County Scraps Consolidation Proposal

Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors wants to make government more efficient but one proposal has been taken off the table after failing to draw support from department heads.

A series of departmental re-organizations was proposed when supervisors considered this year’s budget. One of them — to re-institute the county’s General Services Department — was rejected at the Aug. 23 supervisors meeting.

The re-organization proposal would have removed administration of the county’s motor pool and facilities maintenance from the Department of Public Works (DPW). Those functions together with the Information Technology (IT) and purchasing departments, which are now managed by the County Administrative Office, would have been shifted into a resurrected General Services Department.

County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen said the benefits of the proposal include centralizing county departments that operate on a cost per service basis.

But staff from Nilsen’s office and the DPW support the status quo, she continued. She said both IT and purchasing rely on her office for assistance.

Nilsen added that the re-organization would add costs rather than reduce them, as an additional department head would have to be hired along with additional support staff.

Nilsen said both she and Public Works Director Tom Mattson recommend against the proposal. Considering that, supervisors agreed to reject it.

But Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said re-organization ideas involving the Department of Public Works should still be pursued.

“We should not just stop here, there have to be some ways to integrate the departments that people have to deal with when they want to get a permit,” he continued.

Nilsen said that other proposals are indeed on the way for consideration, including one for combining permit-related functions of Public Works and Planning.

Board Chair Mark Lovelace said that pursuit of efficiency will involve various approaches and some of them won’t pan out.

“Looking at those things are important but we shouldn’t have a presumption that re-organization is always the solution nor that something such as moving two departments together is the only way to do that,” he said.

Supervisors unanimously agreed not to pursue re-creation of the General Services Department.

There may be further consideration of changing how the county administrates its vehicles, however. Supervisors Virginia Bass and Rex Bohn noted that when they use county vehicles for out-of-town travel, it costs more than it would to use rental cars due to maintenance and administration expenses.