03/16/14 — County plans board retreat

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County plans board retreat

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 16, 2014 1:50 AM

Budget planning and laying the groundwork for finding a permanent county manager will be the focus of a daylong planning retreat Wayne County commissioners have scheduled for April 8.

Some time will be set aside as well for commissioners to lobby local state lawmakers on issues of county interest prior to the General Assembly short session, which begins in May.

The retreat will start at 8 a.m. at Walnut Creek Country Club.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery asked Interim County Manager George Wood Tuesday if it is too soon to start the process of looking for a permanent manager.

The April 8 retreat will start that search, Wood said.

"There were two things," Wood said. "One is the budget, and the second part is developing a manager profile. Once we do that, that is the trigger for determining what we are going to put into the ad."

Wood also told Daughtery he would have a roughed out schedule for the hiring process by the time the retreat is held.

But before delving into choosing a new county manager, commissioners should first look at the budget since that will have an effect on whom they hire, he said.

Wood said he is working on revenue projections for property and sales taxes.

"What I want to do there is give you some updates looking at revenues in general even though everything is not nailed down," he said. "But I will be able to give some growth estimations on revenues, some idea of the county's capability of dealing with new things.

"But the main thing is to have a discussion of the major issues and concerns that you have so that we are sure we have those things in the budget. What I am really looking for is for everybody to come to that meeting prepared to talk about key issues."

Wood said he has been meeting with county departments and is making a list of issues as well.

"As we go through these things, if there are things that you have talked about -- you have talked about the ag center," he said. "You have talked about this project, that project. We just need to get them nailed down as to what is important and make sure that we haven't overlooked anything. That is my primary concern there.

"Then we will discuss some of the priorities on that. I want to stress we will not be ready to talk numbers at this point. This is to talk conceptually about (the budget)."

Wood said he and finance director Pam Holt are looking at possible format changes in how the budget is presented.

He said he plans to spend about 30 minutes reviewing those possible changes, which are more of a structure of how many funds the budget has.

Next up will be talking about the county manager's office, he said.

"The first step in doing that is doing a manager profile -- nailing done with some specificity what it is as a group that you want to emphasize in terms of background, education, training, that sort of thing and where their experience is," he said. "Typically, a lot of that will be dictated by some of the issues, which is why I think you should go through the budget process first because as you talk about some of the long-term projects or issues that are facing this county, for instance the jail -- that is not something you are going to solve in a year.

"But it is going to be a process that you will go through probably for several years. Obviously, it would be advantageous to this county to hire a manager who has experience in the architectural engineer selection process, large-scale construction projects and ideally if they have done a jail construction project."

Wood said commissioners want an overall well-qualified manager, but that people come with different levels of experience in particular areas.

"So be thinking about those kind of things," he said. "That is really what that process is about. Each one of you has individual ideas of what you would like to see in your next manager, but this is about coming to some consensus because that will drive the advertisement process."

The third aspect of the retreat will be a meeting with the county's legislative delegation at 2 p.m.

"As we talked about earlier, we need to do some of the legislative lobbying on things that are critical to counties before they go back into the short session," he said. "So we want to fit that in. I am figuring maybe an hour to an hour and a half for that. We already have those issues pretty well-identified."

It will include the goals of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners as well as any local issues, Wood said.