|The on-going battle between elected officials with Calhoun assessor Jason Nettles giving his two employees pay raises, continued during this month's county commission meeting.|
Additional criticism came from Orma residents Cathy Helmick and Janet Hightower over $2,500 pay raises Nettles gave his employees, saying the money could be better spent to benefit county residents.
Nettles had originally proposed $8,000 raises.
Helmick and Hightower requested the commission publish county employee's salaries and benefits in the Chronicle and the Hur Herald. Commission president Sampson said that would not be a problem.
(The salary schedule will be published by the Herald)
County Clerk Richard Kirby said "The wage increase given by Nettles is unfair to the rest of county employees."
Prosecuting Attorney Matt Minney gave an opinion to the commission that the assessor "may legally supplement salaries of his employees with the approval of the (state) Valuation Commission."
Minney said after researching the State Code, an Assessor has a secondary (supplemental) source of revenue with the Valuation Fund, and under statute he may pay salaries to carry out the duties of his office without the approval of the County Commission.
Rather than hire an extra employee to get mandated mapping and other projects done, Nettles said he increased the pay to his two office workers.
"They are working extra hours and on weekends," he said.
"I'm saving the county money to get this work done. I don't want to contract out those services," Nettle's contended.
Commission president Rick Sampson was openly critical of Nettles' decision.
County Clerk Richard Kirby requested the Commission to revise his budget to allow for $2,500 pay raises for each of his three employees, and asked for $2,000 to develop an independent policy manual for his office, similar to a manual developed by Nettles.
The request died for a lack of a motion, based partly on the money request would be coming from county funds, as opposed to Nettle's supplemental state source.
"I feel my employees work just as hard and deserve to be paid equally and I'm asking for the funds to do so," Kirby said.
Nettles said the $2,000 he used to develop his own personnel policies came out of his regular budget.
Kirby acknowledged "I'm being just hard to get along with," saying he wanted to make a point, acknowledging "toes are being stepped on."
Nettle's said he opted out of the county's employee handbook because it is outdated, indicating it contains clauses that do not allow his office to be properly managed.
A county handbook committee, consisting of elected officials and county employees, continues meeting to update the handbook and will review a draft in September.
Kirby said the handbook was created several years ago because of turmoil over salary variances for county employees.
Nettles said the handbook, as it was developed, creates problems with seniority, with job descriptions rarely being written as required by the statute.
The county's elected officials have now submitted job descriptions to the handbook committee.
Other community members made a number of comments during the commission's meeting, directed toward the county building a swimming pool and bowling alley, accusing commissioners of not spending county money wisely.
Helmick and Hightower questioned commission president Rick Sampson at length about the duties of a county commissioner.
- Larriane Landicini and Barbara Heery requested the commission for assistance on building a foot bridge across Steer Creek near Russett, to allow their children access to attend school during high water. The commission is writing a letter to Gov. Manchin's office.
- Employee Handbook Committee report said that a draft of the new handbook would be reviewed in September.
- 911 Director Gary Buchanan gave a report regarding employees receiving training on the new CAD system, also saying an agreement to answer non-emergency calls for the State Police and the Sheriff's office would be reviewed.
- Commissioner Helmick reported on problems with CRI, saying the agency is looking at the issues.
- Diane Ludwig reported a developer has passed on doing a housing project in Calhoun.
- A lightning strike on the courthouse annex will likely cost about $25,000 in repairs.
- Shari Johnson reported on a proposed Alternative Sentencing program for the county that would reduce the regional jail bill, a program endorsed by the commission.
- A Court Security Grant will add additional security to the courthouse.
- The commission is applying for a Courthouse facilities grant, due October 1st.
The next commission meeting is September 10 at 9 a.m.