Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Columnists

February 20, 2012

Employees, public like new space

AMERICUS — It’s been almost a year since we first began talking of moving the finance/utility billing department to the former SB&T branch bank.  I remember when the Chief Administrative Officer, Charlotte Cotton, approached me about the possibility of the soon-to-be vacant building being our new home. My first thought was “no way! It would never work.” That was a Friday afternoon.

Over the weekend, my enthusiasm grew and grew. I began to write down all of the reasons why it would work. The facility has four drive-thrus, a vault, plenty of parking, existing wiring for security equipment and no stairs for customers to climb. The biggest plus was that the department would all be in the same building. Although the department employees made the City Payment Center (next to Gammage Print Shop) a great success, it was sometimes difficult to man the drive-thru due to employee illness, training and other work demands.  

Fast forward a few month…

The dream became reality and the work began.  We had to figure out how to get the 12 office employees, computers, printers, copiers, etc. into the building. We realized that we had to have a small addition to the building in order for everyone to have a productive work space. Of course this would cost money. I was concerned that the additional space we needed would make the project cost prohibitive. Obviously, maintaining or improving our level of customer service was a major factor; however, the total annual cost of operation could not be more than what we had been paying.

Before anything was final, all employees visited the building. I asked them to make suggestions on workspace configurations. Everyone had input that was valuable to me.  I wanted everyone to “buy in” on the move. I have several employees who have been with the City for over 20 years and they were the stakeholders I was most concerned about. Eventually most employees thought that the move would be good.

Once the final numbers were in for both the purchase of the building and the addition, I was pleased that the annual debt service was actually lower than the rent we were paying for the existing drive-thru facility. Additionally, the utilities at the new location were going to be less than the Municipal Building due to the age of the building, lower ceilings and size. So now it was really a go!

The Move ....

We scheduled the move over two days — Friday and Saturday, Jan.  20 and 21. What followed was a myriad of measurements, meetings, lists, boxes and a little bit of panic. Through the help of the Public Works department’s inmate crews and a rented truck, we got into the building. Neos, our computer services provider, was on site to make sure all computers, phones, printers, etc. were up and running for business on Monday. The Building Risk department assisted with various building issues. Miraculously, all equipment and furniture fit perfectly. When we emerged from the abyss, the new Customer Service Center was beautiful.

Comments from customers have been very positive.bThe ease of access is the number one compliment. Employees love how we are more of a family in the smaller environment. The “Center” is a warm, friendly, cozy place. Come see us and our new home!

 

Suzanne Freeman is chief financial officer for the City of Americus.

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