Elected officials discuss employee wages, bridge updates at monthly meeting
By Taylor Kaser –
November’s elected officials meeting Monday kicked off with County Recorder Dixie Shinaberry commenting that some county departments have given raises and bonuses to their employees. Shinaberry questioned this in light of the county’s financially strapped position. She expressed the need for county employees to all work together.
“I have girls that are not even at the pay scale that they’re suppose to be,” said Clerk of Courts Vanessa Mills, “so I will do a cost of living for my employees.” Bonuses given to her employees for the first time last year came from the extra funds that her office has went out to get in titles, not from the general fund, she said.
“I’m pleased to give the girls a raise,” Mills stated, “and should I do a bonus this year; I would be honored to do that. I always respect employees, and that’s what they come to work for.”
Shinaberry commented that when she asked about giving a bonus several ago, she was told not to. But Mills stated that she spoke with County Auditor Mary Holtrey and Prosecutor Charles Howland had told her it was allowed. She reiterated that she has never used general fund money or funds from other departments for bonuses.
Currently there is no standardized pay scale at the courthouse. Commissioner Tom Harden explained that a scale was considered a few years, but it was not accepted by all elected officials.
There was discussion as to weather the term “bonus” was appropriate or if another name should be used in its place.
Howland related when he had given a “bonus” to his employees in 2009. He explained that after the exit of one of his employees the spot was left vacant and the other employees helped to pick up the slack, without any complaint, said Howland.
Due to savings from the vacant position, Howland said that his office was able to return $20,000 back to the general fund. He noted that he take some of the saved funds and used it as a reward for his employees that had worked so hard.
He stated that elected officials can give raises, for example to their employees, but there are very strict rules.
In infrastructure updates, County Engineer Randy Bush stated that the recent weather and some issues with the construction company, has put the Co. Rd. 9 bridge project behind schedule. The paving is finished and he anticipates that the bridge should be done before Thanksgiving.
Representatives from the Board of Developmental Disabilities attended the meeting and discussed the new scanning system in place at Whetstone Industries.
Business Manager Lyndsey Keesee explained the system will be an efficient way on departments to cut down on their paperwork storage while still preserving all of the documents digitally.
In answer to a question about safety, Keesee explained that their operations conform to all HIPA regulations and that employees are regularly reminded about the importance of not examining documents.
Judge Robert Hickson, Jr. expressed the need for further consideration of the county’s contingency plans for departments in case of an emergency or disaster.
Judge Howard Hall expressed everyone’s desire to see the completion of the new courtroom. He explained that the addition will aid in the alleviation of congestion and add to court safety.
In reference to the movable jury box in the courtroom, Hall said, ”The situation, very simply is: we were given a space that was already there, and we had to design a courtroom in that space. We had to design a courtroom, not just for the space available, but for the security aspect.”
He explained that he and Judge Hickson are the only judges in the state that handle all divisions with more than one judge at the common pleas level. In the current courtroom, Hall explained that there is little space to accommodate everyone involved in the proceedings. He explained the movable box will allow the court to make the best use of the space available, since it will be possible to move the jury box out of the way when it isn’t in use.
He also reported that the court has seen an increase of economy related crimes, like burglaries for example.
For the commissioners updates, Commissioner Tom Whiston noted that they have been working on a new healthcare offer for county employees. He also reported that usage of the web filtering system has been postponed until after the election.
Harden related that the county has received grant monies to conduct sewer studies at the St. Rt. 95 interchange at I-71 and for the northern half of the county.