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Request for highway department position gets cool response

October 26, 2005|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County's public works director on Tuesday asked that a management position in the Highway Department be restored, but the County Commissioners didn't show much interest.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer proposed that the Highway Department deputy director post, which has been vacant for the last five years, be filled at an annual salary of $60,000.

He said the position has been vacant because of funding constraints.

According to a written statement from Rohrer to the commissioners, the department is now in a "strong financial position" to support the position.

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"Just because you have money doesn't mean you have to come up with ways to spend it," Commissioner John C. Munson told Rohrer.

Munson said he opposed "jacking the staff up" by hiring a deputy director and had no desire to consider the request.

Rohrer said in the statement, which was included with the commissioners' meeting agenda, that the department needs someone in the position with technical knowledge of field operations and with strong leadership skills.

He also said filling the position would help the county with "succession planning" should Highway Department Director Ted Wolford retire.

Wolford has been director for nearly 30 years, Rohrer said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioners Doris J. Nipps and James F. Kercheval didn't support the request.

"I'm not interested in filling the position until Ted announces his retirement," Wivell said.

Wivell said he thought staff "greatly underestimated" the cost of the position because the salary quoted didn't take into account benefits.

Kercheval said he didn't have enough information to support the position and that he wasn't opposed to revisiting the request later.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he supported the position but that the commissioners needed time to "think about this."

"This is not about Ted. This is making sure the organization will continue to run in the event of anything catastrophic," Snook said. "Somewhere along the lines, previous boards thought it was important to have."

The discussion led to a brief argument.

As Kercheval voiced his concerns about the position, he was interrupted by Munson. Kercheval responded by asking Munson to let him finish his comments "for once."

"You talk more than anyone in here," Munson said. "So don't tell me how to talk."

Snook then told Munson he "constantly interrupts everyone."

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