News Column

City, county create merged risk manager position

July 9, 2014

By Scott Johnson, Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.



July 09--In what leaders say is a money-saving move, the city and county of Montgomery have agreed to bring their risk management offices under the control of single manager.

Mayor Todd Strange said the decision is not, however, a signal that the city and county are moving toward a metro government model.

The city and county risk managers are in charge of such things as employee insurance and worker's compensation.

Strange said combining the city and county personnel rolls will give the risk management director the ability to strike better deals for health insurance.

"The bigger the better in health care," Strange said.

The job officially opened to applicants Wednesday, and the starting pay is $78,323. The director will answer to the county administrator.

The director will serve under a memorandum of understanding between the mayor's office and the County Commission, according to the job description.

The move will mean the reduction of at least one position, but Didi Henry, public affairs director for the County Commission, said there has not been any discussion about whether the other staff of the risk management departments will be affected.

How much of the salary will be paid by the city and county still is being worked out, Henry said.

County Commissioner Dan Harris expressed some reservations about the move, saying it was rushed through without giving commissioners time to discuss it.

"In those situations where it is efficient and it saves money and time and all those things, I can go along with that ... but I think you have to look at that and make that determination before it is done," Harris said.

Harris cast the lone vote against approving the job description for the merged position during Monday's County Commission meeting.

Harris said that he also worries about move toward a metro-style government, which he said creates too much separation between representatives and their constituents.

"If you're talking about the overall merging of the city and county functions, creating one body to cover that entire city and county, I would be opposed to that," he said.

Strange said that the merger of the risk management position is "a far cry" from metro government and said that such a move is highly unlikely.

He also pointed to the savings created by the merger of the city and county Information Technology departments.

"We've saved millions between the city and county with IT," Strange said.

The city and county also combined radio and telecommunications functions when the IT departments merged in March 2012.

Lou Ialacci, director of the city and county Information Technology, said he could not provide the total savings created by the merger but did say that it has been "pretty successful."

He offered as an example that the city has saved $350,000 and the county 300,000 in telecommunications by combining their phone and data lines.

Ialacci also said that the cost for software licenses dropped from $17 to $9 per unit because of the move.

He said it also has helped to have the city and county compare their methods and figure out what works best.

"One of the big things is sharing knowledge and experience," Ialacci said.

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(c)2014 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)

Visit the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.) at www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)


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