Sweeping changes expected

Details show clearer picture of cut positions
Fred Russell: Administrator has unveiled a government restructuring plan that will save Augusta $1.5 million. But 26 jobs must be eliminated.

While it isn't a done deal, the government restructuring plan that Administrator Fred Russell says will save the city $1.5 million spells out substantial changes in structure and staffing, including the elimination of 26 jobs. Only titles are listed, but employees know who they are.


In engineering, a department of approximately 80, set for elimination is Stormwater and Environmental Engineer Garrett Weiss, an employee since 2004 who earns $71,000.

Weiss is the only one with that title and the only employee in the department targeted for layoff, although other changes await engineering, whose department head is Abie Ladson.

Under the restructuring plan, the department takes over road and street maintenance performed by Public Services, which is dissolved.

"We're going to continue to get the job done, but reduce layers of management that we don't really need," Russell said of the proposed changes. "What the commission will see next is that level of detail."

Russell said he'd probably bring greater detail about the restructuring plan to commissioners within the next two weeks.

Under the new structure, engineering joins Augusta utilities and revamped solid waste, parks and recreation and emergency services departments under a new deputy administrator for operations.

Parks and recreation is renamed recreation, parks and facilities, taking over facilities management functions performed by public services.

Headed by Recreation Director Tom Beck, an employee since 1977 who earns $86,554, the new department will manage sports and recreation and maintenance of parks, facilities and landscaping.

Consolidating landscaping and cemeteries with recreation and parks "is probably long overdue, and makes for good efficiencies," said Beck, who has been involved in development of the restructuring plan.

Taking over facilities management means the department will add maintenance of the municipal building and law enforcement center to its roster of approximately 60 facilities, Beck said.

Recreation and parks enthusiasts shouldn't be concerned about reductions in services, he said.

"The only program-related issues that we're looking at is going to be reducing operations at Garrett Community Center," Beck said.

The center's existing programs will be moved to other facilities and the center will be used only for special events, he said. Its director's position is eliminated.

The plan eliminates three from recreation administration, where 18 are employed, 14 of them full-time. Cut are athletic supervisor Bobby Martin, aquatic facilities recreation manager Joan Smith and recreation facilities marketing manager Mary Kuhlke.

Beck emphasized that downsized employees would be able to apply for new positions as jobs emerge in the new structure.

Also targeted is Augusta's boxing center, which is slated to move to May Park. Boxing club director Tom Moraetes, whose job is being eliminated, will take an open position there.

The positions that manage Diamond Lakes, Pendleton King, River Walk and cemeteries will also be cut.

A single new operations supervisor will manage them all, Beck said.

The remainder of public services' maintenance functions will move in with solid waste, which is renamed environmental services and will take over cleanup functions.

The positions to be eliminated in public services, including Director Mike Greene's, are fairly evident by their descriptions.

"No one has received a letter yet," said Greene, an employee since 1973 who earns $95,216. "Sure there's some anxiety and uncertainty, but I think the city has stated that anybody that will be displaced, they will try to place them in a position that they're qualified for in another department."

On the list are two assistant directors, Dennis Stroud over roads and walkways and Richard Acree over facilities maintenance. Stroud earns $75,247 and Acree earns $76,752.

Also on the list are a roads and walkways administrative assistant, with the city since 1977 who earns $36,923, and four operations managers.

Among them is Donald D'Antignac, who served a prison sentence for murder prior to his 1986 hire. Although D'Antignac works in Russell's office, his title and salary of $41,482 are in public services, Greene said.

Russell wouldn't say if D'Antignac would be downsized, but added the employee serves as "eyes and ears of me," keeping the city administrator informed when he's very busy.

A new personnel manual also approved by commissioners last week adds a new section requiring criminal background checks on all new hires.

Six other public services positions, their salaries ranging from the $20,000s to $50,000s, are slated to be cut.

A new emergency services/emergency management agency department -- with a new director and falling under a new deputy administrator for operations -- will oversee animal services, E-911, fire protection and Richmond County Correctional Institute.

RCCI, a department of 80 that houses state prisoners for use in work crews, loses a deputy warden in the downsizing.

Under the second of two new divisions that fall under the administrator, a deputy administrator for administration will oversee information technology, procurement, housing and community development, customer service, special projects and planning and development, a new department that merges planning and zoning with licensing and inspections.

The head of licensing and inspections Rob Sherman, who earns $77,128, is on the list, although Sherman is optimistic he'll find some new function in the restructured department, to be headed by George Patty.


Commission OKs restructure plan
Panel to vote on restructuring
Personnel policy is under review
Plan saves Augusta government $1.6 million