BRYAN CLARK Spirit Staff
CHARLES TOWN – The County Commission eliminated the Department of Capital Planning and Management, as well as the position of its director, at today’s meeting.
The decision came in a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Frances Morgan and Lyn Widmyer voting against it.
The department had been in charge of administering impact fees and capital planning as well as some functions relating to the county budget and the county’s information technology infrastructure.
Some staff will be transferred to other departments and will continue to perform their existing functions. The position of director, held by F.Mark Schiavone, however, has been eliminated. His former duties will be performed by an as-yet unnamed contractor on an as-needed basis.
Schiavone was not present at the meeting. Commission President Patsy Noland indicated that he was sick and could not attend.
Commissioner Dale Manuel presented the motion to eliminate the department. He argued that the county could not afford to keep the department functioning given the drastic slowdown in new construction, which he said has resulted in little work for the department to perform.
Manuel said he wanted to “at least (open) a discussion about a department that currently – because of the economy – has a very, very light workload.”
Manuel argued the measure could save between $200,00 and $225,000 dollars in the county’s annual budget.
Widmyer questioned the savings figures offered by Manuel, saying that the motion would only result in the elimination of one position and would necessitate the hiring of a contractor.
“There is not fiscal analysis associated with any of these proposals,” Widmyer said. “We’re playing fast and loose with the taxpayers’ money.”
“We are getting rid of the most knowledgeable person on impact fees in West Virginia, for $78,000 (savings), and saying, ‘Well, we’ll just hire someone,’” Widmyer said.
Morgan spoke in strong opposition to the motion, saying it would have a detrimental effect on the impact fee program.
“I believe that the gentleman’s motion … represents an enormous threat to the continuation of impact fee administration and enforcement and collection in this county. It is not a simple matter. It is a matter that has been handled with a great deal of sophisticated analysis and technical expertise,” Morgan said. “The idea that you could just contract to somebody on an as-needed basis to run an impact fee program for Jefferson County – I find that idea absurd.”
“I think that this motion is a shame, is wrong and represents … a potential unraveling of the impact fee program in Jefferson County,” she said.
Noland disputed the assertion that outsourcing the management of the impact fee program would have a negative effect on its administration.
“The elimination of the department does not have to effect the impact fee management. I don’t believe that it has to and I don’t believe that it would. I think that is something that could be contracted out, and I believe that is the better way to do it, (rather) than having a whole department for that purpose,” Noland said.
The county needs to buckle down, argued Noland, in the face of future reductions in the county budget.
“There is going to be an impact in West Virginia once the table games are adopted and online in Maryland,” Noland said. “We need to look at our entire budget. I think that – as the years progress, two or three years down the road – I think that budget is going to be even more difficult to manage because of the threat to table games and video lottery that exists now. I think we’re going to have to take a hard look at all the departments and determine where we can cut.”
Widmyer pointed out that three new positions created by the Commission in recent months will cost the county more than $100,000 on an annual basis.
Widmyer offered alternative motions that would have added new responsibilities to the department rather than eliminating it, including management of grants and preparation of an annual capital improvement plan.
“I frankly think that there is more than enough work in impact fees right now. The state Legislature has asked us to look at new legislation (on affordable housing waivers). Of all the times to take away someone with experience and knowledge and background, this isn’t it.”