Price Expresses Interest in City Seat

An out-going Saline County Commissioners has expressed interest in filling a soon-to-be-vacant Salina City Commission seat.

During the Saline County Commission’s morning study session, County Commissioners John Price expressed an interest in the soon-to-be-vacated City Commission seat, currently held by Randall Hardy.  Hardy will take a seat in the Senate of the Kansas State Legislature in January.

Price did not seek re-election to the County Commission.

Hardy defeated Price in the primary for Senate District #24.  Price commented that he’d heard from many City residents who liked him.  Price said that one of his great uncles had been a Salina mayor.  In the past, Price has been critical of the City’s efforts to remodel the Bi-Centennial Center and of building the new fieldhouse.

Health Department RN to Assume some Health Education Duties

When the Commission approved hiring a Home Health Coordinator, this created a position vacancy within home health.  Health Department Director Jason Tiller asked the Board to allow him to advertise a position where the employee will devote half of their time to home health, while also taking on health education duties that Tiller has not had time to complete.  Tiller said that the home health agency didn’t require a fifth full-time registered nurse, but could not adequately get by with four full-time nurses.

Tiller said funding already exists for this change.  A Family Consultant position that worked out of the Heartland office has not been filled and funding for the second Family Consultant position will be assumed by Heartland in June 2017.  Having a registered nurse assume some health education duties will allow the Health Department to be able to access money from a Chronic Diseases Risk Reduction grant, which the HD has previously utilized.

Commissioners unanimously approved this change.

Salary Discussion for CDL Holders

For a number of years, Price has wondered if the Commission’s pay for CDL holders is adequate.  Most CDL holders work at Road and Bridge.  Price noted that Builder’s Choice has a sign advertising for drivers at $15.75/hour.  Price said he’d like to see the County pay CDL holders $14.00/hour.

Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer led the discussion with County Counselor Mike Montoya present.  Newly hired CDL drivers, with minimal experience, currently earn $11.99/hour.  The 2017 budget provides a small, across-the-board increase that will bring their starting salary to $12.36/hour.  In adopting the 2017 budget, the Commission declined to fully implement the salary survey it completed in 2016, which would have raised the starting wage of a CDL driver to $13.24/hour.

The discussion turned to the value of the benefits the County provides (that includes health insurance and paid time off) as well as other perceived benefits, such as being able to go home every night.

As there are currently no position vacancies for CDL holders, the Board seemed reluctant to take action.  Instead, they may grant the Human Resources Director some discretion in being able to start new hires appropriately on pay scale steps 1-4; if HR recommends a higher starting salary, the matter would be brought before the Commission.

Smith expressed displeasure that at future step increases, an employee who performs at 100% of expectations might earn the same step increase as an employee who performs at 50% of expectations.  Leamer said the evaluation process address this.  Smith complained that the County retains those who perform at the 50% level while higher performers often find work elsewhere.  Commissioner-elect Jim Weese asked if the County ever gave “double merit” step increases; he was told no.

Smith questioned the timing of the measure.  County Administrator Rita Deister said that the present process allows incoming Commissioners time to get oriented before they make decisions regarding pay raises and benefits.  Smith also made a comment that unions aren’t helpful; Deister responded that the County’s two bargaining units—SCAPE and one for the Sheriff’s officers—are “pretty weak”.  She replied that ten years ago, when the State was involved in arbitration, the decisions were “harsh”.

Personnel Policy Updates Being Considered

Leamer shared with Commissioners the following proposed updates to personnel policies:

  • In the past, all of the Sheriff’s Office staff had to be US citizens. This requirement remains for patrol officers.  However, all other positions could be filled by US citizens as well as those who are citizenship-eligible.
  • Regarding health and dental benefits, employees will need to have an annual physical by June 30th. If not, they will have $30/month deducted from their paychecks.  This money would be refunded to them once they get an annual physical.  This is part of a wellness initiative promoted by Smith.
  • As a result of federally mandated changes in how salaried vs non-exempt positions are defined, changes to procedures for how e-mails are forwarded or how mobile devices connect with County technology are recommended. Otherwise, Leamer said non-salaried staff could come back and request back pay if they performed job functions away from their work site.  A Federal judge has stayed implementation of the “overtime” provisions; Leamer said that the National Association of County Organizations advised it might take six months before the in acted measure might be implemented.
  • Another policy would made an adjustment to how patrol officer vacancies are posted.

In other matters, Commissioners:

  • Read the e-mail from City Manager Jason Gage acknowledging the receipt of packets regarding extending the lease for the EXPO Center. No dates for discussing the matter were mentioned.
  • Signed an updated Public Health Emergency Preparedness agreement with the Kansas Department of Health and Environments.
  • Learned the “employer portion” of the KPERS contribution is increasing from 8.46 to 9.7%.
  • Learned that County Commissioners and State Legislators plan to meet on January 3rd around Noon to discuss issues of mutual interest.
  • Heard an update from Commissioner Jim Gile on the construction of the wash-out bay at the renovated Road and Bridge building. The County is being required to install an oil collector as part of the mud trap.  Gile said an oil collector was not required as part of the mud trap at the City’s fire station.  Gile said, “The rules change every day at the City.”  Price said that contractors have left this town, because they don’t want deal with the City.

Commissioners-elect Robert Vidrickson, Rodger Sparks and Jim Weese attended the Commission meeting.  As time permitted, the seated Commissioners answered questions about how different matters had been handled in the past.

At next week’s meeting, the Commission is expected to take up some end-of-the-year accounting resolutions.  They will also approve four or five meetings worth of minutes.