The Knox County commissioners unanimously agreed March 23 to solicit proposals for outside consultants to review county operations and offer recommendations for improvements.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to solicit requests for proposals for an organizational study and review of county services. The deadline for submission of proposals is April 21.

The 2010 county budget includes $45,000 for the study.

County Administrator Andrew Hart said he expects recommendations to be submitted to the county from the winning consultant or consultants by Aug. 1. He said minor changes could be done almost immediately but more significant ones may have to wait for the 2011 budget.

The goal is to see if the operations are efficient and whether tax and fee revenues from county taxpayers are being maximized.

The study will be divided into three parts. The first will be to review and compare county services to those in similar sized counties. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office will be excluded from this part of the study.

The second part will be to do an organizational study with recommendations on how to better run the departments. Again, the sheriff’s office will not be part of this study. The third part will be to look at the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office will be studied separately because of the uniqueness of law enforcement, county officials said. Hart said there is a possibility that two separate consultants could receive the contract with one doing the sheriff’s office review.

“This is art more than science,” said Commissioner Roger Moody.

Commissioner Richard Parent said he was concerned that the county was asking for a lot of information and worried it would be overwhelming like the study done to determine space needs for communications and law enforcement.

There are about 75 full-time and 50 part-time workers employed by Knox County. The 2010 budget is nearly $9 million. The bulk of that money goes for the sheriff patrol and jail.