Harrison County: Privatization an Option

The Harrison County Supervisors are putting the spending of some county departments under a microscope. The board wants to know if the county can save money by privatizing services in certain departments.

County workers keep the grass cut at county owned ball parks, and county crews keep the beach trash free. The Harrison County Supervisors want to know if they can shrink the county's 100-million dollar yearly budget by turning over those duties to a private company.

Larry Benefield, Supervisors' President, says "Privatization over the years has become very popular in government and I think privatization has shown in a lot of cases that they can do things more reasonable than we can in government.

District 5 Supervisor Connie Rockco says, "We have asked our county administrator to look at different departments throughout the county to see which ones we may can make more efficient and streamline." Benefield says only certain departments will be considered for privatizing. "Janitorial for instance, I think the board discussed the sand beach operation, some grass cutting operation, things that are just maintenance, day to day maintenance that the county does. It's gotten to the point in county government that the benefits that are provided to them has gotten to be a big ticket item for the taxpayer."

The supervisors say that's why it's a good idea for government to police its own spending "And I think after a long period of time you have to look at your, any kind of business to see if it needs to be streamlined so you can be more efficient and save money," Rockco says.

The board will look more closely at privatizing during budget talks over the next month. County employees shouldn't worry about their jobs; Rockco and Benefield say if private businesses take over any duties that the county once performed, job security will be part of the contract.