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Ruppersberger plans shake-up in Balto. Co.


Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III announced a plan yesterday to eliminate three county departments, create two new ones and cut 44 positions in a long-planned reorganization that he called "a plan for the next 10 years."

The job cuts will save the county $1.7 million next year. But Mr. Ruppersberger said the main purpose of the shake-up is to streamline county government, eliminate duplication and use workers more efficiently.

All but a few of the employees affected will transfer to vacant county jobs, budget officials said. Three are retiring and the others may find county positions before the changes take place July 1.

"This is pro-active leadership, not reactive," Mr. Ruppersberger said, adding that he spent months deliberating the specifics to keep layoffs to a minimum. Reaction from county labor leaders was generally favorable.

The proposal, which must be approved by the County Council, would eliminate these agencies and distribute their work among other county departments:

* Central Services, which handles purchasing, fleet management and maintenance of county buildings.

* Permits and Licenses, an agency that handles everything from building permits to dog licenses.

* Community Development, created eight years ago to manage housing and job training programs.

The executive's plan would create two new departments:

* The Office of Information Technology, designed to bring the county to the cutting edge of computer science and information management. No director has been named.

* Permits and Development Management, designed to concentrate development functions and enforcement under one roof. Zoning Administrator Arnold E. Jablon will head the new department.

The proposed changes address a variety of issues. For example, the county would hire a private contractor to run its employee health clinic, eliminating the part-time jobs of several physicians. The county would also cross-train inspectors in housing, health, zoning and building codes so that one person can handle a problem building.

The Community Conservation Program, designed to fight blight in older neighborhoods, will get a boost by becoming a part of the Planning Department. It will handle federal block grants and housing policy initiatives.

The Department of Social Services also would regain control over the county's Section 8 subsidized housing office and programs dealing with youth and the homeless.

Mr. Ruppersberger had the support of county labor unions in the November election, and his plan received good reviews from leaders of the two unions whose workers are most directly affected.

Derek Propalis, president of the white-collar Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, praised Mr. Ruppersberger's plan as "farsighted."

"I very much welcome his initiatives. It's in stark contrast to the previous administration in its sensitivity to employees," Mr. Propalis said, referring to former County Executive Roger B. Hayden's layoff of 392 employees in 1993.

Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of the blue-collar Local 921 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also praised the plan as promoting efficiency.

"It's a new start for garage and building services workers," he said. "Now there will be more workers than management."

The County Council was briefed on the plan before its regular work session yesterday. No one objected publicly, but most members said they had not had time to form an opinion.

The shake-up means several well-known county officials will be leaving if the plan is approved.

* Ted Zaleski Jr., 60, a 23-year county employee who has been director of Permits and Licenses for the past 16 years, is leaving to take a newly created job as director of Leadership Programs at Towson State University, where he has taught political science part time since 1990.

* Central Services Director John R. Miller, 50, a 14-year county employee, and his deputy, F. Douglas Johnson, will both be without jobs July 1 unless they find vacancies in other departments.

Mr. Ruppersberger also said he will announce the appointment of a new economic development director tomorrow.

His choice is expected to be Robert L. Hannon, 48, executive vice president of Baltimore Development Corp. Mr. Hannon worked for Baltimore County from 1980 to 1987 and directed the economic development office from 1983 until he resigned to go into private business.

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