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County may combine
departments, outsource
Parks, public works
may become one unit

by Ivan Foley
Landmark publisher

There are eight department heads who operate directly underneath the Platte County Commission.

Of those eight, four spots are either vacant or being held by someone designated as an interim director.

With that in mind, returning presiding county commissioner Ron Schieber and new associate commissioners Dagmar Wood and John Elliott are considering some structural changes.

“We are looking at outsourcing certain services,” Schieber said.

Asked if human resources is one of the services being considered for outsourcing, Schieber confirmed it is.

“There might be an opportunity to outsource HR,” he responded.

Schieber added that the county commission is also looking at potentially combining certain departments, including combining the departments of public works and parks.

“Many public entities that have a parks department--their parks department is part of public works,” Schieber said in an interview with The Landmark on Tuesday.

The talk of combining parks with public works comes at a time when both departments are currently without a permanent director. Noel Challis has served as interim parks director since the resignation of Brian Nowotny last year, and public works recently opened with last week’s resignation of Greg Sager after a sheriff’s department investigation into some of his alleged actions. Bob Heim, who had been second in charge of public works, on Monday was named interim public works director.

Wood, the new commissioner in district one after she defeated

incumbent Beverlee Roper in August and independent candidate Andy Smith in November, told The Landmark the vacancies provide the commissioners with a chance to improve efficiency.

“These vacancies provide us with opportunities to look at the way departments are managed and streamline them to use taxpayer dollars more efficiently,” Wood said.

“If there are opportunities to fill positions with qualified and capable internal applicants so as to be able to possibly decrease the overall number of employees, in general, that is always preferable,” she added. “Internal promotions also have the very important benefit of providing our current high performing employees with opportunities for vertical mobility and increased job satisfaction,” she said.

Here are the departments/current department heads who report directly to the county commission:

Facilities: Pat Daly, who has served as interim director since Ken Bozenhardt was fired last summer; human resources: Mary Robinson (Robinson has not been on the job since early to mid December and her status is being described as “an ongoing personnel issue,” see related story); public works: Bob Heim is interim, taking over for the resigned Greg Sager; information services: Ted Smith; general administration: Dana Babcock; tourism: Jennifer Goering; parks: Noel Challis, interim; planning and zoning: Daniel Erickson.

Having had no internal applicants for the facilities post, that position is being posted externally online this week “so it can be filled as soon as possible, ensuring the continuity of service for when Mr. Daly retires,” Wood said.

Wood also echoed Schieber’s comments that the commission is considering partnering public works and parks, “so as to serve the public more effectively and efficiently,” she told The Landmark.

“A job description for a possible combined director position will be drafted with the input of those interim directors,” Wood explained. “The goal is to provide excellent service in the most cost-effective manner possible, while rewarding qualified, high-performing employees with internal opportunities.”

The previous commission of Schieber and associates Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper had posted the parks director position last year.

“We received some qualified applicants but the former commission decided it would be better to wait and let the new commission handle the situation,” Schieber remarked.

Schieber praised the work of the interim directors.

“The public should know we have some very good people that have stepped up in this situation to make sure the people of Platte County are still served and served at a very high level,” Schieber said.

He described the situation of having so many director openings at the same time as “a challenge for the new commission.”

“But we see the challenge as creating a great opportunity to do things that each of us (the three commissioners) has talked about: higher accountability and more accountability within those departments,” Schieber said.

“It’s a challenge but we look at it as an opportunity,” he added.