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County employees could see raise

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By John Overby

During this past Monday’s regularly scheduled Washington County fiscal court meeting, the main topic of discussion centered around an increase in salaries of county employees, including the magistrates.

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At the previous court meeting, a committee was formed to review and recommend a figure for a possible raise for county employees.

According to District 4 Magistrate Morris Sweazy, a member of the committee, their decision was to recommend a $100 per month raise for the magistrates and a two-percent increase for employees across the board.

As the only opportunity for elected officials to propose a raise in salary is during an election year and the deadline to do so is May 1, decisions needed to be made either during this court meeting or the next meeting on Friday, April 25.

Sweazy put the information concerning magistrate pay into the form of a motion to open up discussion to the other members of the court.Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles pointed out that the county currently has the third-lowest pay rate for magistrates in the state at $5,366.67.

According to Settles, the proposed raise in pay would put the magistrates’ pay at “around 10th lowest” in that metric.

He added that similar counties to WC that “jumped out” to him from a magistrate pay standpoint included Fulton County (6,800 people), which is currently at $15,000 (although they only have four magistrates compared to WC’s six).

Gallatin County, with 8,500 people, have their rate set at $14,000.
After much discussion, it was put to a vote after District 1 Magistrate Terry Tingle seconded Sweazy’s motion, which passed five to one. The one dissenting vote among the group was District 3 Magistrate Hal B. Goode.

Goode then had the opportunity to explain his stance.

“I knew what I was going to make when I went into this,” Goode said.

The change would take effect January 1, 2015, although it was clarified that a change to that motion could take place during the county budget workshop on April 25 if the raise was “simply not in the budget.”

For county employees, the proposed two-percent increase for the employees was tabled until the next fiscal court meeting.

Other notes:

•Springfield Postmaster Trae Purdom was in attendance for the meeting and discussed several different topics. One subject of discussion was the lack of house numbers on both houses and mailboxes. Settles noted that there was a countywide ordinance established in 1991 requiring that everyone have their house numbers posted within 30 days of being issued one. Settles also stated that it “is an ordinance that we are bound by law to uphold unless we change the ordinance.”

Purdom then brought to the floor an idea to help enforce this law. Recently in Marion County, the postmaster sent a joint notification letter with the city and county, instructing residents to start putting up their house numbers. Purdom said he would be willing to join the judge and the three town mayors in an effort to raise awareness about the law throughout the county.

“I don’t think we need to start with this, but there are penalties for not doing this,” Settles said. “After 30 days of being notified, if the numbers are not displayed, it’s a $10-a-day fine. If they are not compliant, we can always revert to that.”

“It would only take one time of the ambulance not being able to find your house to really drive that point home,” Purdom added. “This is a very important thing.”

• The part-time position for a truck driver for dead animal removal was set at $9 per hour as the starting rate. A committee made up of road supervisor Dale Mann, Sweazy and District 2 Magistrate Benjamin Settles was formed to review  those applications.

• A request for $750 was made for project graduation. Settles said that the court has contributed this amount for “several years,” and it was set aside in the budget. It was approved unanimously.