DeKalb study offers something for everyone to hate

The clock is ticking, DeKalb County has been warned, and commissioners have a year, at best, to get their house in order. Otherwise, residents may turn to cities and private agencies for services the county has been providing, Matrix Consulting Group cautioned in late March. But the fixes Matrix laid out in its draft study have the potential to rile powerful interests. Here's a field guide to whose ox might get gored:

Police: This department would take a hair cut. The ranks of captains, lieutenants and majors would be reduced, and two upper management positions below the assistant chief cut, if the recommendations are adopted. Patrol officers could feel the pain, too. They need to be redistributed by shift and deployed to precincts based on workload. In addition, officer crime analyst positions would be replaced by civilian crime analyst positions.

Facilities Maintenance staff: The division has plumbers, HVAC technicians, electricians and carpenters and supplements their work through contracts to maintain county buildings. But it is not performing preventive maintenance on a regular schedule in most county buildings, Matrix found. The reason isn't inadequate staffing. It's very low levels of productivity, with little time spent on work orders. What's more, technicians are cutting out early, reporting back to base at least 30 minutes before the official end of their work day; and managers and supervisors are not planning the work to know how much time it should take.

DeKalb County firefighter. Photo by John Spink

Sanitation crews: A switch to once a week garbage collection would save $4.8 million, with related personnel reductions. And then the county could sell 36 garbage trucks, getting about $1 million and avoiding fuel and maintenance costs of topping a half million dollars a year. And by using side-arm garbage trucks on at least half of the routes, the county could save another $6.4 million in personnel costs.

Little Creek horse farm photo by Renee Hannans Henry

County managers: Internal audit should be given more authority to ensure audit recommendations are implemented, and the commission should adopt a policy requiring management response to internal audits. Purchasing also should track and review all contract amendments and sole source justifications to ensure that they are sound.

Vendors: The county should see if purchasing through a regional authority would be cheaper than the in-house bid/RFP process. And any contract over $5 million should include additional market analysis - including a comparison of costs of similar services in other counties.

Slumlords: DeKalb should formalize a code enforcement sweep program by establishing regular intervals for sweeps. Then, the severity of the violation would determine which complaints are investigated. Once the complaint is received, Matrix said it should never take more than five business days for the initial inspection.

City residents: The county may be providing roads and drainage services to incorporated cities for less than costs. That means a loss each time the county does the work. The county should look at millage rates to find out what should be required to ensure full cost recovery. If millage rates aren't increased to cover the costs, the county should not provides the services to the cities, Matrix said.

By the way, the county's announcement of the study focused on the strengths it identified in DeKalb's operations. Read carefully and in the second paragraph of the announcement you'll find a link to the full study.

As AJC's Mark Niesse notes, it will be up to Interim CEO Lee May and commissioners to decide whether to act on any of the Matrix recommendations.

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About the Author

Lois Norder
Lois Norder
Norder leads a team of investigative journalists