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JOB CONSOLIDATION EFFORTS DEBATED BY LEGISLATURE

A report from a staff committee is expected within a week that could lead to efforts to save money by shuffling county employees among departments.

County Legislature Majority Leader Shirley G. Urtel, R-Cambria, said the committee was set up to work on consolidation of job titles, which under Civil Service law and union contracts govern where employees can be assigned.

Legislator Robert R. Villani, R-Town of Niagara, said last week that such moves could enable the county to save money through an employee attrition process without having to lay anyone off.

But Urtel said the county's employee unions would have to be consulted about any moves to liberalize job titles to enable employees to be transferred more easily from one department to another. "I have never envisioned doing that without the consent of the people involved," she said.

Villani said at the Legislature's Human Resources Committee meeting that he wants a leaner, more effective county government. He voted against filling some vacancies in such low-level jobs as cleaner and typist.

"If we're going to do this through an attrition process . . . we can find people from inside the county, who are already in our unions, to fill, not all of these positions, but some of these positions," Villani said.

However, the hirings were approved by the committee. Chairman Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda, said the committee needed to cut the department heads a break because it insisted on a tough review process that resulted in many positions not being filled after they were vacated by early retirements in late 2000.

"I would support these because we just spent two months squeezing them," Needler said.

Villani said, "Some of these positions were vacant for over a year. They can't wait another three or six months? This committee should seriously look at putting on a (hiring) hold. . . . This could be the attrition process."

Needler said he didn't think the county could save major amounts of money through such measures.

Urtel said the job title consolidation could help more. "We would hope that this consolidation would allow us to say, 'We need people over here. You work over here.' "

But Villani said that if all the positions are filled, "We're not going to have anyplace to put these people."

Human Resources Director Bruce R. Fenwick said the county's Financial Management Group, which primarily comprises its top financial staffers, is still discussing the points raised in last year's Workforce 2000 study, compiled by the Center for Governmental Research, a Rochester consulting firm.

"We're not at the point where we can make recommendations," Fenwick said.

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