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Just give director a raise

March 08, 1999

Look, would the County Commissioners please give their personnel director, Alan Davis, a raise so he will be quiet and go away and we won't have to read any more headlines about what end-run he is planning to get more money into his paycheck?

First it was an 8 percent, across-the-board increase for county employees. Which, of course, benefits people at the top of the salary heap like Davis - just as the federal, 10 percent, across-the-board income tax cut which sounds so evenhanded would actually benefit richest people the most by far.

When the commissioners thought the 8 percent increase too expensive, Davis and County Administrator Rod Shoop dropped the highest-paid employees from the pay-hike plan and argued for raises for just the average county workers who need it most.

Oh, whoops, that's a misprint. What was I thinking? What actually happened is they proposed moving seven of the higher paid employees to a higher pay grade - including Davis.

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I can't believe the commissioners are balking at this. A targeted pay advantage to the guy who seems to want/need it the most seems like the smartest, least expensive way to go. The taxpayers can pay $2 million to give everyone a raise, or pay about $6,000 to pay off the squeaky wheel. Am I missing something? Isn't this the greatest no-brainer in the history of Washington County politics?

Administrators say salaries must be boosted because top people will leave without more money.

I say, when?

Mark Twain advised that the problem in this world "isn't that there are too many idiots, it's that lightning isn't distributed right."

Similarly, governments never seem to have trouble "holding on" to all the wrong people. Maybe this should be the plan: Keep lowering the salaries of administrator and personnel director until they qualify for higher-paying jobs in the private sector. I'm betting we could get away with paying them 30 grand, tops, before we'd be anywhere in the neighborhood of losing them.

Speaking of losing, now that the Roundhouse is gone, the Kammerer House may be going and an old 1770s house was lost to "a misunderstanding," I am sorry to report that Washington County may face a serious crisis.

I don't think we'll have to wait for Y2K, I think the county already faces a critical Shortage of Significant Buildings to Tear Down.

Unemployed demolition crews may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Nowhere is poor planning more in evidence than here. Because of the selfish Me Generation of the 1780s, not enough historic structures were built with an eye toward the day when their children and their children's children would be able to tear them down.

I hope this serves as a lesson for today. You may be saying "But Tim, if I build a potentially historic structure today, I'll never live long enough to have the satisfaction of seeing it reduced to a pile of sticks and rubble." No, you may not, but put yourself aside for once and think of generations to come.

Besides, haven't we been selfish enough? We are using up an unreplenishable resource with no thought to what kids now entering kindergarten will be able to demolish when they grow up.

Really, what's left in Washington County that would really be satisfying to crush? The Dagmar? The old Lowe's?

Maybe the Maryland Theatre and Burnside Bridge have some residual demolition value, but that's about it.

Since it's such a sport, perhaps this is the break the Suns have been looking for. Don't think of it as a new stadium, look at it as a chance to tear down the old one. Whoopee!

Then we can take the maintenance costs of the old structure and put it toward - of course, administrative salaries.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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