Winfield seeks to consolidate 3 departments

Published 11:48 am Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield wants to begin reorganizing city government by consolidating the city’s right of way, cemetery and landscape departments.

He presented his proposal, which could affect 29 employees, at a Wednesday work session on the public works budget.

“I want to put them under one leader, let that person look at the departments and make a recommendation to best streamline them and share equipment,” he said.

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He would not say if the consolidation would result in layoffs, adding, “At some point the person we put over this department may determine that it can be run with less people. If that is the case, we will see where we can place the people who are not needed there.”

He did not say when he would bring his plan before the board for approval, and said he did not know how much money the consolidation might save the city.

Right of way has the largest budget of the three departments with $1.18 million for 2012. The 2012 budgets for landscape were $729,305 and the cemetery’s was $407,865. Their combined budgets make up about 11 percent of the city’s budget.

The estimated 2013 budget for right of way is $1.04 million. The estimated 2013 budgets for landscape is $627,560 and $381,750 for the cemetery.

The landscape and right of way departments are under public works. Cedar Hill Cemetery, however, is a separate city department and the position of city sexton, who oversees the cemetery, is established by the city’s charter.

Winfield said he sees no conflict with the charter as long as sexton Venable Moore continues providing the board with reports on activity at the cemetery. He said he chose to consolidate the three departments because their employees perform similar duties.

The right of way and landscape departments deal with maintaining the city’s roadsides, sidewalks and parks. The cemetery’s three employees open and close graves. Grass at the cemetery is maintained by a private contractor.

The landscape department’s eight employees maintain flowers and trees on street medians and city streets, playgrounds and pubic open spaces, and 19 right of way employees keep roadsides clear of grass and debris and cut grass at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport and 29 parks in the city.

Consolidation, Winfield said, would allow the city to better use the employees on different projects.

“By consolidating these departments, we can have more people to perform other tasks,” he said. “One day we might have workers planting the crepe myrtles in the city and the next day trimming grass along the fence at the cemetery. We may want to take a look at our grass-cutting contracts. We will have the equipment and we may have the workers to do it ourselves.”

According to the city purchasing department, the city pays three contractors about $27,220 a month during the spring and summer to cut Riverfront Park, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Catfish Row, the grass on several street medians and around city buildings.

He said the consolidation also could save the money on equipment by getting the public works departments to share heavy equipment.

“The right of way workers who cut grass at the airport have their own equipment and mechanics,” he said. “It would help tremendously if we could bring them together to help the other departments.”

Winfield has been talking about reorganizing the city departments since his election in 2009. He said in May he was going to have a plan in June to reorganize the public works department, but did not introduce a plan to the board.

In other public works budget matters, Winfield said the city will buy a $110,500 flusher truck for the sewer department and a $237,500 dozer and $74,000 long boy trailer through lease-purchase.