With an eye on increasing efficiency, county officials are considering consolidating the Emergency Management Department with the Sheriff's Department.
A preliminary plan for consolidating the two offices was discussed Wednesday before the county's Transition Committee.
Chief Deputy John Sweeney and Emergency Management Director Ken Kortenhof came before the committee to outline the proposed consolidation plan.
"What we were asked to do is draft a reorganization plan that consolidates the two agencies," Sweeney said. "We were asked to do it without replacing a lieutenant."
The lieutenant position will soon be vacant due to the upcoming retirement of Lt. Jim Wood, who supervises the 911 call center. Wood will retire Jan. 2.
The responsibilities of supervising the center would fall to Kortenhof in the new plan.
Having Kortenhof back in the Sheriff's Department is one of the positives of the plan, according to Sweeney.
"We would be, essentially, getting Ken back," Sweeney said. "He was an excellent employee when he was in the Sheriff's Office and we certainly would be very happy to have him right back in there with us."
Sweeney said he also sees many other positives in regards to the consolidation, including the addition of a public safety mobile radio technician from the Buildings and Grounds Department.
The specifics of that addition, including how many hours the person would be at the department, are still being ironed out.
"I think, from my perspective, there's a lot of positives," Sweeney said. "A number of counties use this model and it's worked successfully in other counties. We would, I think, gain a lot by having a public safety mobile radio technician for more hours. We'd essentially be buying some hours from the Buildings and Grounds Department, which could save us some money."
Although he's optimistic about the potential merge, Sweeney did warn against just diving head-first into the planned consolidation. He said the county should take the consolidation process slowly and reevaluate as needed.
"I would not agree to this, nor would I recommend to the Sheriff that they agree to this, without some sort of grace period for us to routinely come back to the committee with updates on how it's going," Sweeney said.
Kortenhof also expressed his desire for a grace period, and a fallback plan, while endorsing the plan.
"Certainly we could make it work if asked to do so," Kortenhof said. "I would be taking on a couple more divisions, like the communications division, but I've already worked with them quite a bit on the equipment end of things. I think our model would work, but again, we would ask for a grace period and maybe a fallback plan just in case."
Although his retirement is quickly approaching, the committee also asked Sheriff Jeff Hoffman's opinion on the plan.
"I do support this, otherwise I wouldn't be here," Hoffman joked, before turning more serious. "These two guys have worked very hard to try to get a system in place that maintains the level of service with one less employee."
The committee also wanted to know how much the consolidation would save the county.
Although job descriptions still need to be ironed out, Human Resources Director Lisa Charbarneau was able to give the committee an initial estimate of savings.
"On the preliminary financial analysis that goes along with this new model, with the elimination of the lieutenant position, with possible adjusting that needs to be done to other job descriptions because of the reorganization, we're looking at about $51,000 in savings to the county," Charbarneau said.
Pleased with what was presented, the committee then voted to forward the plan on to the Public Safety Committee for further consideration.
"I say we accept the consolidation chart, have them finish the job descriptions and potential savings and forward it on to the Public Safety Committee for their consideration," Committee Chairman Ted Cushing said.
Marcus Nesemann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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