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Smoothest transition could be in public services

Jenifer Ragland

Possibly the most logical of the city’s consolidations, public works and planning leaders envision a harmonious relationship in the new Public Services Department.

“Portions of the departments already work closely together when we review development,” said Teri Jamin, future director. “Current planning used to be under engineering before current planning and advance planning were put together, so it had some logic to put current planning and building together.”

Many cities and counties have already combined the two areas with community development departments that include planning, engineering and building, said Carol Drawbaugh, the public works director who is retiring in conjunction with the consolidation.

The South Lake Tahoe Planning Department oversees long-range planning, current planning, community plans and some enforcement -including abandoned vehicle abatement, nuisance abatement and the city sign ordinance. The department also serves as a clearinghouse for development projects in the city.

Under D-2000, the department will lose one of three full-time associate planner positions, which will be replaced with a part-time position during the busy building season, for a savings of $29,000.

Public works employs 38 people in six divisions, including administrative support, street maintenance, snow removal, equipment maintenance, building maintenance and engineering.

Budget cuts will force the elimination of one public works inspector ($45,000), which Drawbaugh said will likely be absorbed through privatization.

“The work will still be there on capital improvement projects,” he said. “We normally go to an outside contractor for the engineering design, so part of the engineering design contract will include inspection.”

The savings will be realized by including the cost of inspection in grant applications for projects, Drawbaugh said.

Jamin believes the transition into “super department” head will be smooth. She has already worked closely with many of the engineers on projects and building maintenance staff associated with nuisance abatement.

She believes the consolidation is a permanent direction for the city, at least for the foreseeable future.

“Maybe things could work better this way, we just have to try and find out,” she said.

The biggest challenge, according to Drawbaugh, will be integrating the street maintenance division into the newly consolidated department.

“There are some fairly newly promoted division heads who are very talented, qualified and good individuals,” he said. “But they’re a different group, and they haven’t been closely associated with Teri.”

Jamin said she will encourage teamwork within the new department.

“Maintenance is new for me, and I will be placing more emphasis as to my learning curve on that,” she said.

Another downside for Jamin will be a reduction in the amount of time she will have to actually work on specific projects.

“Having less department heads makes the job more administrative in nature and less hands-on,” Jamin said.

As far as the effect this consolidation will have on the public, both Jamin and Drawbaugh assured that it would be minimal. The most visible effect will be a slower project review process during the off-season due to lack of staff, Jamin said.

“A certain amount of work won’t get done, because obviously three people can’t do the job of six,” Drawbaugh said. “But the critical services – police, fire, snow removal – will get done.”

As far as the overall D-2000 process is concerned, Jamin said she feels as though the most difficult part is over, and that employees can look forward to a slow healing process after Oct. 1.

“As October begins, some people won’t be here, and we will feel the loss and impact of that,” Jamin said. “But there is some new energy and a sense of ‘let’s dig in, apply that energy and move forward.’ The loss of people as a result of the process we have known was coming, but the actual feeling will be somewhat traumatic.”


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