Under the Dome

Dome: Workers at NC Division of Water Resources could soon learn their fate

From staff reportsAugust 13, 2013 

Workers within the state’s Division of Water Resources are expected to have a clearer picture of their future this week.

At the beginning of August, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources consolidated its Division of Water Quality and Division of Water Resources. The move brought Water Quality under the umbrella of Water Resources and the restructuring ignited fears of possible staff cuts.

On Wednesday, water resources division director Tom Reeder plans to talk to his section chiefs about the consolidation, said Jamie Kritzer, a spokesman for DENR. He was not able to elaborate.

Under the state budget approved last month, the division needs to cut $2 million this year. DENR has indicated that the restructuring could include staff cuts. The division’s leadership also will look at what regulations and practices can be trimmed to make the combined program more efficient.

Environmental advocates are worried that the restructuring will shrink the water quality program, making it difficult to enforce regulations.

“It will be important to watch to see that expertise stays on the staff, and the division doesn’t lose the very fine technical professionals they’ve got,” said Grady McCallie, the policy director for the N.C. Conservation Network.

In a video to his staff last month, Reeder said the Division of Water Resources is in the state General Assembly’s “crosshairs.”

“By next spring, we have to have turned our public perception around,” he said in the video. “Customer service has to be your No. 1 priority when you come to work every day.”

Reeder emphasized the importance of helping industries or individuals who aren’t in compliance with regulations get in compliance.

Musical chairs at DHHS

Dr. Aldona Wos, state Department of Health and Human Services secretary, sent agency staff an email Tuesday announcing several high-level job changes. Three of the four people with new positions are switching jobs after a few months at the agency.

Dr. Robin Cummings, who started at DHHS in March as the director of the Office of Rural Health and Community Care, has a new job as deputy secretary of heath services. Before going to work at DHHS, Cummings was the medical director and executive director for Community Care of the Sandhills.

Matt McKillip was appointed chief policy officer. He went to work at DHHS in January as senior policy adviser to Wos after working on Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign and transition team.

Mark Payne was hired in May to be the agency’s chief compliance officer. He’s now chief of staff. Payne has worked as vice president and chief ethics and compliance officer and compliance counsel at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, as senior counsel for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of North Carolina, and at Cigna.

Compared to the others, Chris Collins is a DHHS veteran. Collins, appointed acting director of the Office of Rural Health and Community Care, has worked at DHHS since 2007.

Foxx on top

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx remains the top choice of North Carolina Republicans to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan next year.

Foxx is preferred by 18 percent of GOP voters, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling in Raleigh.

Nine percent support Senate leader Phil Berger and former U.S. ambassador Jim Cain, 8 percent for House Speaker Thom Tillis, 7 percent for Cary physician Greg Brannon, 4 percent for Heather Grant and Mark Harris, and 2 percent for former Charlotte City councilwoman Lynn Wheeler.

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted Aug 8-11 and it had a margin of error among GOP voters of 5.3 percent.

Staff writers Annalise Frank, Lynn Bonner and Rob Christensen

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