas said. "We're needing more professional services, more planners, and professional engineers. Mr. Metarko specially had that need, given the high number of SPLOST projects we are undertaking. Those kinds of jobs [the eliminated positions] weren't going to attract the skill-sets we needed, so we eliminated them. By having more engineers in house, the less we have to rely on outside engineers and consultants. It's better organized, leaner, and more efficient at the same time."

Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., was created in 1981 as a private, non-profit organization with the mission of cleaning up the roads and highways of Clayton County. According to the organization's director, Edie Yongue, the program has since grown to oversee several initiatives to beautify the county, including:

* The Bring One for the Chipper Christmas tree recycling program.

* The Great American Cleanup neighborhood beautification program.

* Clayton County Amnesty Day (for recycling paints, chemicals, and medications).

* The annual Rivers Alive stream cleanup event, and the Clayton County Public Schools Recycling Program.

According to Metarko, the organization was made a part of a public-private partnership with the county in 2004, administered by the Transportation and Development Department. He said the recent move will return Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., to being "a completely private, non-profit organization" with grant support from the county.

"What we are doing is providing them grant funding moving forward," Metarko said. "They're not going away, and the level of funding they have now is what they are going to be getting through grants."

Yongue said the county will provide Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., with office space until the end of June. Starting July 1, she expects the program to function in a similar fashion, but said it may require additional support from the public, and the private sector.

"I don't see us disappearing," she said. "That would be a tragedy. We're just reshuffling, so all is good.

"We certainly will need more support from the chamber of commerce, the cities, the business community, the board of education, and all the people we've partnered with over the years. The county still needs to get cleaner."