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Commissioners looking at ways of streamlining government services

Streamlining government is the main objective of a newly formed committee established by the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners. Officials are aiming to have it all completed by the time the new city/county government center is ready to move into in downtown Thomson.

Commissioners Bill Jopling and Fred Favors recently were appointed to a special committee to study the idea along with county government department heads. The latest committee meeting took place in the grand jury room of the McDuffie County Courthouse on Wednesday, March 11.

Attending the meeting was a number of department heads. They included: Connie Cheatham, Jimmy Whitaker, Kelly Evans, Ruthie Thomas, Phyllis Wheeler, Fred Guerrant, Katherine Perry and Sandra Whitaker.

Mr. Jopling contends such meetings, like the two that already have been held, are beneficial because they allow input from so many other people.

"We want to get as much feedback from our department heads as possible," Mr. Jopling said. "We want them to know that we want to include them as much as possible before we make decisions affecting them."

During the most recent meeting, newly drawn color-coded organizational charts, prepared jointly by County Manager Don Norton and IT Director Kelly Evans, was presented to each person who attended.

Mr. Jopling also said he believes it is important for county government to establish a mission statement. That issue is expected to be addressed further during the next organizational structure and procedure committee meeting slated for Wednesday, April 15, at 3 p.m. The meeting will be held in the grand jury room of the county courthouse.

"One of the things we want to do is even the playing field, get everybody on the same page," Mr. Jopling said.

The newly-elected commissioner said he supports fellow Commissioner Fred Favors in his recent calling for vertical and horizontal communication within the structure of county government. Rev. Favors is a member of the newly formed committee, but was absent from the most recent meeting.

Also discussed briefly was the possibility of some consolidation or merging of some departments. That particular topic is expected to be addressed more during next month's committee meeting.

"There's going to have to be a consolidation of some sort," Mr. Jopling said, noting such was especially true when it came to money being collected from the public.

Mr. Norton said currently that there are 14 department heads who answer to him within county government. He believes there are too many department heads and feels that government could function with fewer department heads. Mr. Jopling agreed, saying 14 department heads are "too many."

Another topic regarded reviewing and verifying the current exempt and non-exempt status of all employees in regards to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act.

Three other topics also were discussed. They included:

- Reports of inconsistency in "comp-time" among both employees and department heads;

- Reports of inconsistency in the area of "sick leave," as well as annual leave. It was mentioned that both sick leave and annual leave are being abused; and

- The group also talked about the need for purchasing new time clocks - something that came up during a recent audit finding.

Web posted on Thursday, March 26, 2009

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