County to lop department head jobs
Seven Mesa County department head positions will be eliminated and replaced with three new leadership titles as part of a restructuring plan announced Wednesday to county employees.
Mesa County Administrator Tom Fisher currently oversees department heads in Animal Services, Criminal Justice Services, Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Public Works, and Regional Services. Under the new plan, the duties of those department heads will be absorbed by three new department head positions in newly reconfigured divisions.
The Justice Services Division will oversee Animal Services and Criminal Justice Services; the new Support Division will cover finance, information technology, human resources, purchasing, facilities, landscaping and fairgrounds duties; and the Operations Division will include engineering, code enforcement, planning, building department, fleet, and road and bridge functions.
Current department heads and other qualified county employees will be able to start applying for at least the Support and Operations division head positions Monday, with interviews and job offers scheduled to take place starting March 31. Fisher said he anticipates the new positions will be filled and the old department head jobs will be gone as of April 7. He said he is not yet sure what he wants to do when it comes to filling the Justice Services Division’s top job.
Fisher said he decided to consolidate positions as part of a three-year plan to cut $4.5 million from the county’s operational budget through steps such as attrition in departments he oversees as well as those under elected officials. Pay freezes, retirement benefit reductions and health insurance changes helped the county through the economic downturn that began five years ago. But Fisher said county sales and property tax collections and wavering federal funding indicate the local economy and, likewise, the county’s budget, are in for a long-term struggle to return to healthy levels.
“We could keep looking for dollars and cents in the operations budget but there comes a time when it impacts service,” Fisher said.
He said going through the budget process during his first year on the job led him to believe the county’s current administrative structure is unsustainable. With 983 full-time equivalent positions in the county, Fisher said employees are the biggest part of the county budget. He decided to shuffle county leadership positions to cut some of those costs and “significantly reduce” the reach of supervisory positions in the county.
Fisher spoke with each of the seven department heads Wednesday. While he did not elaborate on the possibility of severance for department heads who will leave their jobs and possibly the organization, he said “we are going to take care of our employees.”
If revenues bounce back, Fisher said he would like to spend that money keeping the number of county employees steady and putting money into improving county services. He added in the email sent Wednesday afternoon explaining the restructuring process to all employees that he wants to “support a new pay plan for our employees” in a “leaner, more efficient organization.”