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A NEW GAME PLAN FOR COUNTY

The outgoing administrator proposes merging departments and manager duties to save money.

Departing County Administrator Gary Kuhl has proposed a government reorganization that he says would shrink the upper layers of management to increase efficiency.

In a report delivered to county commissioners on Wednesday, Kuhl suggests cutting the number of departments from 17 to five operational departments and six offices.

The report was developed with deputy administrator Larry Jennings over the past two months as the two compared the organization of similarly sized Florida counties.

The report is intended as "a game plan for the new administrator'' to implement over time. "At least it gives a path that could be looked at,'' Kuhl said.

Approval of the County Commission would not be needed, but commission Chairman Jeff Stabins said he was interested in seeing whatever the county could do to save money.

"I think he's done what he could do in order to take advantage of the upper-level managers retiring over the next few years.'' Stabins said. "I don't care how we arrange the chairs as long as we save money.''

One of the immediate tasks Kuhl said Jennings may face is to move the county's fleet management operations from Public Works to the Office of Procurement and Contract Monitoring to provide closer oversight.

An internal audit this summer showed problems with the department including underused vehicles, flaws that are likely be echoed in another report expected in the next few days.

Several of the short- and long-term goals outlined are keyed to the expected retirement in the coming years of a half dozen or more of the county's top managers.

For example, the goal of creating a Public Safety Department that would include Emergency Management and Code Enforcement would mean eliminating the code enforcement director's position now held by Frank McDowell, who is expected to retire in 2008.

The new Public Safety Department would also get the jail contract monitoring, now under Procurement and Contract Monitoring, as well as Fire and Emergency Services.

Kuhl also suggests that some of the positions now designated as "directors'' become "manager'' titles. Those areas are Human Resources and Budget and Management, departments that report directly to the administrator; and Airport Management, Business Development, Technology Services, Procurement and Contract Monitoring and Community Relations, which would report to the deputy administrator.

The plan would not demote current officeholders but would phase in a system that limits departments and department directors. Some county functions rise to the level of an operational department, such as Public Works, Kuhl noted, while others have support and service functions, such as Community Relations.

Kuhl said directors of the combined departments would have to handle multiple functions because creating other manager positions would defeat the purpose of saving money and becoming more efficient.

On the other hand, giving more responsibility to existing directors should mean giving them a pay raise. There will still be savings, he said, because no one's pay will double to take on a second job.

Another suggestion in Kuhl's report is to form a Community Services Department that would combine County Extension, Library Services, Health and Human Services and Parks and Recreation. Like the other changes, he suggests that the change come when a current director leaves.

He also suggests moving the Office of Procurement and Contract Monitoring under the Office of Management and Budget and reuniting the Planning Department and the Development Services Department.

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

Fast facts

How other counties are organized

Hernando County

Unincorporated population: 149,676

1 deputy administrator

17 departments

1 office

Pasco County

Unincorporated population: 382,872

4 assistant county administrators

21 departments and 43 divisions

Bay County

Unincorporated population: 65,551

2 assistant county managers

9 department director positions

15 managers, superintendents, officers, chiefs and coordinators

Lake County

Unincorporated population: 151,734

1 deputy county administrator and 1 county manager

8 departments and 26 divisions

5 offices

Osceola County

Unincorporated population: 165,627

1 senior executive officer under county manager

6 departments and 16 divisions

4 offices

Charlotte County

Unincorporated population: 143,363

2 assistant county administrators and 1 assistant to the county administrator

7 departments and 24 divisions

St. John's County

Unincorporated population: 145,025

2 assistant county administrators

18 departments

1 office

Citrus County

Unincorporated population: 125,772

5 departments and 19 divisions

4 offices

Indian River County

Unincorporated population: 86,779

1 assistant county administrator and 1 County Commission aide

9 departments and 33 divisions

1 office

Fast facts

Jail, library, recreation reviews sought

Areas suggested by Gary Kuhl for efficiency studies:

¥ Review levels of service in Facilities Maintenance, Parks and Recreation and Library Services. Consider operating hours for parks and libraries, level of maintenance and cleaning to maintain public health, safety and welfare balanced with cost and benefits.

- Study aspects of county jail system, including more cost-effective means for probation/sentencing procedures and inmate processing; the level of involvement by the Sheriff's Office; improvements in jail facilities including layout and processing flow and use of minimum-security devices such as ankle bracelets for nonfelon criminals.

- Review the pros and cons of functions such as right-of-way mowing and mosquito control through the Works Management Program in Public Works. This program compares county project costs to industry standards and outside contractor costs to determine the least costly alternative.

- Conduct detailed economic analysis of remote utility meter reading vs. manual reading.

- Conduct an in-depth review of Development Services Department function to recommend customer service improvements and streamline application process.

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