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Washington County bosses seek more people, raises

March 16, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County department heads have proposed creating 21 new positions and giving employees 3 percent raises for the coming fiscal year.

The requests would cost the county about $1.1 million.

The Washington County Commissioners on Monday discussed the proposals, which if approved would be included in the county's budget for the 2005 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The new positions would cost $365,184, according to information handed out during the meeting.

Commissioner John C. Munson said the proposed pay raises would cost $813,477.

"I think we have to be careful about growing government too quickly," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said after the meeting.

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The county currently employs approximately 630 people.

Wivell said he was shocked by the number of new position requests.

"I didn't think there would be that many," he said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department asked the commissioners to approve five new positions, two for dispatchers and three for correctional officers.

Lt. Randy Wilkinson said the number of calls to the sheriff's department has increased by 63.5 percent since 1995, creating the need for the new dispatcher positions.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said that as a result of the call load, law enforcement officers are pulled off the road to answer phones.

"I'm sure we're going to run our (overtime) budget this year in the red," Wilkinson said.

Lt. Van Evans, warden of the Washington County Detention Center, said the jail needs nine additional correctional officers in order to be adequately staffed.

He asked for three of those positions to be funded in the coming fiscal year.

Capt. Douglas Mullendore said the positions would be phased in during the year. If approved, one correctional officer would be hired on July 1, one in November and the other in March 2005.

Currently, with sick leave, vacation time and other absences, correctional officers must work overtime to fill coverage gaps, Evans said.

The detention center has about 100 correctional officers.

The other proposed new positions are: a senior office assistant for Washington County District Court, a senior office assistant for Washington Circuit Court, a county planner, a part-time gaming inspector, two zoning inspectors, a public works document coordinator, a tax clerk, two special operations employees, a fire and rescue dispatcher, an economic development coordinator, an Agricultural Center senior office assistant, an electronics technician in the Department of Water Quality and two maintenance workers at the Forty West Landfill.

Officials said some of the costs for the proposed special operations positions would be paid for with grant dollars for five years.

Munson questioned whether county employees should be given 3 percent raises since they received two pay increases this fiscal year.

He said private sector employees sometimes go several years without receiving pay raises.

County employees received a 2 percent raise at the beginning of this fiscal year and an additional raise in the winter that averaged 1.2 percent.

The 1.2 percent average raise was a result of the county realigning its wage scale. Employees who moved up a pay grade as a result of the realignment got 2 percent raises.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the raises ended up being a wash for some employees, because the cost of health insurance went up.

Munson said he would like to compare the salaries of Washington County employees with those of private companies.

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