Editor, The Spotlight:
The Town of Bethlehem has recently taken the initiative to propose a local law that will foster the integration of the town Highway Department and the Department of Public Works. This concept has long been under consideration and the time to make this change is no at hand.
As a former commissioner of public works for the Town of Bethlehem and a professional engineer, I gained significant insight into the missions of both departments. They have many common elements, similar workforces and work closely together on many town activities. During my tenure as commissioner, a task force carefully examined the potential to merge the two departments. One of the common elements was a unified call center to handle the numerous calls received by separate call units. This specific functionality was implemented and as a result the call center was established in the DPW offices. The savings were in the order of $30,000 a year. It also freed up one person to perform other tasks that were in need of attention. This happened over seven years ago which means that the town has already saved in excess of $200,000.
There have been several reviews of the possible merger and each time quantified savings were developed. The latest study has identified a number of possible cost savings as well as improved efficiencies that will be possible. Reviews of other municipal governments and county governments have shown the benefits of combining these two departments. I believe that additional opportunities will be become possible when the two departments have merged and cross pollination of ideas is fostered.
The merger of these two departments will create a low walled work environment that allows people, tasks and a common mission statement to be articulated to all employees. This is no different than what has occurred in the private sector with quantifiable results. I urge town residents vote in favor of this change and allow the town to develop a management structure that will deliver an efficient, effective single organization to support Town of Bethlehem residents.
Oliver Holmes, Delmar