Southampton County nixes consolidation with Franklin agency

Published 11:10 am Saturday, December 4, 2010

FRANKLIN—Southampton County and Franklin began talks earlier this year to study the feasibility of consolidating their departments of Social Services, but the process was suspended at the request of the Southampton Department of Social Services Administrative Board.

“We never got to the point of finding whether consolidation in any form would work or not, because they just didn’t want to enter into that discussion,” Franklin City Manager June Fleming said.

Departments of social services in Franklin and Southampton are structured differently. In the city, the city manager oversees the department, but in the county an appointed board oversees the department.

The Southampton County Department of Social Services’ Administrative Board had held its executive director position vacant since Feb. 1, when Judy English retired, pending the outcome of the study.

Franklin Dowless, a member of the county’s social services administrative board, told the Board of Supervisors in May the executive director vacancy was beginning to create some issues and early indications showed consolidation wouldn’t yield significant cost savings.

The Board of Supervisors voted to authorize the social services board to fill the executive director position and suspend further consolidation studies. Michelle Stivers has since been named the county’s director of social services.

Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson said the committee studying the potential consolidation looked at the city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, which recently consolidated their departments of Social Services.

“They actually went through the process and physically consolidated, but really didn’t see any financial savings,” Johnson said.

Fleming said Beth Reavis, the city’s director of social services, and her counterpart in the county would continue to collaborate when possible.

Fleming said she still thinks consolidation “is an idea that’s worth pursuing.”