Cumberland Times-News The Cumberland Times-News Wed Aug 31, 2011, 11:04 PM EDT
OAKLAND — Garrett County commissioners have approved a plan they believe will help offset a projected revenue shortfall and increase the efficiency and productivity of county government.
In the next month, the commissioners will appoint nine individuals to serve on an Efficiency Task Force. The task force will implement “lean” practices in the county government.
The lean concept is a systemic approach that identifies problems and establishes corrective actions to increase efficiency in an organization.
Lean practices have been implemented in five counties throughout Maryland.
According to Gregan Crawford, chairman, this concept has been successful in the private sector for many years. He believes the implementation of the concept in Garrett County governmental operations will offer a better return on taxpayers’ dollars.
“This was the next logical step. We have looked at and completed many cost-saving initiatives and we believe this can only help our efforts,” Crawford added.
Crawford and his colleagues, Commissioners Bob Gatto and James Raley, unanimously approved the proposal at their August meeting. The next step will be to appoint members of the county work force and community to the panel.
The current proposal calls for the panel to be comprised of nine members, with five individuals from county government and four appointments from the commissioners.
However, based on the initial response to this proposal, the board of commissioners is considering the creation of subcommittees to allow greater involvement from both employees and residents.
The county has already enjoyed the results of lean practices following the elimination of 25 positions through attrition.
Through attrition, the county has seen a savings of $1.5 million and has been able to restructure and reorganize many departments, eliminating many cases of duplication of services.
Garrett County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt said the county’s employees have risen to the challenge and “continue to provide quality public service with less personnel and financial resources.”
The commissioners agree that the dedication of the employees will be key to the implementation and success of this endeavor.
“We are looking for solutions from the bottom up, solutions from the employees who perform the jobs. They know what works and what doesn’t,” Crawford said.
Raley said the county has seen success in shared services with the Garrett County Board of Education and sees the potential for even greater savings as different options are considered.
“We need to operate government like people operate their household budgets in this tough economy, by cutting back and makings changes,” Raley said. “It can be as simple as turning off lights when you leave a room or turning off computers. We are looking at every option that can help save the county money.”
Several Garrett County businesses meet each month to discuss improving efficiency in the private sectors. As guests of these meetings, Gatto said the board of commissioners have begun to look at the process in a different light, gaining insight from what is working in the private sector and how to adapt those practices to serve county government.
“Lean is not just about working harder, it is about working smarter,” Gatto said. “We are seeing how those companies are working to be more productive and it is giving us a fresh perspective on how we can do things.”
Gatto has said it is easy to raise taxes, but he feels a more efficient government should be the first priority as the county looks to the future.
“We’re trying to plan for the worst, but are hoping for the best,” Crawford added. “Raising taxes is the last resort.”
The commissioners’ next scheduled public meeting is Sept. 13, beginning at 9 a.m. The commissioners’ plan is to have Efficiency Task Force members in place by Oct. 1. Commissioners would like to see the task force hold an organizational meeting before Oct. 21 and compile a list of recommendations by Jan. 31, 2012.
Contact Angie Brant at abrant @times-news.com
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