Discover more from Elliot Pierce Updates
New Spending & Expanded Government proposed in Walker County
A big--expensive--reorganization and expansion of two departments was proposed by Whitfield Thursday night.
This article also appears on NorthwestGeorgiaNews.com in the Catoosa News Walker County Messenger opinion pages.
In an era of runaway inflation and skyrocketing gas prices, many leaders in government are doing everything possible to give taxpayers a break and reduce taxes and fees wherever possible. Walker County’s Chairman is not one of them.
Thursday evening's Walker County Board of Commissioners meeting saw the chairman of the board propose the merging of the county's animal control department with its animal shelter department into a unified animal services department. Animal control is currently housed within the code enforcement department and has an interim manager. The animal shelter is its own department with its own manager and assistant manager.
With his consolidation proposal, the following would happen:
Establish a new position of Animal Services Director
Create a new position of animal control manager
Increase the number of animal control officers to ensure they are on duty eight hours a day, seven days a week
Increase the number of animal shelter staff to ensure three technicians and a manager are on duty eight hours a day, seven days a week
How much will Whitfield's grand plan cost taxpayers? There would be an increase in personnel expenses from $520,130 to $785,682. A grand total figure Whitfield cited was $912,132. These figures do not include operating expenses or facility improvements. It is likely that the shelter would need to be expanded and additional capital purchases necessary, which was not addressed by Chairman Whitfield.
Chairman Whitfield read the figures he mentioned during the meeting from a budget document he prepared, which was conspicuously missing from the 30 page meeting agenda distributed on the county website one week prior to the meeting. He distributed a copy to district commissioners along with other documents not included in the public packet.
Among the other documents were job descriptions for the new positions he wants to create. It is interesting that Chairman Whitfield is creating job descriptions and similar things as this is a task reserved for human resources since there are many regulatory and legal implications. This raises more questions about his human resources practices in light of his former HR Manager leaving after less than six months of being hired last September.
Chairman Whitfield went into some detail about one of the new positions he wants to create, the animal services director, saying, “I think a very important role of an animal services director is that education piece and to provide public engagement and also be willing to, you know, speak on TV radio and different things.”
I would be remiss if I failed to remind readers that Walker County taxpayers currently employ both a public relations director and a communications specialist. They are both full-time salaried positions with a combined expense of well over $100,000 per year. Don’t the commissioners and especially Chairman Whitfield get paid to provide public engagement and “you know, speak on TV, radio and different things?” Is the board running an ad or PR agency or do they oversee a government? Shannon Whitfield isn't Don Draper and this isn't Mad Men.
There were questions from all the district commissioners, and I was pleased to see Mark Askew take issue with the proposal to consolidate. An unrelated issue was also discussed in this meeting, as they voiced concerns about yet another fee increase at the Walker County Landfill, which maintains some of the highest fees in the area.
It should be noted that no votes were taken nor decisions were made for this proposal. Here I want to return to the point I made a few weeks ago. How will the commissioners decide this issue? How will they evaluate the necessity of it? And how will they evaluate the current departments? Will they measure current service satisfaction or use existing data? How is public satisfaction measured with this very public service? Is it measured at all?
It is hard for me to see how Walker County can make an informed decision on consolidation. Both the county's animal control center and animal shelter have no performance management program or metrics in place to measure effectiveness and efficiency.
Additionally, there is no annual citizen survey regarding county government and services, so it is impossible to determine whether the public is satisfied or dissatisfied with the existing services. There is no employee survey data either.
Without data to measure efficiency and performance, and without knowing how satisfied taxpayers are with the services they are receiving, how can you make a decision to consolidate departments and expand services? How will the board make such a decision? Just flip a coin? What about rock, paper, scissors? No one knows.
If the commissioners had the data and information they needed to evaluate the two departments and make an informed decision, then there appears to be a much better option than spending additional tax dollars and expanding government, yet again. The privatization of many animal control programs and shelter operations has proven to be successful, popular, and more cost effective than government run programs. Unfortunately, the board lacks the crucial information it needs and Whitfield’s first instinct is a left turn to increase spending and expand government.
Subscribe for free to receive new posts.