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Council weighs vacancies

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

The County Council ruled on a number of upcoming vacancies and staffing changes in Grant County government Wednesday, trying to balance cost-cutting with the needs of the department heads who came before them to request positions be filled or adjusted.

The Council approved filling three vacancies and denied one.

The EMS director was given the green light to hire two EMS supervisors, filling openings that arose due to a job change and the unexpected death of a supervisor.

County Council President Jim McWhirt argued the Council was justified in approving those positions because the EMS department is a revenue-generating department, and the money it makes pays for the costs they incur, including the salaries of these supervisors.

Another vacancy, the position of deputy clerk in Sup. Court III, was also approved, although council member Mike Roorbach voted no, citing the budget crisis.

Prosecutor Jim Luttrull came before the council to ask that a deputy prosecutor job be downsized from full-time to part-time, which the council approved as well.

The council denied the request of Magistrate Brian McLane to fill a second court reporter job in Sup. Court II with a tie vote, three to three.

McLane reminded the council that the county budget study released last week reported that Grant County courts already have the smallest staff of any comparable county, but with the budget crisis looming, the motion did not pass the council.

The Council also passed a proposal to move the part-time HR director to full-time and hire a part-time assistant to the HR director. These changes would allow the county not to hire another executive secretary, who currently performs the duties of secretary and mailroom clerk, when the current secretary retires next month.

The Commissioners proposed that the HR director and part-time assistant take over the duties of the executive secretary, including the mailroom duties, which would be the responsibility of the assistant.

Commissioner Mike Burton argued this will save the county some $20,000, with future savings down the road.

He alluded to talks about outsourcing janitorial responsibilities and reorganizing the current mail system, as well.

The motion for increases and reductions in appropriations for these positions passed, but the salary ordinance also had to be amended to accomplish this staffing change, which requires a unanimous approval.

McWhirt’s no vote tabled the salary ordinance changes for the moment. Those amendments will be considered at a future County Council meeting.

Council members also quizzed each department head about their willingness to participate in an attrition program, a floater employee system, an electronic timesheet system and an elimination of comp time, all recommendations of the county budget study.

Department heads for the most part were willing to commit to, or at least look at, such changes to the system.

The Council still has its sights set on reducing the number of county employees one way or another, and several expressed frustration that the study had not given more guidance as to where job cuts could be made.