By DOTTY NIST
An idea to save money by transferring county Human Resources Department functions to the Walton County Clerk of Courts was discussed by county commissioners but did not receive their support.
This was at the Sept. 25 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.
Gerry Demers, interim county administrator, said there had been recent discussions between the county and the clerk of courts regarding the possibility of transferring some of those functions to the clerk’s office. He estimated that a $27,730 per year savings to the county would be possible with the move.
Human resources is currently part of the Walton County Support Services Division.
Demers said the number of full-time positions would remain the same with the plan, but that some county positions would need to be placed under the clerk of courts. He said that the change would not result in the termination of any employees, but that there would be displaced positions that would be absorbed elsewhere at the same level.
Demers added that a public hearing and budget amendment would be required.
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander reponded that she had given the matter quite a bit of thought. She expressed her appreciation to the clerk’s office for their cooperation in discussions on this possibility.
In the past, Comander continued, the BCC had transferred responsibilities without dealing with underlying problems associated with those responsibilities. She urged against “passing the buck” again in this manner.
Comander called for the hiring of a human resources manager and a county administrator, both currently vacant positions. The positions have been advertised, and applications have been received.
Bill Imfeld, commissioner-elect for Walton County District 3, came forward in support of Comander’s statements. Imfeld observed that at the county’s final budget hearing the previous evening, the BCC had established the number of full-time employees for the 2012-13 fiscal year, and that there had been “no discussion of this being a problem.” He recommended a more thorough discussion of the matter with transparency and with the possibility for public input.
Demers responded that the timing of the proposal had been due to the county not having a human resources manager on board. Walton County Human Resources Manager Lynda Robinson had recently retired. Demers said that the county had been trying to hire a new human resources manager, but that the clerk’s office already has a qualified human resources manager. He recalled that the county had discussed consolidation of this nature in the past.
“I think it behooves us to put on our big boy pants and do what’s right,” Comander responded.
Cindy Meadows, commissioner-elect for Walton County District 5, questioned what was the reason behind the proposal. She observed that it seemed to raise a question in people’s minds. Meadows asked that “big decisions” of this type be put off until the new commissioners are seated in November.
Current District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones motioned not to consider the proposal to transfer the functions until the new commissioners take office. The motion was approved unanimously.
Seeking direction on whether to move forward with hiring a new human resources manager, Demers was given direction from the commissioners to do so.
Contacted on Sept. 27, Demers said that the county was proceeding with the hiring of a human resources manager and would not be transferring human resources functions to the clerk’s office.