By DOTTY NIST
Lyle Seigler, county administrator for Walton County, pledged a commitment to the goal of maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of the public, along with supporting the local economy, while streamlining and increasing the efficiency of county government.
Seigler was guest speaker at the Jan. 20 Walton County Taxpayers Association (WCTA) annual meeting, which was held at the Coastal Branch Library.
With the value of property in Walton County and county revenues dropping each year for a number of years, reducing the size of county government has been a necessity. County revenues have gone from $122.8 million in 2008 to $94.69 million for the current year, it was reported. Siegler expressed the expectation that the slimming down of government would continue and that county employees would be challenged to “do more with less.”
Gerry Demers, Seigler’s new assistant, has been charged with “driving efficiencies” in county government as the primary task of his position, and identifying areas where cost savings can be realized. On the job for approximately two months, Demers formerly served as county planning and development services director and prior to that worked in the Walton County Building Department.
Demers revealed a substantial reduction in the Planning Division, which has gone from the 60 employees it had at one time to 20 employees. The Building Department, he added, has gone from 24 to just nine employees.
The total number of authorized county employees has gone from 611.5 in 2008 to 526.5, Demers said, with the current work force now at approximately 500.
Seigler pledged that, although county government would be likely to “look different” in the days to come, that staff would still strive to “be the best.”
“The key word is ‘together,’” Seigler said. “It’s time for passionate people such as yourselves to consider volunteerism,” he told WCTA members. Programs are being set up for people interested in assisting the county on a volunteer basis.
Demers said the number of vehicles in the county fleet has been reduced from 435 in 2008 to 376 for 2011.
The early retirement of 37 county staff over the past few years has saved over $2 million in salaries and benefits, he explained, and the majority of those positions will not have to be refilled. The goal will be not to fill empty positions, Demers said, by consolidating tasks under current employees.
Attention has gone to energy conservation as well, Demers told the gathering, with energy audits and timers being placed on water heaters that are only in use periodically. Long distance service for the county has been renegotiated, as well, he said, for rate reduction. Cell phone needs are being investigated, he said, and he is looking into whether work phone sharing is feasible among some employees. Pooling of vehicles and job sharing between county commission employees and those of the constitutional officers are other areas being researched, Demers noted….
Read the full story in the January 27, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.