Stories indexed with the term ‘reorganization’

New Plan Proposed for County Infrastructure

A reorganization of Washtenaw County facilities is underway, spurred in part by excess building capacity and a push to cut expenses. As a result, some departments and programs will be relocated, and the long-time leasing of some sites might be eliminated.

County Annex on Fourth Avenue

The County Annex building at 110 N. Fourth was built in 1904 and houses several county units, including the public defender's office, the office of community and economic development, Project Outreach (PORT) and the Washtenaw Housing Alliance. Total annual operating costs were $407,206 in 2010. (Photos by the writer.)

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners were briefed on these plans at their most recent working session by Greg Dill, infrastructure management director. The March 8 briefing included an update on information technology infrastructure, which Dill also oversees.

Washtenaw County owns about 1 million square feet of building space and about 62 miles of fiber network. Building operating costs in 2010 – the most recent data available – totaled $9.979 million, including $1.62 million for utilities and $965,800 for security, primarily at the county courthouses.

Dill told commissioners that the goal is to be more strategic about the use of facilities, in part by maximizing occupancy at county-owned buildings and minimizing the amount of leased space. The county pays about $500,000 annually for two major leases in the city of Ypsilanti, both used for Michigan Works workforce development programs: at the KeyBank building at 301 W. Michigan Ave., and at 300 Harriet St. on the south side of town.

The space plan Dill and his staff are developing includes making better use of the county’s Zeeb Road facility, which has been partially vacant. In the short term, offices of the Washtenaw Community Health Organization will move there, freeing up space in their current location – at 555 Towner in Ypsilanti – for possible use by the workforce development programs. In the long term, the Zeeb Road site might be the future home for 911 dispatch operations, which the county recently consolidated with the city of Ann Arbor.

Two other properties are being evaluated for possible sale: (1) the vacant building and land on Platt Road, site of the former juvenile justice center; and (2) the Head Start building at 1661 Leforge in Ypsilanti. The county is relinquishing the administration of Head Start later this year.

Dill also talked about his goal of cutting annual operational costs by $1 million, through a combination of eliminating leases and creating energy efficiencies – migrating to LED lights, for example. Efforts to cut energy expenses were supported by several commissioners, as was the plan to hire an energy manager for the county. Commissioner Leah Gunn noted that several years ago the county had invested heavily in what’s known as the Chevron project, a multi-year contract aimed at cutting energy costs. She asked for an update on the effectiveness of that effort, which Dill said he’d provide. [Full Story]

County Admin Reorganization Gets Initial OK

A restructuring of support services in administration, finance, information technology and facilities management was given initial approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its Feb. 15, 2012 meeting. The changes are estimated to save the county $326,422 annually, and result in the net reduction of four full-time jobs. A final vote is expected at the board’s March 7 meeting.

The changes entail creating a new “cross-lateral” team of four current senior managers: Kelly Belknap, director of finance; Greg Dill, infrastructure management director; Curtis Hedger, corporation counsel; and Diane Heidt, director of human services and labor relations. The proposal also calls for putting two positions – including the job of deputy county administrator – on “hold vacant” status. Another 11 positions will … [Full Story]

Hitch for AATA Consulting Contract

At its Dec. 15, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board withdrew a resolution that would have authorized signing a contract with two consulting firms to review and make recommendations on the internal organization of the AATA.

The two firms are Generator Group, LLC  and D. Kerry Laycock. After responding to an RFP from the AATA for the work, the two firms were identified as the top respondents among the 10 that responded, and were asked by the AATA to partner on a proposal. The partnership was meant to use the different strengths of the two firms. Generator Group, out of Portland, Oregon, has transit experience, while Laycock taps local talent.

Laycock has been previously tapped by the city of Ann Arbor in various reorganizational efforts, including its recent approval of the outsourcing of police dispatching to the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

The AATA’s approved FY 2012 operating budget allocates up to $250,000 for such a project. The contract with Generator Group and Laycock would have amounted to $247,000. The board’s decision to withdraw the authorization for the contract stemmed from concerns about its cost.

Board members encouraged CEO Michael Ford to use his ability to strike contracts for less than $100,000 without board authorization to complete the first phases of the organizational review. At that point, he could return to the board for a request to complete the final phase.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

County Administration Reorg Postponed

A reorganization of administrative positions proposed by Washtenaw County administrator Verna McDaniel was pulled from the agenda of the Sept. 21, 2011 meeting of the county board of commissioners. Details of the restructuring had been part of the board’s packet of materials. There was no discussion on the topic.

The proposed changes, which could be introduced at a later date, were expected to save $120,962 and were part of a broader 2012-2013 budget proposal. The reorganization would have put the deputy county administrator’s position – which has been unfilled since the departure of Bill Reynolds earlier this year – on hold/vacant status. A new “cross lateral” team was proposed with four members: Kelly Belknap, director of finance; Greg Dill, infrastructure management director … [Full Story]

Washtenaw County Board Gets Budget Update

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Aug. 3, 2011): A second-quarter budget update and final approval of a major multi-department consolidation were highlights of Wednesday’s meeting.

Dan Smith, Verna McDaniel

Washtenaw County commissioner Dan Smith (R-District 2) and county administrator Verna McDaniel. Smith is vice chair of the board’s ways & means committee, and led the meeting in the absence of the committee chair, Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5). (Photos by the writer.)

The budget update showed the impact of higher-than-anticipated property tax revenues, which had first been announced in April. Because of higher revenues than originally projected, the county now expects to use only $2.9 million from its fund balance during 2011 – previously, the budget called for drawing $5.3 million from the fund balance to cover a shortfall between revenues and expenditures.

Without the $2.9 million transfer from the fund balance, however, there would be a projected $2.5 million deficit for the year, on a general fund budget of roughly $100 million. Among several shortfalls on the expenditure side, about $1.034 million in anticipated non-departmental lump sum reductions have not materialized.

Expenses for attorney fees are higher than budgeted, but the county’s corporation counsel Curtis Hedger noted that there’s at least one case that won’t be costing the county in the future. It was an allusion to the end of a 2006 lawsuit against the county over the cost of police services. Hedger later told The Chronicle that the two townships still involved in the case – Ypsilanti Township and Augusta Township – paid the county this week the nearly $750,000 recommended by a court-ordered facilitator.

There was little discussion about most of the action items that the board approved. Most notably, a final OK was given to creating a new office of community & economic development – the result of merging three county departments. The new unit, to be led by Mary Jo Callan, will employ about 31 full-time workers, compared to 40 that are now employed in the three separate departments: the office of community development (OCD); the economic development & energy department; and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. Other jobs within the county government have been identified for all but one employee so far. The consolidation will take effect in 2012.

Commissioners also set public hearings for their Sept. 7 meeting to get input on two millages: one levied under the Veterans Relief Fund Act, and another collected under Public Act 88 to be used for economic development purposes. Because Act 88 and the veterans relief act predate the state’s Headlee Amendment, they can be approved by the board without a voter referendum.

The Act 88 millage of 0.05 mill would be an increase from the 0.043 mills currently levied. It would generate an estimated $688,913 annually. In previous years, it has been used to fund several entities, including Ann Arbor SPARK. The veterans relief millage of 1/40th of a mill does not represent an increase, and is estimated to bring in $344,486 to provide services for indigent veterans in Washtenaw County through the county’s department of veterans affairs.

Republicans Dan Smith and Alicia Ping led the back-to-back ways & means committee and regular board meetings on Wednesday – as vice chairs of those respective bodies, they were filling in for chairs Rolland Sizemore Jr. and Conan Smith. Both Democrats were out of town. [Full Story]

County Departmental Merge Gets Final OK

At their Aug. 3, 2011 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners gave final approval to a major consolidation of three county departments: the office of community development (OCD); the economic development & energy department; and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. An initial vote of approval had been taken at their July 6, 2011 meeting, though some commissioners had asked for more details about the proposed changes, which would take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. [.pdf of responses to commissioner questions]

OCD director Mary Jo Callan will lead the new office of community & economic development. The goal is to cut costs by eliminating duplicated services in the face of declining revenues, while finding ways to deliver those services more efficiently … [Full Story]

County Board Seeks Details on Consolidation

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (July 6, 2011): Much of the discussion at this month’s county board meeting focused on the proposed merger of three departments, creating a new office of community & economic development.

Mary Jo Callan, Tony Van Derworp

Mary Jo Callan talks with Tony Van Derworp before the start of the July 6, 2011 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting. Callan is overseeing the consolidation of three county departments, including the economic development and energy department, which Van Derworp leads.

In the works for over a year, the consolidation would combine the office of community development, the economic development & energy department, and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department. The goal, according to county managers, is to cut costs by eliminating duplicated services in the face of declining revenues, while finding ways to deliver those services more efficiently to residents in need. The number of full-time employees in the merged departments would drop from 40 to 32, though most of those displaced workers will likely be moved to other county jobs. In total, about $500,000 in annual savings is expected from the merger.

While generally supportive of the change, several commissioners asked for additional details, and expressed frustration that they were provided new information – including a business plan – just hours before the meeting began. The proposal was originally on the agendas for initial approval at the Ways & Means committee meeting and final approval at the regular board meeting that same night, but commissioners decided to remove it from the board meeting agenda. They’ll likely consider it for a final vote at their Aug. 3 meeting. The consolidation will also be one of the topics at the July 11 Ann Arbor city council working session – the office of community development is a joint city/county unit.

Two other items that have received considerable – often contentious – discussion at previous meetings were passed with virtually no comment. Both relate to police services that are provided under contract to local municipalities by the sheriff’s office. On the first item, the county board approved the recommendation of a court-ordered facilitator in a lawsuit filed against the county in 2006 over the cost of police services. The recommendation states that Ypsilanti Township and Augusta Township should pay the county $749,427 for police services provided in 2006. The boards of those townships are expected to vote on the recommendation this week. If approved, it could lead to the closure of that legal battle.

On the second related item, the county board gave final approval to the price that municipalities will pay for a contract sheriff’s deputy through 2015. The price in 2012 – $150,594 – is unchanged from this year, but will rise in subsequent years by about 1% annually. The complex, politically-charged process of arriving at those figures involved more than a year of discussion between the sheriff’s office, other county officials and leaders of local municipalities that contract for these services.

Several other budget-related issues were addressed during the July 6 meeting, including initial approval to an agreement with the Michigan Nurses Association – Unit I, the union that represents 13 public health nurses and nurse coordinators in the county’s health services department. It’s the first of 15 union agreements being negotiated as part of the 2012 and 2013 budget cycle, and is expected to achieve an annual savings of $132,000. In total, the county hopes to see about $8 million in labor concessions for the two-year budget cycle, to help address a projected $17.5 million deficit.

Commissioners also voted to raise the fee for waiving the statutory three-day marriage license waiting period, increasing it from $5 to $50. County clerk Larry Kestenbaum, whose office processes marriage licenses, assured the board that the vast majority of applications are willing to wait the three days, and won’t incur this additional cost for expediting the process. Conan Smith joked that he had hoped Kestenbaum would come forward with a package discount deal – for marriage licenses and concealed weapons permits. [Full Story]

County Departmental Reorg Gets Initial OK

A major consolidation of three county departments – the office of community development, the economic development & energy department, and the employment training and community services (ETCS) department – was given initial approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at their July 6, 2011 meeting. A final vote is expected at the board’s Aug. 3 meeting. The changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

If the reorganization gets final approval, Mary Jo Callan, director of the office of community development, will lead the new office of community & economic development. The goal is to cut costs by eliminating duplicated services in the face of declining revenues, while finding ways to deliver those services more efficiently to citizens. Several personnel changes are part of … [Full Story]

Three County Departments to Merge

Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (May 5, 2011): A consolidation is underway for three county departments that share similar missions and programs: providing services to low-income residents; support for low-income housing; help for job seekers; and projects designed to spur economic development.

Conan Smith, Barbara Bergman, Mary Jo Callan

From left: Washtenaw County commissioners Conan Smith and Barbara Bergman, and Mary Jo Callan, director of the county/city of Ann Arbor office of community development, at the May 5, 2011 working session of the county board of commissioners. (Photos by the writer.)

County commissioners were given an update on these plans at their most recent working session. They’ll be asked to give initial approval to the consolidation at their June 1 meeting, with final approval on July 6.

Mary Jo Callan, who is expected to lead the new office of community & economic development, made the presentation and fielded most of the questions from commissioners. She is currently director of the office of community development, a joint department of the county and city of Ann Arbor, and one of the three departments slated to merge. The goal, Callan said, is to provide a more coherent approach to the broad spectrum of community development, from providing for basic needs to helping people get jobs. And in a climate of reduced resources, they’ll be eliminating duplication and cutting costs, she said, while making it easier for residents to get the services they need.

The three departments – the office of community development (OCD), ETCS (the employment training and community services department) and the economic development & energy department – employ nearly 60 people with a combined budget of about $16 million. Staff cuts will likely result from the changes – those and other details are still being worked out.

Most commissioners expressed support for this effort, though some wanted more information – including a business plan for the new department – before their June 1 vote.

The working session also included a presentation and discussion on the Packard Square brownfield redevelopment, an issue that was initially debated at the board’s May 4 meeting. A Chronicle report on that part of the working session will be published separately. [Full Story]

Housing Commission Reorganizes

Ann Arbor City Council work session (Jan. 11, 2010): Ann Arbor city councilmembers were presented on Monday evening with an outline for the reorganization of the city’s housing commission, a plan that has in large part already been adopted by the commission and needs no further city council approval.

The housing commission is responsible for 355 public housing units spread over 18 sites – or around 50% of the affordable housing stock in the city – plus 1,300 Section 8 vouchers for a three-county area.

computer screen with housing commission slide show

Kerry Laycock, the consultant who gave the city council a presentation on the reorganization of the housing commission, gave a slide presentation from the podium using this laptop computer. (Photos by the writer.)

Keys to the reorganization are beefing up the Section 8 program with a dedicated financial analyst and a program manager, and redefining roles of the executive director and deputy director, as well as outsourcing maintenance of the housing units.

Outsourcing maintenance will reduce the housing commission staff by six people – two temporary employees plus four union workers.

Alan Levy, who chairs the housing commission board, told councilmembers that the reorganization had already been approved by a 3-2 vote of the housing commission’s board at a special meeting held on Jan. 6, 2010. [Full Story]