Government reorganization is taking shape

 

Today marked the end of the line for Augusta’s Public Services department and the last day on the job for department head Mike Greene.

Greene, who joined the government as a jailer with Richmond County Correctional Institute some 38 ½ years ago, retires with credit for five additional years of service, allowing him full retirement benefits.

Greene said he’d planned to work until age 65 but didn’t fault the city for reorganizing government.

“The city is facing some budget things and I understand that hard decisions had to be made,” he said. “To me, it just means that the Lord has something different he wants me to do.”

Public Services was the department that maintained city roads, sidewalks and facilities, but effective Monday, those functions will be rolled into revamped Recreation, Engineering and Solid Waste departments.

While some 26 positions were targeted for elimination in the reorganization’s first phase, Greene is one of few to actually lose his job.

Others, including former Public Services managers Dennis Stroud and Rick Acree, take on similar roles in the new Recreation, Parks and Facilities department, Director Tom Beck said.

In Recreation, where eight new positions are being created, all but two of seven employees notified a month ago that their jobs were ending remain employed.

Augusta Boxing Club Director Tom Moraetes is among two to retire as the city ends its support for the club, Beck said. Moraetes has said the club is seeking private sponsorship.

Athletic Manager Chris Scheuer has been selected for one of three new deputy Recreation director positions, while former Aquatics facilities manager Joanie Smith, whose job was eliminated, was promoted to a deputy director post, Beck said.

Recreation Specialist Robert Martin, whose position was eliminated, is serving as interim athletic manager as the department advertises to fill Scheuer’s former job, Beck said.

The remaining three recreation employees targeted in the downsizing sought and were placed into other open positions at lower salaries, he said.

Reconfigured Engineering and Solid Waste departments also go live with their new Public Services functions and personnel Monday.

Slower to restructure are the city’s Planning and Utilities departments. Planning can’t take over Licensing and Inspections until Planning’s oversight is shifted from the Planning Commission to the city’s.

Utilities has 11 positions targeted for elimination as it consolidates divisions, Director Tom Wiedmeier said. The changes hadn’t been finalized at the time the reorganization plan was unveiled earlier this year, he said.

Mostly operations managers eligible to retire, the targeted employees will be officially notified next week, Wiedmeier said.

For downsized employees who sign a severance agreement, the city is offering 90 days’ pay and benefits, as well as credit toward retirement for up to six months’ unused sick leave for those eligible to retire.

Now 30 days in, the reorganization appears unfazed by a lawsuit by a black pastors’ group alleging the commission’s 6-4 votes to restructure and increase the administrator’s powers are an illegal change in the city’s form of government.

“We don’t think we’ve done anything wrong,” Administrator Fred Russell said.

 

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