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WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Merging departments could help cut city costs

The City Council's decision to merge the Public Works and Engineering departments, if not motivated by politics, is a laudable effort at increased efficiency.

Many of the council's efforts to reduce costs are one-time wonders. Delaying Project X, denying Request Y or applying for Grant Z are important as Mayor Don Kyle and council members try to whittle expenditures to match projected revenue. Most such cuts, however, merely help the city tread water for another year.

Careful reorganization of city departments, however, carries the possibility of permanent cost savings and, in some instances, better service for taxpayers.

A streamlined organizational chart, designed wisely, provides for more accountability and less interdepartmental duplication.

Such a merger also provides the possibility of avoiding equipment duplication. Instead of each department under-utilizing a truck, the combined departments can fully utilize a single truck.

Clouding the reorganization, however, is a concern that the change is nothing more than a footnote to the bad blood between newly empowered City Council President Billy Jackson and his nemesis, former Public Works Director Brent Mullins.

City Councilman Ronny Russell and Mayor Kyle helped ease this concern by unequivocally supporting the change, which will reassign Mr. Mullins to the job of overseeing construction of a new sport fishing boat launch at the Ingalls Shipyard site.

That reassignment itself may create efficiencies as the city tries to develop the facility without using as many expensive contractors.

The political overtones of the restructuring could damage the morale of city employees. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kyle should be energetic in communicating to employees the reason for the change.

Decreasing costs is a tough sell for any politician. It is a whole lot tougher if employees are suspicious of motives.

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