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Washington Co. creates new employee positions, saves $117,000

December 04, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Five new Washington County government positions — including assistant county administrator — were created Tuesday, using money redirected from vacant positions.

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said the net savings will be about $117,000 — money that might be used later for a top-level economic development position.

The county will no longer pay about $464,000 in salaries for eight positions that haven’t been filled.

Instead, the money is going to five new positions, as well as one position that is about to become vacant but will be filled at a lower salary and one position being revived, also at a lower salary.

Pay increases for three other existing positions also is included in the switch.

The total for the new salaries and adjustments is about $302,000.

A chart also lists a $45,000 increase in the budget for departments, leaving a net gain of about $117,000.

Murray said the county also will come out ahead on benefit costs, which are not factored into the salaries.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of the changes on Tuesday after Murray summarized them. Commissioner William B. McKinley was absent.

“This has been a long time coming,” Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said, calling the shift an improvement.

Terry L. Baker, the president of the commissioners, who voted no, said he supports some changes, but not the whole package.

A list showing the changes wasn’t made available to the public before or during the discussion, but Murray gave a reporter a copy afterward.

During a public comment period, Robin Wivell of St. James, who ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 2010, chastised county officials for not sharing the information.

During an interview, Murray said the changes were administrative personnel decisions, approved by the county commissioners with existing money in the budget. If the new positions required spending additional money, the public would have been asked to comment, he said.

The commissioners started talking about the changes in closed session about a month ago, he said.

Murray said he expects the new positions to be advertised this month.

The exception is the newly created position of assistant county administrator, which will be filled by Sarah Lankford Sprecher, the current director of public relations and community affairs.

The assistant county administrator’s salary will be $79,704, the highest of the new positions.

Duties include working with the administrator, helping prepare the annual budget and completing special projects.

Murray said Sprecher is performing many of those tasks; the change for her will be a job reclassification.

He said he has resisted having an assistant county administrator, but he now believes the position is needed.

Sprecher was named director of public relations and community affairs in the summer of 2011 at a salary of $61,131.

The public relations position will be advertised at a salary of about $9,700 less, according to a chart Murray provided.

Other new positions include communications coordinator, architect, senior plans examiner and project liaison, which will manage the components of development projects. A marketing position is being revived.

The architect job in the public works division and the senior plans examiner for commercial projects in the plan review and permitting division will let leaders of those divisions focus on higher-level work, Murray said.

Two of the eight vacant jobs are in engineering/construction.

Two others, in planning, arose when employees were promoted to more senior positions.

Three other vacancies were connected to the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission: executive director, deputy director and airport business development manager.

The fourth vacant position was county public information officer.

Murray said the county might create or fill a top EDC job once it gets the results of a report from a consultant studying the EDC and its structure.

He said the $117,316 in money left from Tuesday’s changes would cover that EDC salary.

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