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McCarthy: Consolidating Pierce County departments is on the table

Post by David Wickert on Nov. 6, 2009 at 9:24 am |
November 6, 2009 9:25 am

As I reported yesterday, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy is studying the possible merger of the county’s human services and community services departments. It’s part of a larger effort to find efficiencies and improve customer service in county government.

“We must be willing to look at all options as we work to maintain vital services to Pierce County residents during the severe economic recession,” McCarthy said in the release. “Lots of ideas are on the table. Some may work, and some won’t. But we have to explore these options as deeply as possible in order to make sure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck.”

Here’s the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 6, 2009

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy is exploring a number of ways to maintain services while saving taxpayers’ money, including the possible merger of two departments and a strategic partnership between two others.

The Executive has assembled a team to study whether the merger of the Human Services and Community Services departments would result in cost savings, increased efficiencies or more effective programs. The team, led by Deputy Executive Kevin Phelps, includes staff from both agencies as well as other leaders in her administration. Their report is due by Jan. 15, 2010.

The Department of Human Services administers aging and long-term care programs as well as services for chemical dependency, developmental disabilities and mental health. Community Services provides a variety of services to low-income families, including housing, and it also promotes arts and cultural activities and partners with the WSU Pierce County Extension to promote agricultural issues.

“We must be willing to look at all options as we work to maintain vital services to Pierce County residents during the severe economic recession,” Executive McCarthy said. “Lots of ideas are on the table. Some may work, and some won’t. But we have to explore these options as deeply as possible in order to make sure taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck.”

One area that is expected to see success involves an effort to improve Pierce County’s system of issuing land-use permits. Staff from Planning and Land Services (PALS) have been working with staff from Public Works and Utilities on a plan to streamline the permit system.

First, two task forces set out on parallel tracks. One represented county staff, while the other was made up of frequent users of the permitting department, primarily from engineering and development firms. Each looked at organizational structure, systems and processes, code and organizational culture. The two reports were merged during the summer, and in September staffs from the two departments held an all-day retreat to work on recommendations. More refinements are ongoing.

“I set a goal to create a permitting department that sets a standard for others in the state to follow,” Executive McCarthy said. “I think PALS is poised to make significant improvements in the coming year.”

A third area of discussion involves the Department of Information Technology, whose director retired earlier this year. The Executive is interviewing candidates and expects to select a director who can keep Pierce County at the forefront of evolving technologies while balancing tough economic conditions.

“In an ever-changing environment, we need to make sure we use new technologies to increase worker productivity in a more cost-effective manner,” Executive McCarthy said.

On Nov. 4, the Executive sent a letter outlining these efforts to the County Council, which is working on the 2010 budget.

Contact: Hunter George, Pierce County Communications director, 253-798-6606 or hgeorge@co.pierce.wa.us.

Categories:
Pierce County
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