Fiscal court approves pay grades with 5-2 vote

No one was completely satisfied with the two proposed job grade systems for Clark County workers.

The plan which was approved, by a 5-2 vote, moved three positions in the county road department to lower grades than the department head recommended.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the court voted down a plan 5-2 which would have had heavy equipment operators start at $28,799 annually, equipment operators at $26,121 and road maintenance workers at $20,467.

The plan which ultimately passed moved each of those positions down. The heavy equipment operator and road maintenance workers were lowered one grade, for a change of $1,000 or $1,500 annually.

The equipment operator, though, was lowered four grades to a starting salary of $21,490.

Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham and Magistrate Sheila McCord voted against the committee’s plan, saying it would hurt recruiting and retaining employees for the road department, which has been an issue in recent years.

“All it does is send the message to potential employees that we won’t pay you what the job’s worth,” Branham said. “(Two equipment operators) have already indicated they’re leaving. They’re waiting to see what the grades are.”

Branham said the approved schedule would start equipment operators at $10.33 an hour when the market is paying at least $12 an hour.

Magistrate Daniel Konstantopoulos admitted the plan was not perfect but said there would be time to make changes before a second reading.

“It is raising some of the starting salaries,” he said.

“Personally I’d rather start with what the committee recommended,” Magistrate Pam Blackburn said. “Committees are put together to do the shell of the work for us.

Blackburn said the higher grades were not approved by the county road department committee, on which she serves. Magistrate Greg Elkins, who also serves on the road committee, said they had not met to discuss the grades.

Road Supervisor Kevin Wilson attempted to respond, but was blocked by Branham. Following the meeting, Wilson declined to comment. Branham said the department heads made their recommendations months ago, which was the basis for the plan which was voted down.

“It seems like you’re picking on one department that does a lot of work for the county,” Branham said.

Hiring workers for the road department has been a problem for at least a year, but the court has not appeared willing to raise starting salaries to compete with the state or private businesses.

“I wouldn’t have voted for it if I didn’t think it was a step in the right direction,” Elkins said.

The fiscal court has been working to establish a pay schedule, and job grades and classification for more than two years. The court has already approved annual and longevity raises for county employees.