After some Franklin County elected officials earlier this month voiced concerns they said came from county employees regarding raises given to a select few who report directly to the county commission, commissioners this week fired back.
Commissioner Ann Schroeder said the article which appeared in the Aug. 4-5 Weekend Missourian was “demeaning and rude and stepped on a lot of people’s toes.
“A lot of the specific departments called out were those of the commission,” Schroeder noted. “The morale of our employees isn’t good.”
At the Aug. 2 meeting, Schroeder blamed bad press associated with the various lawsuits the county commission is facing — not salaries — as the culprit for low morale.
“The employees have stepped up to the plate more than once or twice,” she said this week. “They know the situation we’re in. They see the struggles of their friends, neighbors and family members who have lost jobs over the past three years.”
Schroeder said county employees have volunteered for committees designed to help the local community as well as help county employees as a whole.
County employees, except elected officials, received a $700 stipend this year, but otherwise haven’t received pay raises since 2008.
New Hires, Promotions
This year the county hired Counselor Mark Vincent as a full-time employee, hired a new engineer for the highway department, Joe Feldmann, and promoted Scottie Eagan from senior planner to planning director and Eva Gadcke to highway department administrator.
Schroeder said those employees work hard, are often on call 24 hours a day and work extra hours on nights and weekends, but don’t get extra pay because they are salaried workers.
She said the complaints from the elected officials at the Aug. 2 meeting were unfounded.
Schroeder said the county’s planning department has decreased in size, from five people to three, and the office’s budget hasn’t increased.
Schroeder said similar changes have occurred in other departments that report to the commission.
She said the building department alone, by not replacing employees who have retired or resigned, has decreased wages by over $100,000.
Schroeder said the county’s information technology department grew from two employees to 10 in 2004, but has since been reduced to six.
Public Administrator Carol Eckelkamp was critical of the IT department at the meeting of elected officials, saying that employees have complained that the department doesn’t fix issues.
Schroeder said the department has staff who have made programs in-house for various offices and that staff wired roughly 20,000 feet of network and telephone cable in the government center themselves to save the county money.
She also noted that the county highway department also has reduced its wages by $45,000 to $50,000 over the past two years and now employs only a single engineer.
Auditor Tammy Vemmer said her figures were different.
At the earlier working session, she said one employee who started with the county in 1996 making about $13,000 was making about $53,000 in 2011. Another increased $20,000 from 2007 to 2011. Another increased $39,000 from 2003 to 2009.
“No matter how quiet it is supposed to be, word gets out,” Collector Linda Emmons said two weeks ago. “Every year we have to go back and tell our people we have no money, yet someone gets $10,000 or $20,000 more.”
Schroeder said department heads, who were asked to leave the Aug. 2 meeting prior to the discussion of elected officials, should have been included.
“It was a miscommunication on our part,” she said. “The employees need to be heard.”
Reports on Training
County Counselor Mark Vincent said employees were appreciative of the commission which recently authorized him to conduct several human resources training programs on topics such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and employee evaluation and job descriptions.
“It is the sentiment and belief of the employees who attended these sessions that they are united in their desire to learn more about the issues and their jobs and want to assist in developing ways whereby communication between employees, department heads, elected officials and the commission can be improved,” Vincent said.
Employees asked Vincent to inform commissioners that they “for the most part, truly appreciate the job opportunities which they have.”
He said the employees “understand the need for changing the compensation of employees when their position or duties change dramatically.
“It goes without saying that all employees would like to make more money, but these employees understand and appreciate the economic conditions faced by our country, state and county at the present time.”
Schroeder said employees have helped the county by recommending ways to cut costs.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said the county’s employees are its greatest asset.
“The role of county government has changed … and innovation is good. Our role will continue to evolve and grow as our county grows, but one thing that won’t change is the dedication our employees have to the county,” Griesheimer said.