State task force puts focus on efficiency

December 04, 1997


Staff Writer

Large businesses often pay consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars to turn their operations upside down in an attempt to improve efficiency.

A state task force, making its first visit to Western Maryland since it was created two years ago, told local officials and business leaders Thursday that it could provide the same service to city and county governments for free.

The Council on Management and Productivity listened to issues and ideas at a roundtable discussion in Hagerstown.

Deborah A. Photiadis, executive director of the council, said she heard several good ideas about consolidating government services.

"So far, people have been studying the issue. But there's a big difference between studying an issue and getting the resources together to take action," she said.


Hagerstown businesswoman Vikki Nelson offered one suggestion: combining communications systems of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, the Hagerstown City Police and the fire and rescue dispatch system.

"They have redundancy in their communications. They all have their own little systems," she said. "Let's face it. It all comes out of taxpayer money and I'm a taxpayer."

The participants also broached the issue of privatization.

Contractor Mike Callas said he recently saw eight city workers doing a job his company would use two employees for. The same day, he said he saw five county employees working near the courthouse on a job for which his firm would use two.

"I don't believe either one of those jobs should be done by governmental people," he said. "They find work for them to do. But a private company won't do that. I can't do that."

Business leaders also discussed another problem facing the county's companies - the lack of skilled workers. Joan Warner, executive director of the local chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, said her organization has tried to boost skills among the work force.

Ed Maloy, assistant director for administration of the Washington County Department of Social Services, said that fits neatly with his agency's attempts to move people from welfare into jobs.

"We're kind of leading this public-private partnership in a lot of respects, with welfare-to-work," he said.

Photiadis said officials have to think creatively. She pointed to a proposal under consideration by the Department of Juvenile Services to build a youth facility in southern Maryland with private funds. Private capital could be used to construct the facility, which the state would then rent.

"We've always done that with office space, but we haven't thought to do it with other kinds of initiatives," Photiadis said.

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