Friday, July 17–County Department Merge Completed

SNOW HILL – The planned consolidation of the three Worcester County departments governing planning and development in the county is complete, staff reported to the Worcester County Commissioners last week.

In recent weeks, the county has kept quiet on many of the details on how those three departments have been folded into one.

In June, in a telephone interview, county administrator Gerry Mason said that Department of Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman would become planning manager, and Environmental Programs Department Director Bob Mitchell would become environmental programs administrator.

A new customer service section, comprised of two current employees, was also created.

Eleven employees were laid off as a result of the consolidation decision, made on May 26 after the county had balanced the fiscal year 2010 budget.

The four commissioners who voted for the consolidation and layoffs said they made the move to save money and that the bust in the building industry meant some positions were no longer necessary.

“We didn’t lose a beat,” said Ed Tudor, director of the unnamed consolidated department, who takes over that position after heading the Development Review and Permitting department.

The comprehensive planning department staff and environmental programs employees have been entirely relocated into the offices of the Department of Development Review and Permitting, Tudor reported at last week’s meeting. 

Plans to discuss the reorganization as well as a new name for the consolidated departments during the June 16 commissioners meeting were set aside that day. According to Commissioner Virgil Shockley, the item was pulled because Commission President Louise Gulyas was on vacation that week and the vote would have been tied three to three with no tie-breaker.

Gulyas originally voted for the consolidation, but later said in public that she had changed her mind and wanted to call the matter back. She has not spoken officially on her views since.

The June 16 public meeting packet, released the afternoon before on the county website, included a memorandum featuring an organizational chart and the new name, but that memorandum was pulled from the printed press packet the morning of the meeting, once the County Commissioners decided not to discuss it.

The memorandum on the consolidated departments was also taken off the Internet sometime between the afternoon of Monday, June 15 and the afternoon of Tuesday, June 16.

The issue of the organization and the name for the consolidated departments was not discussed at the July 7 commission meeting because Commissioner Bobby Cowger was absent, said county spokesperson Kim Moses, and the commissioners did not want to proceed without all seven elected officials.

Cowger was a strong proponent of the three into one department consolidation at the May 26 budget work session, when the matter was approved 4 to 3 in a closed session.

When asked at the July 7 commissioner meeting when the public would be allowed to see how the new department was reorganized, the County Commissioners had no answer.

Gulyas said they would look into it. When asked if there was a timeline on when more information on the consolidation of the three departments would be made available, Gulyas replied with a flat, “no.”