The York County Council is on track to bringing the employees of the Culture and Heritage Museums under direct county control.
At its meeting Monday night in York, the County Council gave the first of three approvals needed to bring museum employees under the county manager's control and to dissolve the Culture and Heritage Commission, which governs the county's museums, and reduce it to nine members.
The purpose of the change is to create more oversight, transparency and accountability within the museums and the commission that governs it, council members have said.
Council Chairman Britt Blackwell suggested a need to move quickly so employees aren't stressed out and the changes can be implemented.
"Let's put everything under this council, Mr. Baker, and the county treasurer writing the checks - I'm ready to do it," said Councilman Curwood Chappell, expressing frustration with "all the talk and no action."
Councilman Bruce Henderson said the County Council must hold true to its promise "to be transparent and be accountable. That's been a defect for some time," he said.
Arguing that the museums already receive a majority of funding from county taxpayers, Councilman Eric Winstead supported bringing the museums' 70 or so employees into the county.
Before the changes take effect, the County Council will have to approve them two more times and hold a public hearing.
Plans for dissolving the CHC and restructuring museum staff started last year following complaints over management from former and current council members, some museum commissioners and former museum employees.
County leaders and museum commissioners have claimed the salaries of museum leaders are too high.
The involvement of the museum and its fundraising arm, the Culture and Heritage Foundation, in a deal to develop a portion of 400 acres along the Catawba River for a private, for-profit venture has had some council members talking about the importance of transparency of funding and management.
To raise money for a new museum, the foundation entered into a private development deal. Now the foundation is trying to sell a portion of the land to pay back $3.78 million it owes to a development partner who left the deal.
A third-party survey of museum employee satisfaction last year showed employees are generally satisfied with their jobs - with pay, communication and the organization's focus being areas in need of improvement.
This month, CHC chair Jim Johnston proposed reducing the size of the commission board among other changes.
Johnston asked the County Council to allow the museums' employees to remain under the commission's direction. Three of the seven council members - David Bowman, Chad Williams and Bump Roddey - supported that plan Monday night.
Some commissioners are worried about museum employees.
"I want everybody to be treated fairly," said commissioner John Castaldo.
"Keep in mind there are a lot of good people working at the museums," commissioner Claudette Shue said. "Keep in mind that they are worker bees, and they really need to be understood and looked at carefully."
The council will look at ways to better manage the county's other resources, including its tourism and environmental conservation arms.
A visit from Mulvaney
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney appeared before the council to ask them to prepare for major cuts of federal funding, including to basic services.
The Indian Land Republican said he's "scared to death" about the country's fiscal condition and said cuts will impact everybody, criticizing President Barack Obama's budget recommendations for not going deep enough and not addressing "entitlement" programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
He urged county leaders to examine the county budget and prepare for less federal support.