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Westmoreland outsources human resources

| Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland commissioners Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney on Thursday turned over control of the county human resources department to a private company that they said will save taxpayers up to $140,000 annually.

Opponents said the deal, which will pay Felice and Associates of Greensburg $216,000 a year, may not produce any savings.

“This deal was not properly vetted. We received no other proposals, and it was not proved this is a better deal than having an in-house director,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said.

The minority Democrat commissioner cast the lone dissenting vote.

Anderson and Courtney said the firm will modernize the personnel office, which oversees 2,000 employees and labor negotiations with 11 bargaining units.

John Felice, the company's owner, did not return several telephone calls seeking comment.

The firm will save money by reducing legal fees and securing additional reimbursements from the state and federal governments, according to Anderson and Courtney. But other officials said those reimbursements are being received for personnel services the county provides under state and federal grants.

The Felice company is being paid an additional $90,000 to analyze the county's nonunion workforce. The firm's $2,000 monthly retainer will be halted in February.

The Felice contract differs slightly from a four-year proposal revealed earlier this week. Commissioners approved a one-year deal, with three, one-year options allowing for the contract to end. If the company is retained all four years, the county will pay $864,000.

A company employee will serve as the human resources director. Anderson said office staff will remain on the job for now.

“We're not hiring a person. We're hiring a system. The people in there now will be evaluated, and there might be reassignments. This is a process,” Anderson said.

Under the contract, Felice and Associates will:

• Review and reorganize the human resources department.

• Update personnel policies.

• Update employee handbooks.

• Connect the human resources department to the county's computer system.

• Develop performance evaluation plans for nonunion workers.

• Implement financial analysis for labor negotiations.

• Develop consistent benefits for all unions.

• Develop management training programs.

Courtney said a study of the human resources department revealed deficiencies. “This has been a process going on for two years,” Courtney said.

Republican Controller Jeff Balzer told commissioners before the vote that the Felice contract was too costly. Balzer sought a three-month delay so additional options could be explored. Kopas' motion to table the action failed.

“Approval of this contract is not in the best interest of Westmoreland County,” Balzer said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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