Outsourcing may be next in the line of big changes that have come to Hall County in the last month.
The Times has obtained a copy of a memo from Interim County Administrator Jock Connell to the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which shows he is researching using the private sector for certain county functions.
"I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on an issue that I and the staff will be taking a look at," Connell writes in the memo, dated Jan. 19.
"I have received direction from three commissioners that they would like me and the staff to begin looking at potential areas of county government that might be candidates for privatization/outsourcing. The areas that have been mentioned are Planning & Zoning, Parks & Rec and Public Works."
Connell said a lot of research will need to be done before outsourcing can be considered as an option.
"I think what that will require me to do is sit down with some department directors in various departments and begin to look at some things that could be potential candidates," Connell said.
"Any time you're going to do something like that, you've got to vet it very, very carefully to make sure you're truly getting the desired outcome you think you're getting and you're truly getting the desired service and value."
Commissioner Craig Lutz is among those who support exploring the option.
"I am looking for better ways of utilizing the taxpayer dollar," Lutz said.
"Private industry has proven time and time again that they have the ability to do things at a higher quality generally for a more competitive price. I think we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't at least take a look at the opportunities that potentially private industry could do."
Lutz said public safety is not a candidate for privatization, though no other department is set in stone.
"Right now the important thing is we just direct staff to bring all options to the table so that as a commission we can sit down and evaluate what is best for the citizens and the taxpayers," Lutz said.
"To some extent, that is what the commission does as far as setting policies. We go out and look at the best potential ways of running the business of the county and finding out the most efficient way of doing it."
The commission is not united in exploring privatization.
Commissioner Billy Powell believes the discussion will hurt employee morale, especially in light of the recent terminations of Administrator Charley Nix, Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton, County Attorney Bill Blalock and Finance Director Michaela Thompson.
"I think that the county has done an excellent job at holding costs down and that it's really unjustified to consider outsourcing major departments," Powell said.
"We have lowered the budget the last two years, all departments have contributed to cost-cutting measures and while there may always be room for improvement or a chance to cut expenses, I definitely do not think that outsourcing departments would be any more cost effective or efficient than the way it's operated currently in Hall County."
Powell said it isn't wise to look at the success of outsourcing in small areas like White County.
"Traditionally, outsourcing has been for startup communities but not ones that are as mature and efficient as Hall County," Powell said. "While we are always looking for ways to trim the budget, in my opinion, outsourcing of a department is not the direction we need to be headed."