The County Commission voted this morning to put a freeze on hiring new employees. It's decision that caused some problems in certain departments. The only people this won't affect are those who are being hired as county police officers or sheriff's deputies.
Commissioner John McMasters commented, "I think we need to hold the fort until the budget process is done."
Different departments lined up to plead their case against the idea.
"I know that's short," said Chief Tom Sprague of the Chatham County Police Department, "but our recruiting procedures have people in the process now."
After the commission heard from Chief Sprague and Sheriff Al St. Lawrence, the motion was amended, and it will not affect the hiring of new officers or deputies. As for other departments, they will have to wait, which upset tax commissioner Danny Powers. He is in the process of trying to fill two top positions.
Powers said, "Last time when you did an 11 1/2 percent cut, I went several months without hiring anybody. I've done a good job on my budget, and I'm not playing this game."
"We lock down on expenditures," Commissioner McMasters said, "so the numbers we come up with aren't revisited again and again and again as there may be a rush to fill vacancies."
And the county doesn't want to fill positions it may have to eliminate.
"We did that basically as a strategic move to make sure positions were not filled until we found out where we stood in the budget picture," District 1 commissioner Jeff Rayno said. "It would be kind of foolish to fill a position and find out we couldn't keep them."
The freeze will last until the budget is done on August 9, but even then, some positions that were never filled could be eliminated altogether.