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A private company is helping staff Hall's planning department. This is how much that's costing the county
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Kevin J. McOmber, of CPL Architecture Engineering Planning, works inside the Hall County planning office Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, as the office struggles through an employee shortage. - photo by Scott Rogers

A worker shortage in Hall County's planning department has caused the county to hire a private engineering company for $50,000 a month.

The county hired CPL, an architecture, engineering and planning firm based in Rochester, New York, with a local office in Suwanee, on Jan. 12 to fill four positions in the planning department on a temporary basis. 

“CPL is a part of the on-call engineering firms,” Katie Crumley, a county spokesperson, wrote in an email statement. “We have used them on various engineering projects and for development review in the past.”

Katie Crumley
Katie Crumley

The county is spending $50,000 per month for CPL’s services and issued a purchase order for six months, Crumley wrote. Two of the employees from the company work on site twice a week, and the other two only work remotely. 

“The County routinely utilizes a number of outside firms for various departments in order to maximize efficiency and when it is most advantageous to do so,” Crumley wrote.

Crumley did not know of another instance in which the planning department required outside staff to help fill full-time roles, but the county regularly uses outside firms to do specific work, she said. For example, the tax assessor’s office frequently employs Georgia Mass Appraisal Solutions and Services to help with certain duties, she said, and the county often uses a temp agency to fill roles. 

Lately, there has been turnover in leadership positions in the planning department.

Hall County’s previous full-time planning director, Sarah McQuade, resigned without notice on Nov. 18 after turning down a demotion. The county announced Thursday, Jan. 13, Beth Garmon, the county’s principal planner who had taken over some director’s duties, would be leaving for a role with Forsyth County’s planning department. 

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Brittany Walker of Hall County Planning helps a person at the window Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, at the Hall County Government Center. Hall County's planning department has had to use an outside firm recently to fill positions during a recent worker shortage, paying the company, CPL, $50,000 a month for six months. - photo by Scott Rogers

Garmon told The Times she wanted to be closer to her home in Forsyth and that she enjoyed working under both Srikanth Yamala, the county’s director of public works and utilities, and McQuade during her nearly seven-year tenure in Hall County. 

Yamala took over as interim planning director on Jan. 6, filling in for Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix who had been serving as interim director since November. 

Yamala has served as public works director since 2019, and he previously served as planning director from 2012 to 2019. Yamala has worked for the county for more than 16 years. 

The planning department, which currently has 11 county staff members, is still looking to hire five more people.

The search is still ongoing for a full-time director, and the county has seen massive growth in recent years, making the job increasingly important for county operations. The position oversees 21 full-time employees including the GIS department, business licenses and building permits in addition to planning department duties such as handling rezoning and annexation requests. 

The county hopes to fill the position in early spring, spokesman Brian Stewart wrote in a statement.

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Kevin J. McOmber, of CPL Architecture Engineering Planning, works inside the Hall County planning office Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, as the office struggles through an employee shortage. - photo by Scott Rogers