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County pinching pennies

Efforts could save money

POSTED: August 17, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Michele Hester/

Dawson County Facilities Manager Maynard Waters repairs a door at an office in the Fouts building, where drug court, environmental health, public works and information technology will soon be relocating.

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Faced with the highest gas prices in history and rising operational costs, Dawson County government has implemented several cost-cutting measures.

 

From asking employees to cut back on travel to freezing or eliminating unnecessary positions and using county-owned space rather than leasing facilities, county officials say these strategic steps are saving the county thousands during tough economic times.

 

“We’re not cutting back services, but we are cutting back on how we provide these services to our citizens,” said Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner.

 

“The county spends over $180,000 a year on leased office space throughout the

county, while we own buildings that could be utilized and house some of the county’s departments,” Tanner said, referring specifically to the former sheriff’s office building on Maple Street.

 

Workers began remodeling what is known as the Fout’s building in June. Plans include relocating several county departments to the former sheriff’s office building within the next month.

 

“We’ve cleaned it up, painted walls. It’s a very usable building,” Tanner said. “That includes painting, [disability] compliance, changing the bathrooms. Most of

that is going to be done with inmate labor.”

 

Renovations to the building were performed primarily with inmate labor at a total cost of about $20,000, nearly $10,000 less than the county spends each year on office space leases for Drug Court and Environmental Health, which will relocate to the Fouts building.

 

“In the first year with just environmental health and drug court, the savings to the county will be roughly $30,000. Then as far as future need and space, it could as much as double that,” Tanner said.

 

Drug Court officials may also be interested in remaining in the new location after the county’s new courthouse and administrative building is completed within the next few years.

 

Other county departments have also volunteered to move to the Fout’s building.

 

“Public works and our IT department are both looking forward to moving into their new offices,” Tanner said.

 

Additionally, county departments have also played a role with cost-saving initiatives.

 

On Monday, Tax Commissioner Linda Townley began offering extended hours. Employees will work 10 hours, four days a week to conserve energy and reduce fuel costs for employees and the county.

 

Townley also announced online vehicle registration will be available at the end of August.

 

“All of our departments are doing what they can to save taxpayers money,” Tanner said.

 

The latest in the county’s money-saving effort began last month when officials challenged staff to develop plans for additional cost-cutting methods.

 

“We asked the staff to see where money could be saved,” Tanner said.

 

“We’re having a contest now, and I, myself, plan to donate a $200 mall gift certificate to the employee with the best idea,” he added.

 

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

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