Augusta's existing transit, public services, parks and recreation, solid waste, planning and zoning, licensing and inspections, and disadvantaged business enterprise departments are about to undergo radical change, a proposed 2011 organizational chart shows.
Under development for several months by select department heads and Administrator Fred Russell, the chart doesn't include any of those departments -- at least not as they exist now. The chart doesn't include information on employee numbers, and officials won't discuss layoffs -- yet.
The document, a copy of which was provided to The Augusta Chronicle , is telling in how it differs from the city's existing structure.
Augusta Public Transit, which operates the bus system, is replaced by a department called "transportation/special projects." Russell recently announced that a request for qualifications from private transit operators was being finalized.
Public services, a department split off from public works five years ago and headed by 37-year veteran employee Mike Greene, is gone.
Approximately 200 employees in the department maintain city buildings, facilities, roads and grounds, including cemeteries and trees.
Greene, denying knowledge or involvement in the departmental restructuring, said his department's performance of services has been limited recently because of the city's hiring freeze.
"I'm not going to speculate," Greene said, when questioned about the future of public services. "I just don't have the answers to give staff when they ask."
What will replace the department is not detailed in the new chart, but its functions could be outsourced, returned to engineering or utilities or subsumed into departments reconfigured in the new plan.
Solid waste becomes "environmental services," and parks and recreation turns into "recreation, parks and facilities."
Something similar is in store for licensing and inspections, a department led by Rob Sherman that also is missing from the new chart.
Licensing and inspections, which has occupied a building on Marvin Griffin Road in south Augusta since consolidation, is destined for a move when its functions are either shifted downtown into the chart's new "planning and development" department, moved elsewhere or outsourced.
With total collections of about $12 million annually, the department's 42 or 43 staffers conduct building and property maintenance inspections, issue construction permits and licenses to serve and sell alcohol and collect tourism fees and excise taxes on hotel rooms, car rentals, mixed drinks and wholesale goods, Sherman said.
Sherman, 57, has worked in local government for 33 years, including 13 as the head of licensing and inspections, and said he hadn't planned to retire anytime soon.
An issue with consolidating licensing and inspections with planning is available space at the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building. Room won't be available until court officials move from there into the new judicial building, still under construction, Sherman said.
Top leaders in the new city plan also get new names. Russell becomes a CEO. Under him, just two executives, a chief information officer and chief operations officer, oversee all 11 remaining departments. Fire, 911, animal services, the Richmond County Correctional Institution and emergency management fall under one heading, "emergency services."
The COO will oversee emergency services and environmental services; recreation, parks and facilities; utilities and engineering.
Robert Leverett, a 39-year employee who has worked double-time as the correctional institution's warden and interim deputy administrator for operations for the past six years, is retiring.
Russell said he had completed four interviews last week for one of the two executive slots and finalists soon will visit Augusta.
The city's other interim deputy administrator for six years, Tameka Allen, serves double duty as county information technology director.
The new CIO post oversees the departments of customer service, IT, transportation/special projects, planning and development and housing and community development.
Allen is likely to be considered for that job.
Russell said he worried that the release of information about the restructuring before it was finalized and approved "puts a lot of people under pressure that might not be under pressure."
Last week, several Augusta commissioners questioned the budget resolution they adopted, which gave Russell the authority in 2011 to "reorganize the departmental structure of the government" to cut $1.5 million from a $9 million budget deficit.
"We will ultimately have to sit down with the administrator and approve it," Commissioner Corey Johnson said. "It's going to take all 10 of us, plus the administrator."
Others thought they might not have given Russell enough power.
"We shouldn't get into the management of the day-to-day government," Commissioner Joe Jackson said.
Both commissioners, however, suggested there was room for streamlining.
"Maintenance is one of the key areas that we're looking at," Johnson said, and Jackson said that several managers "seem like they don't fit the mold, that just want to hang around and bide their time."
Russell said the time had arrived for Augusta to become the consolidated, efficient government it ought to be but that he would seek commission approval for the major changes.
"It's incumbent on us to make sure we get the most bang for the buck," he said.
Although the commission signs off on the budgets of departments headed by elected or statutory officials -- Augusta's magistrate, probate, state and superior courts and the offices of sheriff, district attorney, coroner and tax commissioner, for example -- neither it nor city management can compel restructuring, furloughs or reductions in force in those departments.
At the start of the budgeting process, Russell said, he encouraged those departments to be innovative but has seen limited results so far.
It is undecided whether the restructuring plan will go before the commission as a whole.
City policy, including that stated in a revised employee handbook presented last week, provides that department heads be notified 60 days before the effective dates of employee layoffs.