Kennedy

Kennedy

 Otsego County will reorganize some of its activities into a dedicated business office.

At the county’s Board of Representatives meeting Wednesday, Oct. 7, Vice Chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, Milford, New Berlin, told the board about the plan, which was developed by IT Department Director Brian Pokorny with help from Treasurer Allen Ruffles, Personnel Director Penney Gentile, County Attorney Ellen Coccoma and Board Clerk Carol McGovern, as well as other department heads.

The office would be located in the basement of the county office building at 197 Main St. in Cooperstown in what used to be the backup E-911 center and is now storage.

In the short term, it would be managed by the IT Department.

“If you are thinking this would segue very nicely into a county administrator’s office, it would,” Kennedy said.

The office’s responsibilities would include receiving and paying bills, operating the county mail room and phone center, all aspects of purchasing, contract management and tax bill processing.

The board took no action about the office at the meeting, but the plan was unanimously approved at the county’s Administration Committee meeting Thursday, Sept. 24.

Pokorny gave a presentation for the committee, which outlined his goals for the office. He said he had been thinking about the idea for years and, in dealing with the pandemic, it made sense to pursue new ideas.

Board Chair Dave Bliss gave him the authorization to develop it, with the idea of making the county more efficient and to save it money.

“I think we all realize this, but we are all in our own little silos and there’s a lack of cross-communication and collaboration because of that,” Pokorny said.

The office will be budget neutral, he said, and will involve transferring three people, including one from IT.

Pokorny said “back office” duties are now spread throughout county departments and are often inefficient.

Mail is slow to move to offices without direct delivery. Bills can take 30 to 45 days to be paid and some vendors have expressed concern. Only the “tip of the iceberg” of the new MUNIS computer system has been utilized, he said.

Kennedy said the New York State Association of Counties has a card counties can use to make their purchases and some get five- and six-figure rebates each year on their spending by using the program. However, one condition of the program is bills have to be paid within 14 days.

Pokorny said the office would be running by the beginning of the year, although the transition will begin much sooner. He said once the office starts working it may be able to take on more responsibilities.

“These are just the low-hanging fruit that we’ve picked up on,” he said. “We understand there’s going to be room to expand.

“We are going to do this slow and measured,” he said, “because we want this to be a success.”

Pokorny said the office has space for six people, socially distanced, and is adjacent to his office, so it makes sense he would oversee it at the beginning.

The county administrator position was approved by the board in 2019 after a two-year study. However, the coronavirus pandemic and its related economic effect on the county’s budget caused a hiring freeze. The position is not budgeted in 2021, but county officials say they do intend to staff it when the budget stabilizes.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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