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Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw County officials give initial OK to consolidation of 3 departments resulting in 8 job cuts

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners gave initial approval Wednesday night to consolidate three county departments into one new service unit officially called the Office of Community and Economic Development.

The merger of three offices — Community Development, Economic Development and Energy, and Employment Training and Community Services — marks a major transformation for the county as it continues to chip away at a looming budget deficit.

Thumbnail image for Conan_Smith_headshot.jpg

Conan Smith

According to a staff memo, the changes will result in an annualized reduction of more than $1.2 million, including $517,817 in direct savings to the general fund.

The number of full-time employees working in those areas will drop from about 40 to 32, a net reduction of eight county jobs, according to a business plan for the new office.

The reorganization also requires a number of position modifications. In all, there would be 11 positions eliminated, three new positions created, 20 job reclassifications and five title changes. A management analyst position also would be held vacant.

Many nonunion positions would be reclassified as union positions, according to Diane Heidt, the county's human resources and labor relations director.

Mary Jo Callan, current director of the Office of Community Development, would lead the new office if the reorganization gets final approval at the county board's Aug. 3 meeting.

The consolidation would become effective Jan. 1, 2012.

According to the business plan, the new office would focus on three main areas: human services, housing and community infrastructure, and economic and workforce development.

It would operate on a $16 million budget in 2012 — down from the $18.6 million for those program areas in the county's 2011 budget. About $11.8 million of that is expected to come from federal sources, with another $374,667 coming from the state.

Diane Keller, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber, issued a written statement Wednesday applauding the county for its efforts to streamline services. The consolidation comes as the county sees federal stimulus funding drying up.

Keller said the merger of the three offices will create a stronger, more efficient approach to regional economic development.

"Adversity creates possibilities," she said, "and the consolidation of workforce, economic and community development offices holds great promise for county government to further strengthen its role as a model for other communities, schools, and local governments to put aside traditional structures and interests for the good of the community as a whole."

County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, said the consolidation is necessary, but there's no question there will be a reduction in services. One example is the county's free weatherization program that helps homeowners reduce their energy bills.

"We were doing millions of dollars of weatherization for folks, which has a systemic impact on their personal budgets," Smith said. "But that was stimulus-funded work. That was a three-year program and stimulus funding will run out next year."

Smith said county officials have a keen interest in maximizing the efficiency of human service delivery, and that's the No. 1 priority right now. He said there's a lot of duplication of administrative functions in the three offices being merged, and so the changes will allow the county to make sure a higher percentage of dollars are going into services to the public.

"Across the country, what we're learning is that the workforce development, community development and economic development functions coincide with each other very well," he said. "They should be interacting dynamically. Having them in three separate silos really didn't allow us to do that to the maximum extent possible."

Commissioner Kristin Judge, D-Pittsfield Township, said the real issue is less revenue is coming into the county, and that's something the county must confront.

"That's just something I think the board has gotten used to understanding now and unfortunately the residents are going to have to follow along with us," she said. "There is less money and service impacts are going to happen."

County Administrator Verna McDaniel also announced Wednesday night that an estimated 900 individuals in Washtenaw County will be cut off from state cash assistance on Oct. 1. She said she's planning to come back to the board in September with a comprehensive plan to address that and find ways to be proactive to assist those individuals.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Sat, Jul 9, 2011 : 2:28 a.m.

Conan is a good man and I'm sure he regrets the effects of these cuts will have on the families of each of these people as well as the decline in services for County residents. The fastest way to return to prosperity is to return to the principals that made this nation the best in the world even as we are drastically challanged by the realities of the path we are on today. Some of those we can fix and some are systemic. Thank you Govenor Snyder for your first 6 months! In the next 6 months, please understand and work to repeal one of the most crushing scams in our state's history - the 2008 REQUIREMENT that 10% of Michigan's energy must come from uneconimcal, stupid, irrational green energy by 2015 so "to control the planet's weather" and maybe buy some jobs. This is a massive scam that will cost home owners thousands in higher utility bills and add another push to businesses considering leaving the state.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

"There is less money and service impacts are going to happen." How about allocating less money to fund current and future travel by board members to conferences? Six months into the 2011 junket schedule, we have: Kristin Judge - $2966 Conan Smith - $1289 Wesley Prater - $1071 The other 8 members - $2590 Curiously (?!), these were also the 3 top spenders of 2010. Mark Ouimet finished in 7th place, and took a severe beating for his "misuse" of taxpayer money (by the new definition) from the same folks.


Sat, Jul 9, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

I cannot imagine how insulted these people must be!! Unlike many public service positions, County Commissioners need to travel extensively to stay informed (seminars, etc.) and connected to county residents. They don't accomplish that by sitting in an office with a phone! They do that by spending A LOT OF TIME AWAY FROM THEIR FAMILIES. Petty bs like this is exactly why it is so unusual to find the best and brightest to run for office - especially locally. Who needs this nonsense!! I hope all of these commissioners NEVER pay this money back and looking forward, the County should recognize that traveling commissioners are in our best interest and fix the stupid rules in support of their work. This is also why clerks should NEVER run a business or have any authority in government office higher then dog catcher general. If my name was on this list, I would acknowledge that some low level bean counter was now deciding how the Commissioners will do their jobs based on how "travel expense accounts" are metered out and respond by staying home with my family and to H with County.

David Briegel

Fri, Jul 8, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

Deservedly so.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 4:37 p.m.

Cutting a quarter of million that is gifted to SPARK would be another good cost saving move. They aren't accountable to anyone and their job creation numbers are made up guesses (slanted their way, of course).


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Its good to consolidate and make Government smaller but what about the cost of this move? "Many nonunion positions would be reclassified as union positions" We all know that Government workers have better benefits most everyone else and Government Union workers seem to have the most expensive!


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

"We all know that Government workers have better benefits most everyone else" We all do not know or agree with that statement. But keep up the republican talking points. Most republicans know if you tell a lie often enough people will believe it.


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

Note to County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor: the citizens of Ann Arbor haven't forgotten that you still have a debt to pay.

Common Sense

Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 11:52 a.m.

This is a good idea and hopefully the county will be come more efficient in providing services to those in need. I don't know if Conan Smith and the other commissioners have paid back the money owed to the county from the recent internal audit. If not, this would help at least a few more families in need! What is the latest information on this issue Ann