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Fridays job cuts may lead to more
County lays off 32 workers a week before budget deadline
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Hall job cuts

Here are the 56 positions eliminated Friday after Thursday's Board of Commissioners vote. Of them 24, were already vacant. Here are the jobs cut, by department:

Building Inspections: 5 filled positions
Marshals: 1 filled position
Animal Services: 1 filled position
E-911: 2 vacant positions
Road Maintenance: 7 filled positions, 8 vacant positions
Fleet Maintenance: 1 filled position, 1 vacant position)
Engineering: 5 filled positions
Planning: 1 filled position, 2 vacant positions
Jail: 2 vacant positions
Correctional Institution: 4 filled positions, 3 vacant positions
Courts: 2 vacant positions
EMA: 1 filled position
EMS: 1 vacant position
Fire: 2 vacant positions
Parks: 6 filled positions, 1 vacant position
For more details on the budget plan, visit the website

Source: Hall County government

 

As 32 Hall County employees were told their jobs had been eliminated Friday, two county marshals stood guard outside the Board of Commissioners office.

There were no incidents, however, and a county officials said the fired employees handled the news "as well as can be expected."

"I think they were aware that (the cuts) were coming and given the fact that the end of the budget year is a week away, they may not have known exactly that they were coming this week, but they knew they would be coming soon," said Linda Pryor, human resources director for the county.

Three members of the commission voted Thursday to release the employees, whose jobs would have been cut under the current budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which begins Friday.

In all, 56 jobs were eliminated, though 24 already were vacant. The positions make up about $3.4 million in cuts annually.

Normally, the jobs would be eliminated after the final budget is passed. But Commissioners Ashley Bell, Craig Lutz and Scott Gibbs said they chose to release the 32 employees a week early to keep them from spending another week's salary on the positions, saving some $24,000.

The board now has less than a week to fill an $11.5 million budget hole. So far, two budget scenarios have been proposed: one that includes at least a 1.41-mill tax increase and cuts about 56 jobs, and another that does not include a tax increase that cuts about 100 jobs. Yet neither has received support from enough commissioners to pass.

As commissioners finalize the county's spending plan, more employees could lose their jobs.

Workers who lost their jobs Friday ranged from the county's only emergency management specialist to one-third of the park maintenance employees.

Next week, the county will hold a seminar for the laid-off employees to help them with resume preparation and connect them with the Department of Labor and other workforce development programs, Pryor said.

Departments losing jobs will reorganize and learn to work with less, department heads said Friday. It will no doubt affect services.

The public works department was hit hardest, with 13 employees sent home and another nine vacant positions eliminated. Director Ken Rearden said the impact of the cuts soon will be visible on county roads and right-of-ways.

Rearden lost two civil engineers, two equipment operators who worked for traffic engineering and a project coordinator. Another seven equipment operators were cut from the road maintenance division as well as a mechanic who maintained county-owned vehicles.

"(The cuts) are going to make us be less responsive to citizens' needs on the roadways, more than anything, and to developers as well," Rearden said. "... I've had four requests to cut roadside grass in the last two days. Normally, I could get to it in probably two or three days. Now, it's probably going to be two weeks, three weeks."

And if residents don't notice high grass or neglected potholes on county roadways, they might notice when roads are cleaned slower after thunderstorms or winter ice storms.

"All these trees that blew over this weekend, guess who cleaned those up? Road maintenance," Rearden said.

And if a serious emergency happens, the county no longer has the sole employee of its Emergency Management Agency. Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director David Kimbrell said he and Capt. Scott Cagle will likely divide the responsibilities of the county's former specialist.

The employee trained residents in for a Citizen Emergency Response Team and helped coordinate resources in disasters.

Kimbrell said the highly-trained emergency manager knew his job would likely be cut as soon as the most recent budget proposal was made public and had begun cleaning out his office.

"I think someone's going to get a good catch," Kimbrell said.

But Kimbrell said he wasn't sure exactly how to divide those duties until the commission made its decision on the budget.

"I don't know where we're going to go with that," Kimbrell said. "We're basically waiting until next Friday to see what else happens."

The cuts to county staff also affected Gainesville's government. Four employees cut from the Correctional Institute were directly responsible for overseeing prison work details at Gainesville parks, the Chattahoochee Country Club and for the Gainesville Public Utilities Department, Warden Avery Niles said.

Though Niles said he had already notified the employees that their jobs might be cut, he said many of them heard they would be released Friday morning before they arrived at work.

"It came to them as a shock that they heard it on the radio and in the news before they actually came to work today," Niles said.

For now, Niles said he is hoping his department doesn't suffer more cuts. Along with the four men cut Friday, another three vacant positions, including an inmate counselor, were eliminated.

Friday's cuts left the county's planning department with one planner, said Director Randy Knighton. The county's building inspections staff also had cuts, with two building inspectors, an officer charged with reviewing building plans, a secretary and a receptionist eliminated. A supervisor in the marshal's office was also laid off, as well as a secretary in the Animal Shelter.

Public Safety Director Marty Nix, who oversees the marshals and the shelter, said the employees left behind will have to pick up the duties.

"We're going to restructure and reassign duties and try to have as little effect on our service as possible," Nix said. "What it boils down to is restructuring and having other folks pick up the slack, and maybe rewriting their job duties. We just spread it around a little bit, and we get smaller and smaller."

Department heads could be faced with another downsizing of their departments next week. If commissioners don't approve Chairman Tom Oliver's plan for a tax increase, more cuts to county staff are almost a guarantee.

"I may have to do this again next week if they don't pass the millage rate increase," Rearden said. "I don't know what's going to happen."

 

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