Should Guilford DSS and Health Department become one?

May. 12, 2014 @ 05:55 PM

In what could become one of the biggest changes in Guilford County government in decades, the Board of Commissioners is moving toward a possible merger of two of its largest agencies.

The commissioners discussed the possibility of merging DSS and the Health Department during a work session Monday. The discussions date back at least to the commissioners’ annual retreat in High Point in January.
A public hearing on the possible consolidation of DSS and the Health Department will take place at 5:30 p.m. May 22 in the commissioners’ chambers at the Old Guilford County Courthouse at 301 W. Market St. in downtown Greensboro.
Commissioners say they may want to merge the agencies to improve service to clients. County officials say their goal isn’t to lay off workers or eliminate jobs through a consolidation. 
County Manager Marty Lawing said the commissioners are considering three options:
* The commissioners could assume the powers and duties of the now separate DSS and Health Department boards, but the agencies remain the same and not consolidated.
* The commissioners could create a consolidate agency and merge DSS and the Health Department, then have a consolidated DSS and Health Department board oversee the merged agency.
* The commissioners could create a merged DSS and Health Department agency, then assume the direct duties and powers of the board of directors and not have a consolidated board overseeing the merged agency.
Commissioners voted 7-2 to move forward with pursuing the option of creating a merged DSS and Health Department and assuming the direct duties and powers of the now-separate boards without a consolidated board overseeing the merged agency. Democratic Commissioners Ray Trapp and Carolyn Coleman voted against the proposal.
The commissioners were considering a merger of DSS and the Health Department before a debacle during late March in which the Guilford DSS had a massive backlog of processing food stamp application recertifications. The county backlog, which was resolved at the end of March, nearly caused the state of North Carolina to lose $88 milion in federal administrative funding for the food stamp program and prompted the resignation of former Guilford County DSS director Robert Williams.
The Health Department has approximately 370 employees, while DSS has about 500 workers, according to county records. About 20 other counties in North Carolina have consolidated their DSS and Health Department.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528