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Pierce council pushes major consolidation of county departments

Post by David Wickert on Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:54 am |
November 10, 2009 9:54 am

The Pierce County Council is pushing a sweeping consolidation of county departments to save money in 2010 and beyond.

A budget amendment approved late Monday would:

* Ask the county executive to report by June 30 on the feasibility of consolidating five departments into a new “general services division.” The division would include the existing human resources, budget and finance, facilities, risk management and information technology departments.

* Ask the executive to report by June 30 on the feasibility of consolidating the planning and land services department into the public works and utilities department.

A second amendment, proposed but subsequently withdrawn, would have ordered the county’s human services and community services to be merged by March 31, 2010.

Both amendments were proposed by Councilmen Shawn Bunney, R-Lake Tapps, and Tim Farrell, D-Tacoma.

Tim Farrell
Tim Farrell

Farrell said the push for consolidation hearkens back to the way county government was organized under county executives like Doug Sutherland and Booth Gardner.  He said the number of departments has proliferated over the years.

The idea is to reduce administrative costs and save money, he said. He did not know how much the county could save by consolidating departments.

“We’re trying everything possible to get as much bang for our buck as we can,” Farrell said.

At the urging of county budget director Pat Kenney, Bunney and Farrell withdrew their proposal to merge the human services and community services departments in a few months.

Shawn Bunney
Shawn Bunney

Bunney said the move makes sense, given the county’s recent decision to get out of the mental health business. And he noted the two departments have been joined in the past.

“One does not have to look very far in the past to see a time when these departments were hooked together,” Bunney said. “The model is there.”

Kenney noted that County Executive Pat McCarthy has convened a group to study the benefits of consolidating human services and community services. She wants a report in January.

Kenney urged the council to study the matter before merging the departments. Bunney and Farrell withdrew their motion.

But that doesn’t mean the departments won’t be combined soon. Bunney said if the executive reports in January the council will still have time to merge the departments by the end of March.

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