Clayton government may consolidate four departments

JONESBORO — The size of Clayton County government could shrink by two departments if commissioners approve mergers proposed by two department heads Tuesday.

If approved, the fleet maintenance and senior services departments would cease to exist. Instead, they would be folded into the central services and parks and recreation departments, respectively, as a cost savings action.

Neither fleet maintenance nor senior services has a permanent leader at this time.

Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said they are just proposals at this point and there is no definitive timeline for voting on the requests. He said the presentations were made at the request of Commissioner Sonna Singleton to see how much money the county could save by merging the departments.

“I’m not saying we’re going to do it or not,” Turner said. “The presentations were for informational purposes and then we’ll decide at a later meeting, if not the next meeting, which direction to go in. Since both departments are without (permanent) directors, she wanted to look and see if we could be more efficient and save the taxpayers a little bit of money.”

If the proposed consolidations are approved by commissioners, it would take the number of county departments from 22 to 20. It would also reduce costs by an estimated $285,992.

Theodis Locke, director of central services and interim fleet maintenance director, made the presentation about merging the departments he oversees. Parks and Recreation Director Detrick Stanford made the presentation about folding senior services into his department.

Locke and Stanford would be the directors for their respective combined departments.

Each merger would be tackled in its own way. It’s possible a merger of fleet maintenance and central services could be easier to accomplish since Locke already oversees both departments. Locke said the departments are also similar enough

“How do we do more with less?” said Locke. “The departments have several related essential functions. Centralizing those functions will allow the county to do more with less.”

In a merged department, the assistant director of fleet maintenance would become the fleet administrator. Locke said other personnel in the central services department would take over some of the fleet maintenance director and assistant director duties, such as contracts and purchasing functions.

“As a result of this process, the fleet administrator will have more time to focus on technical and managerial functions,” Locke said.

A senior heavy truck mechanic will also be reclassified as a lead heavy truck mechanic as a part of the merger. The shop foreman position would also be eliminated and a service writer position would be created.

The county would save $118,948 by merging these departments, Locke said.

A merger between parks and recreation and senior services may not be as easy, and Stanford is recommending a multi-phase merger to complete the consolidation. Although senior services was a part of parks and recreation until 2009, it has since developed as its own department, with its own administrative staff.

And, unlike central services and fleet maintenance, Stanford has not been overseeing senior services in an interim role since Director Mary Byrd resigned in August. Tori Strawter has been the interim director.

If the merger takes place, the senior services department would be renamed the senior services division.

The duplication of services for the departments drifts lower than two director positions. At a minimum, it goes as far down as having two marketing departments which would have to be merged as well. However, Stanford has pledged to not layoff any employees in either department.

“Simply put, there will be no RIFs, there will still be equal classification for each employee and we will continue to maintain those positions as they are now,” Stanford said.

The senior services positions which would be eliminated are vacant jobs, such as the director’s job and Kinship Care leader. The expected savings would be $167,044.

The parks and recreation director is hedging bets that the bulk of senior services’ administrators will remember previously working under parks and recreation enough to be able to handle the transition.

“Seventy-five percent of senior services’ senior staff worked in parks and recreation pre-separation, so we are both familiar with the operations and the people,” Stanford said.

But, it’s not clear that senior services staff welcome the idea of being absorbed back into the parks and recreation department. Strawter declined to comment on the proposal.