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Hiring freeze unlikely to thaw
Study will examine county's staffing
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Forsyth County News
Staff study
The University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government will take a look at the following Forsyth County departments:
* Primary group: Engineering, water and sewer, fire, E-911, parks and recreation, roads and bridges, information technology, geographic information systems, fleet maintenance, public facilities, commercial services
* Secondary group: Purchasing, finance, personnel services, administration, communications, indigent defense, Dial-A-Ride, senior services, code enforcement, Keep Forsyth Couty Beautiful and recycling, traffic engineering, stormwater

As employees retire and part-time help fluctuates, some Forsyth County departments may have to pick up the slack rather than rehire.

The county commission wants to hold off on adding staff while it awaits the results of a study that could shed some insight into the structure and efficiency of various departments.

In a meeting Tuesday, commissioners voted 5-0 to hire the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to conduct a staffing study measuring the services, levels and costs of county operations.

Former Commissioner David Richard has previously said that a similar study last year by the institute determined specific jobs in the planning department were expendable. Department staff was later trimmed by about one third.

The results of the new study would be available July 31. The board agreed to pay the institute, a department of the University of Georgia, $27,500.

County Personnel Services Director Pat Carson said the data "would serve as a blueprint or benchmark for future budgeting and planning for future growth and determining staff levels."

Some department heads came to Tuesday's meeting seeking additional staff. With the county under a hiring freeze, departments must first gain commission approval before adding new employees.

Interim County Manager Doug Derrer recommended the board look at the study's results before giving anybody a job.

"I would hate to bring on additional staff today with the possibility ... of having to let someone go after the study is completed," Derrer said.

The board told Parks and Recreation Department Director Jerry Kinsey to look at other options rather than hiring help.

A full-time employee at the Sawnee Mountain Preserve retired two weeks ago, and center staff have been working overtime to fill the need.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse encouraged Kinsey to "come back to us with a recommendation as to what days you could cut back on services in order to get by with existing staff."

Also seeking help was John Kilgore, director of geographic information services, who told the board he would go back and take another look at his department.

The board considered shifting current county employees around to help with indigent defense, which provides attorneys for trial services, after a full-time employee of the department retired.

Administrator Connie Brooker said any help would be appreciated.

The county cut 26 staff positions in December as part of a leaner budget. Across-the-board 5 percent budget reductions also were approved prior to adoption of the 2009 budget.

Commissioners adopted an $84.1 million budget in mid-December.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas said county revenues have been worse than expected.

"There just isn't any good news yet," Thomas said.