Thursday, June 16, 2016

County employee pay raises debated by officials

Monday’s meeting of the Webster County Fiscal Court took a rare heated turn on Monday when the issue of raises for county personnel came up.

The county road department presented a list of three employees for magistrates to consider for raises. 

Two were raises of approximately $0.75 per hour, to bring a pair of employees who had recently earned their CDL to the maximum hourly rate of $15 per hour, while a third was a request to raise another employee $1.50 per hour from $11.50 to $13.00.

Officials said all three employees had been with the county for three years.

County Clerk Valerie Newell voiced her concern about how the court has handled payroll issues.
“I don’t know how you can vote for no raises, but continually grant raises to county employees,” Newell told the magistrates. “I know that, in my office, I can give out raises. And I know the sheriff’s office is in the same situation.”

Magistrate Tony Felker tried to explain the dilemma.

“When we bring someone into the road department or the jail, we start them at a lower wage,” he said. “In other departments, such as the clerk’s office, you have to pay them more from the start because you have to hire people with certain skills.”

Newell went on to say that while the issue might seem clear to the court, it was beginning to cause morale issues in other county departments.

“I’ve got employees who have been with the county for more than 12 years and I cannot give them a raise,” said Newell. “These people have been here for three years and now they are making more than my people. You have the right to do this, I just don’t think you realize the morale going around because of this.”

County Treasurer Paul Guinn explained that the money for the road department and the jail come from different funds than those that cover the staff of the clerk’s office, sheriff and 911 dispatch.
Magistrates approved the two $0.75 raises, but allowed only $0.50 of the requested $1.50 for the third employee.

In other business, magistrates voted to table a request from the Webster County Conservation District that would allow the organization to levee property taxes in the county.

The county is legally required either to fund the district, or allow it to use a property tax to fund its activities. In the current fiscal year, the county provided the district with $110,000.

In the upcoming fiscal year, the conservation district is looking to expand to $150,000 with the new property tax. If the new tax is approved, it is not expected to make a noticeable difference on tax payers’ bills.

The issue will most likely be addressed at a special called meeting on Thursday, June 23, at 9:00 a.m.
A project to replace a bridge on Countryside Drive in Dixon has been temporarily halted thanks to new personnel in the state transportation cabinet, according to Guinn. 

For the first time in years, state officials are enforcing a law that requires all contractors be pre-qualified by the state before being awarded building projects.

The law has existed for years, but it has not been enforced by previous administrations.
The county has already received bids from two contractors, but must now wait for the state to approve them before either can be awarded.

Roxie Ray with the Webster County Historic and Genealogical Society briefly addressed the court. During recent research she discovered that Webster County native Lambert Ray Tapp had been killed at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Arizona, but his name was not on the county’s veteran memorial outside the courthouse.

Magistrates voted unanimously to add his name to the marker.

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