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Westmoreland

Firm agrees to pay cut to run county human resources

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, 5:42 p.m.

Westmoreland County's human resources department will continue to be operated by a private firm but with a $25,000 pay cut for 2018.

The board of commissioners, by a 2-to-1 vote Thursday, extended the county's contract with Felice and Associates of Greensburg to oversee all hiring, firing and personnel issues for the county's staff of about 1,800 workers.

“It's brought a lot to the table. We went from a one-person human resources department to an organization that is very broad. It's run as a business; it's faster now and a little more economical,” said Commissioner Charles Anderson.

Anderson served as the board chairman when the county initially hired Felice in 2014 to oversee the human resources department and its staff of about a half-dozen employees.

The company has been paid $216,000 annually and provides one full-time staffer at the courthouse to serve as the county's human services director.

Under terms of the contract extension approved Thursday, the company will be paid $191,000 this year. The county has an option to retain the company in 2019 at its original pay rate, $216,000.

Company founder John Felice said his firm voluntarily agreed to the pay cut for this year.

“It's a tight year for them so we agreed to do our part,” Felice said.

Commissioner Gina Cerilli said the county's financial situation called for a cut in spending. The $336.2 million budget approved last month was balanced using about $6.5 million of surplus funds. That financial safety net has been as high as $41 million in years past but is expected to fall below $10 million entering 2019.

“They understand our financial situation,” Cerilli said of the Felice company. “They are a team player.”

Commissioner Ted Kopas voted against the contract extension.

He opposed the original move to privatize the human resources department and said the Felice company's decision to take less money this year is evidence that the hiring was not worth the expense.

“I've been opposed to this since Day 1. I don't believe we should have a private company run our human resources office,” Kopas said.

Cerilli said the move to Felice has saved the county money, although she could not provide any figures Thursday to support that claim.

Felice said the county has saved more than $1 million since his firm was hired. Those savings include a reduction in payments to outside lawyers for handling personnel issues. The firm also serves as the lead negotiator in contract talks with the county unions and restructured pay scales and benefits offered to workers, Felice said.

“We're a more efficient operation now,” he said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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