Augusta commissioners ended months of debate Tuesday over whether to outsource most human resources functions to the global outsourcing firm Automatic Data Processing, approving 6-3 a motion to deny ADP’s contract offer.
The group also halted a commissioner’s formal request that the University System of Georgia Board of Regents include the word “Augusta” in the name of the city’s new merged university, when a motion to make the request received only five commission votes.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and commissioners Jerry Brigham and Wayne Guilfoyle were the only votes for ADP’s offer, a $2.4 million annual contract that would likely put several city employees out of work in a human resources department that hasn’t had a permanent director since August and lacks several certified personnel. Commissioner Alvin Mason made the motion to deny. It was seconded by Commissioner Bill Lockett.
The vote did not end ADP’s existing contract to manage the city’s time card system and health benefits management, but allows revamping of the city HR department to move forward, City Administrator Fred Russell said.
Russell said the city has begun advertising with government staffing services for temporary HR personnel to shore up the department of seven until consultant Malik Watkins’ recommendations for appropriate staffing levels and organization come back in August. In an earlier presentation, Deputy City Administrator Bill Shanahan said the city needed at least a dozen HR personnel to handle the city’s workforce of more than 2,400.
The debate over whether to outsource to ADP pitted ADP employees against city employees, with both sides spreading information about missteps the other was making. It also prompted some commissioners to consider the firm’s impact on Augusta, as it employs some 800 at a west Augusta call center. The agenda item had reappeared on commission agendas for months, but no ADP staffers appeared at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I think it would have been a hell of a lot better-run,” said Bowles, an ADP supporter whose business uses the firm’s services. “I’m interested to see what the solutions to our problems are.”
Commissioner Jerry Brigham had requested the commission approve a resolution in support of including “Augusta” in the name of the city’s new university to be formed when Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities are combined. With three commissioners absent by the time the vote was taken and Lockett and Matt Aitken opposed, the resolution died for lack of a sixth supporting vote.
“Yes, I’m disappointed,” said Brigham, who teared up when recognizing Augusta valedictorians at an earlier point in the meeting. “I will not present this again.”
Also, commissioners still present heard a glowing presentation on the city’s financial picture from Dianne McNabb, an Atlanta financial advisor who assists with Augusta’s large financing projects such as the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center construction and the city’s tax allocation districts beneath the new Costco and Rockmont Pigment.
McNabb noted that the 2010 TEE Center project’s financing preserved the tax-exempt status of bonds issued for the project, saving the city $2 million. She also said it was nearing time for the city to refinance its 2002 series water and sewerage revenue bonds to take advantage of low interest rates. McNabb said refinancing the $95.7 million outstanding on the bonds could save the city about $15 million in debt service payments.