While work on the 2018 budget continues, Saline County Commissioners agreed to include a 3% increase for staff salaries. If the yet-to-be-finalized budget is approved in mid-August, Commissioners will have met their three intentions for the 2018 budget—providing the Sheriff’s Office with an appropriate budget, increasing staff salaries, and devoting one mil to fund gravel road upgrades.
Last year, the Commission spent $11,000 to conduct a salary survey; prior to that, the last salary survey had been conducted in 2005. In 2016, the Archer Corporation concluded that Saline County workers were being paid $1.13 less/hour than their peers. The 2016 Commission consisted of Monte Shadwick, John Price, Jim Gile, Luci Larson, and Dave Smith; they approved a salary increase of $750/employee in the 2017 budget (which amounted to the equivalent of $0.36/hour increase). The 2016 Commission also agreed to reduce the property tax mil levy by one mil. County workers’ wages became an issue in the November 2016 commission elections.
The 2017 Commission–consisting of Shadwick, Robert Vidricksen, Rodger Sparks, Jim Weese and Mike White—has met repeatedly in executive sessions with Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer to address issues with the work agreements with the County’s two bargaining authorities. When asked today about the Archer salary survey, Shadwick said he had felt that the survey was flawed as it did not fully account for the value of the benefits staff receive.
Step Increase Request for County Clerk Denied
Commissioners denied a budget appeal from newly elected County Clerk Jamie Allen that her salary move from grade 22, step 1 to grade 22, step 5. In January 2017, her salary became $51,584/year; her request would have meant a salary of $63,700/year. Allen cited her 14 years of expertise in the Appraiser’s office and 6 years with the Clerk’s Office, as well as completion of various certifications as justification. Allen wrote that at the end of 2016, her salary as Deputy County Clerk was $51,552.67.
Sparks asked how an elected official’s salary is determined. Leamer said she determines the appropriate grade and then selects the step that will give the individual at least a 2.5% salary increase. While Allen moved from a staff position to an elected official, Leamer said that this increase took place. It is possible that Allen’s 2016 salary reflected overtime earned as a non-exempt employee.
Leamer then said Allen will receive a series of increases in upcoming months—with a 3% step increase at six months employment, and additional 6%, 5% and 4% increases to be received at other anniversary dates in the first five years. These increases are in addition to any cost-of-living increases that might be approved by the Commission.
Weese said he didn’t begrudge Allen for asking for an increase. He said that the pay grades were known prior to the election and should have been “weighed before running”. Weese said he’d have to “regretfully deny” Allen’s request. White concurred with Weese’s comments and said he couldn’t vote to allow an increase. Shadwick said he agreed with Weese and White.
Personnel Wellness Update
Leamer reported that of the over 300 employees, all but 18 have obtained a yearly physical, as part of a wellness plan put in place by the 2016 Commission. Leamer said she was aware that one physical identified a staff member with “dangerously high blood pressure” and another identified problematic liver values and is undergoing additional testing. Leamer said that most employees had not told her of the outcomes of their physicals. She added that it is possible that the County has yet to see confirmation of staff who had a physical in late June. 2016 Commission Dave Smith crated the measure as an incentive for wellness.
Fireworks Sales to Be Studied Further
Vidricksen said he has already received an e-mail from a constituent who asked that the County take a look at its policies regarding the launching of fireworks. This year, the County allowed fireworks to be launched from June 27 through July 4–from 8:00 AM until midnight. In contrast, the City allowed fireworks to be launched on July 3 and 4, from 8:00 AM until 11:00 PM.
Weese said also wanted to look further at the special permits for firework displays that the commission is periodically asked to approve. He said he’d previously voted against such a permit because of the noise involved.
Both Weese and Vidricksen want the input of Emergency Management Director Hannah Stambaugh. White asked if the commission had the authority to set hours for launching fireworks. Vidricksen responded, “We do in the County, not the City”. County Administrator Rita Deister said it might be “easier for the public if the rules are the same”.
Vidricksen said he recently learned that the city of Derby issued 8 licenses to sell fireworks for $8,000 each, with the majority of money going to its fire departments (to help defray the costs of inspecting the firework stands). Saline County charges $1,000 to license a vendor to sell fireworks.
EXPO Center Update
Since the previous meeting, Shadwick reviewed the 2002 Gralla study of the EXPO Center facility to see what could be gleaned as useful in the present day. Shadwick said in 2002, Gralla Architects advocated for removing Kenwood Hall and for adding $14 million in concrete work to the facilities.
Vidricksen repeated his request that the County ask the City to partner together to share in the financial cost of upgrading the EXPO facilities. Vidricksen envisions it working something like the existing City-County Building Authority. Shadwick said he saw “support” for such a partnership during the recent joint tour of the EXPO facilities on June 12.
Deister said that the arena at Ardmore, Oklahoma uses a Board of Trustees to manage its operations. A field trip involving Deister, EXPO Center Director Rick Lamer and at least one commissioner is planned for later this month.
Road and Bridge Spent $1.75 Million on Projects from April to June
In the last fiscal quarter, Road and Bridge spent $1.75 million to replace bridges on Gypsum Valley Road, Mentor Road, complete a reinforced concrete box structure, replace multiple culverts and use APAC to complete hot mix patching, leveling and surfacing. According to County Engineer Neil Cable, the county will spend $1.3 million on additional R&B projects in the next quarter; work on these projects was specifically staggered so as not to complicate harvest.
In addition, R&B staff stayed busy after “straight line winds” and heavy rainfalls. They had to clear downed trees from roadways and they removed “drag” from stream beds.
The Road Department has received the John Deer Excavator, sign truck chassis, mower deck, and welding bed for a truck chassis. They also purchased a storage container to serve as a parts department while shop building work is completed. On Purple Wave internet auction site, R&B purchased I-beams worth $20,000 for $4,500 that will be used to build a reinforced concrete structure.
Vidricksen said that as he was returning from Gypsum, he had driven four miles down one road before he realized that the road had been temporarily closed. Cable said that he’d received another similar complaint and had already addressed this concern with APAC. APAC is supposed to place signs advising of imminent road closures, so drivers will know miles in advance if they will need to make detours.
Cable will be submitting a competitive grant application to replace a facture critical bridge on Mentor Road, that is 2.5 miles north and 0.2 miles east of Gypsum. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) built the bridge decades ago and had deeded it the county.
Vidricksen also reported that the Salina Airport Authority combined several bonds, to save $1,033,000 over 13 years.