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County Considers New Dept. of General Services

By Holly Crocco

While Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne has proposed creating a Department of General Services, merging the departments of purchasing, information technology and other central services, members of the Legislature say they need a few clarifications made before they can sign off on the Charter change.

“This is something we’ve been working on for quite some time – probably a good portion of the new term of the new administration,” said Purchasing Director John Tully at the Legislature’s March 21 Rules Committee meeting.

He explained that having a Department of General Services is not a new concept. The federal government has the General Services Administration, New York State has the Office of General Services, and nearby Dutchess County has the Office of General and Information Services, for example.

“So, we’re not really treading on new water,” said Tully.

The new department would “provide a long-term solution using technology to process data,” providing greater oversight that will cut costs, improve efficiencies, streamline business practices, reduce overhead, and maximize existing resources by providing coordinated procurement, according to the county executive’s proposal.

The Department of General Services would be headed by a commissioner, with a director of information technology within that department to lead the IT division.

“This proposal, I believe, sets the county up for long-term success, and being able to take advantage of future savings, and it’s very fiscally responsible to move this forward,” said Tully.

He said that since taking over the role of purchasing director last year, it has become apparent there’s a relationship between these departments, and merging and combining their efforts only makes sense.

Senior Deputy County Attorney Conrad Pasquale explained that the role of commissioner of the Department of General Services is going to assume the responsibility of the current director of purchasing, which is Tully.

“If at some point in the future, the commissioner decided it’s appropriate to appoint a director, essentially a deputy-type position, and it’s within budget appropriations – meaning the Legislature funds that position – it can then be created,” he said. “At this point it hasn’t been funded, so it hasn’t been created.”

Legislator Ginny Nacerino, R-Patterson, said it seems the language in the proposal is paving the way for the creation of a deputy position in the near future. “That’s just my speculation,” she said.

Tully said that, regardless of the plan to form a new department, a need for additional IT staff has been articulated to the Legislature in the past. “Those are the types of things I believe need to be addressed first,” he said, noting that the proposal addresses those issues. “We want to do it right, we want to build this for the future, so whoever succeeds Tom (Lannon, director of IT) and myself will be set up for success.”

“IT is a big undertaking,” said Nacerino. “We need to have the right people in the right positions to keep up with it and keep up with cybersecurity and all the facets of changing technology, so I am very supportive of that.”

Legislator Greg Ellner, R-Carmel, pointed out that the proposal states that the future IT director position will be an appointment made by the commissioner. “I would like to see the county executive make that appointment, as opposed to the commissioner of general services,” he said.

Legislator Paul Jonke, R-Brewster, agreed.

“I’m opposed to the way this is set up now because if the commissioner of general services appoints the IT director, you’re only answerable to the county executive,” he said. “This is truly an important position… I would prefer to see the county executive make that appointment so the Legislature can then approve it.”

Tully noted that the “commissioner serves at the pleasure of the county executive,” so if the administration doesn’t agree with the appointment, “that would require a real healthy debate.”

The matter was tabled, with discussion expected to continue.


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