I watch the proposed merger of the human resources departments between the City of Wausau and Marathon County with great interest. I am a big fan of consolidation of services to increase efficiencies. Not a big fan, a HUGE fan.
It bothers me when I see the City of Wausau, the City of Schofield, the Village of Weston, the Village of Rothschild, the Village of Kronenwetter, Marathon County, and many townships (Rib Mountain being the most prominent) duplicate so many things. Some consolidations have happened and have a pretty good history. The most high profile would have to be the Everest Metro Police department, a common police force shared between the Village of Weston, the City of Schofield, and the Town of Weston. The blueprint for this merged department has actually been used as the model for other merged police departments within the state.
Another merged department, that appears to be working, at least from where I am sitting, is already a merger between Marathon County and the City of Wausau. I am talking about the parks department. Were you aware that there is no City of Wausau parks department? The parks department is actually a joint department with the City and County. Parks department employees are actually county employees and the county bills the City for its share of those services.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t fully understand the make-up, staffing, or duties of the HR department of either the City or the County. (There, I admitted it, Dr. Rent doesn’t know something.) However, I do understand that in the business world, HR departments are considered overhead, and when it comes to merging services, the largest savings and increasing of efficiencies are to be made in overhead areas.
So. We have established that I am a strong proponent of merged services, and we have established that from a conceptual standpoint, that I believe that there will be efficiencies in having the City and County merge HR departments.
Well… we are heading that direction at 100 miles per hour, and Mayor Tipple of Wausau has a well aimed pipe wrench aimed at the gearbox. His concerns, as reported in the Wausau Daily Herald, focus around the two employees currently in Wausau’s HR department. Although they would now fall under county control under the merger plan, he wishes for them to remain on the City’s payroll and be city employees.
It would be easy to see how this can be perceived as a turf-war kind of thing. And, maybe that is part of the issue. After all, if this thing falls flat on its face, it would be nice to know you still have your original HR staff that you can fall back on. However, I am not the kind of person to use just one source of information when making a decision on something (especially if I am going to end up writing about it).
The more research I do, and the more people I talk to… one thing seems to stick out. As much work has been done on this merger of HR departments; as long as this thing has been in the works; as many meetings have been had… the specific details of the plans are still pretty fuzzy.
The Mayor’s issues are not just these two employees. There are a number of issues in his proposed amendment (7 if I remember right). These are not big issues… they are just minor detail-type issues. They are “Dotting I” type of issues. They are “Crossing T” type of issues.
If you are going to do something, do it right. If it means a delay until next fiscal year, then fine. It is a delay. Isn’t it better work out all of the details and get it done right the first time, even if it means taking a little bit longer? Or, is agreeing to the concept and working out the details “on the fly” how we prefer our government to work? I have enough experience on all levels of government (federal, state and local) that I know better to trust them with a concept and not worry about the specifics.
If the HR department merger has been researched and has been proven that there are both benefits to the City and the County, I say proceed. However, I also say proceed with a plan. Proceed with a plan that covers the specifics. Is that really too much to ask?