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Hernando purchasing director, his job soon to be gone

BROOKSVILLE — With almost no discussion, county commissioners on Tuesday accepted County Administrator David Hamilton's plans for reorganizing the county's purchasing department, plans that eliminate the job of purchasing and contracts director Jim Gantt.

Hamilton outlined for the commission why he was recommending that purchasing shift from his control to the Clerk of the Circuit Court for a period of not more than 18 months.

The action was designed to allow purchasing and finance officials with the clerk to better align, simplify and streamline a purchasing process Hamilton said had bogged down under Gantt's leadership.

He explained that late last year, it came to his attention that the county had not been paying its bills on time. At one point, a supplier for the fleet department cut the county off for slow payments. Cash flow is especially important to small businesses during this down economy, Hamilton explained.

Streamlining and reducing labor could cut the bill paying from 54 to 13 days, he said.

Since 2005, the county's audit services department has made a series of recommendations to purchasing on how to streamline the process, use purchasing cards more efficiently and improve the workflow, Hamilton said.

Only some of those recommendations have been followed.

"We can no longer be an organization … that writes reports and does not act on them in a timely manner,'' Hamilton told the board.

Gantt has been out of the office for the last three weeks. Hamilton had suspended him for two weeks without pay for several performance issues and Gantt has prescheduled three weeks off for medical reasons, which would have put him back at work on May 24. Now that is his last day with the county.

The discipline was primarily focused on Gantt for failing to keep the jail from falling into a state of disrepair. Being director for the jail contract was a part of his job. Hamilton also criticized Gantt for the adversarial relationship he had with the auditor.

Hamilton said on Tuesday that, with the commission's decision earlier in the meeting for Sheriff Richard Nugent to take over the jail in August, part of Gantt's responsibilities were already going to be stripped from him.

Hamilton told commissioners that Clerk of the Court Karen Nicolai was reluctant at first to take on the purchasing responsibilities but agreed that it would be best in order to get the system working more smoothly.

The plan is to get that done and return the operation to the administrator, and along the way reduce costs, "stop writing reports and start implementing them,'' Hamilton said.

Commissioner Dave Russell said he was all for something that would save money and eliminate redundancies.

Gantt has appealed his suspension. He declined to comment on Tuesday's board action.

Hamilton has noted previously that eliminating Gantt's position will save the county $117,310 in his salary and benefits. He was hired by the county in November 1992.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Fast facts

In other business

• The commission approved the purchase of an automated parking meter system to be used at Pine Island and Rogers parks that was strongly recommended by Hamilton as a cost-savings measure. The equipment will cost $60,000 to start, and existing staff would stay on to learn the system. If staff reductions are implemented later, the annual cost savings could run nearly $69,000 per year, county officials estimated. Commissioner Rose Rocco was the sole vote against the plan.

• Commissioners turned down a proposed rezoning that would have switched 1.69 acres at the entrance to the Oaks subdivision to neighborhood commercial at Lawrence Street and Barclay Road. Residents packed the commission chambers and complained that neighborhood deed restrictions prevented the land being used for anything other than residential. The commission's vote echoed planning staff's recommendation for a denial and the same recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

• Even though the firm was the only bidder on the project, the commission agreed to give Florida Handling Systems Inc. the bid for the renovation project of the Hernando Beach boat lift hoist. The bid amount for the work was $57,084. Interim public works director Susan Goebel assured commissioners that officials had checked out the firm based on other jobs it had done and found it acceptable.

Hernando purchasing director, his job soon to be gone 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 9:19pm]
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