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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Marinette County Board Adopts New Pay Plan

Issue Date: June 28, 2017

After bit of discussion and a handful of questions on Tuesday, June 27, Marinette County Board voted without dissent to implement the Carlson Dettman wage study findings as recommended by County Administrator John LeFebvre. Supervisor Christopher Schmidt was absent and the remaining 29 supervisors voted in favor.

Effective with the July 16 payroll, each employee of the county's 322 employees except those at the top of the pay scale for their job grade will be put into the slot in their job grade that gives them at least a slight pay increase. Pay for any employee currently paid more than the 11th step for his or her job grade will be red circled and receive no raises until other pay rates catch up.

In coming years, annual raises for the county's employees will alternate between cost of living, not to exceed 2.5 percent, and a move up the steps in the 11-step scale, with 2.5 percent increases between steps. Once employees reach the top of their pay grade they will get only the every-other-year cost of living raises.

Estimated cost of the raises for this year is $313,000, which already has been built into the 2017 budget. For 2018 the estimated added cost is $544,000, but LeFebvre explained half of that is left from 2017 raises, and many positions are paid through state grants and other reimbursement programs.

The wage study itself cost in the neighborhood of $150,000, but entailed evaluation of all job descriptions and consolidation of various job grades, efforts which hopefully will not need to be repeated in the foreseeable future.

Goal of the wage study and resulting pay adjustments was to ease a growing problem the county has had in losing good employees who leave after they have been trained to get better paying jobs elsewhere.

Motion to approve the plan itself was made by Personnel Committee Chair Joe Policello, seconded by Mike Behnke, and approved without dissent.

Before the vote there were some questions on how the 35-hour per week positions are handled. Board Chair Mark Anderson explained the recommended pay ranges are what Carlson Dettman came up with for the positions themselves, and most are salaried employees.

Next came approval of actions needed to implement the plan, and those decisions drew considerably more discussion.

Bill Stankevich again questioned handling of employees with 35-hour work weeks.

LeFebvre explained that when he was hired, Marinette County was a 35-hour per week shop. Slowly, through attrition, they have been trying to change every full time position to 40 hours per week, but there are still some salaried employees working 35 hours, and they earned their benefits on that basis. LeFebvre said there also are a few hourly employees who still have 35-hour work weeks. Anyone working 35 or more hours a week is considered full time and gets full benefits, but vacations and days off for 35-hour employees are figured on the basis of 7-hour days rather than 8-hour days.

There are actions being taken to encourage the remaining 35-hour employees to go to full time. One is that 40-hour per week salaried employees get an extra week of vacation each year in lieu of comp time, but 35-hour employees do not.

Cheryl Wruk questioned a provision that a long-term employee who moves to a lower pay grade position will start at the lowest step. She was told they will, but will retain the benefits earned previously.

The plan excludes the County Psychiatrist from the pay grade plan's every other year cost of living raises. Behnke wondered why, since he does not believe the position is maxed out.

Gilbert Engel said it is extremely difficult to get someone to fill the child psychologist job, and he too felt the cost of living raises should go to that job as to the others.

Robert Holley questioned the wisdom of giving percentage raises every year, which is done in the form of advancing a step one year and getting a cost of living percentage raise the next. He said at the start a person in mid-range of one pay grade might receive $40,000 a year, while a person in a higher grade might get $80,000, a $40,000 difference. After 10 years of percentage raises that spread would widen to $51,000 and more, since each year the high grade get a larger dollar raise than the lower paying job, and eventually the pay differences are astronomical. "Percentage raises are dangerous!" he declared.

LeFebvre said the higher paid employees get used to a different standard of living than those at the lower end, and their expenses increase in line with the cost of living hikes. He said with flat dollar raises, before long the lower paid employees will be making wages far above the worth of their positions. He agreed they will need to occasionally go back and do some adjusting, but felt they could do many of the comparisons in-house, without the expense of another full wage study.

Anderson noted the Personnel Committee had made a provision that the annual raises must come to them and to the full County Board in July before going into effect each year, and that provision remained.

"Please wave that stick with caution in the future," LeFebvre urged, while agreeing supervisors retain the right to set whatever pay they want. He said employees like to know when they're hired what their future pay increases will be.

"It almost sounds like you're committing us to a 2.5 percent increase every year," commented Rick Polzin. "I don't know if we can afford that."

"I thought the reason for this wage study was to retain talented employees," countered Engel.

"Give us the original implementation and lets see how we do in the budget," LeFebvre urged. "Give us this year to see what we can do"I'm going to put a lot of pressure on department heads and employees also need to step up. If there are ways to keep costs down they need to find them."

Al Mans said some positions, for example the County Forest Administrator, is paid for by a state grant and does not come from property tax dollars.

Vilas Schroeder contended that when employees are not paid adequately there are hidden costs, in the form of turnover and retention.

Don Pazynski agreed. "The most important assets any business can have are its employees," Pazynski urged. "Let John (LeFebvre) do his job"Let's not hedge"We owe this to our employees!"

The motion to accept the implementation plan as proposed by LeFebvre was approved without a dissenting vote.

The Personnel Committee had added a provision that the County Administrator must invite the parent committee chair to participate in annual reviews of department head performance, and that was retained by unanimous County Board action. LeFebvre's recommendation had been to provide that the administrator or the department head could invite the chair to participate if they chose.

Other actions included maxing the number of weeks of paid vacations at five per year plus the comp time week for eligible salaried employees. Employees who already are approaching the six weeks of vacation will get the benefit, since they have already earned it. Sick pay can accumulate only up to 80 hours at a maximum nine days per year, down from the previous 12.

Ted Sauve asked if consideration had been given to allowing employees to donate a part of their vacation time to help a fellow employee with a serious illness who had used all their sick pay. LeFebvre said they can donate vacation time but not sick days, and can provide gifted time only after the ailing employee has used all their vacation time, comp time, sick days, etc.

Starting the first of the year, the county may save a little money due to a new policy that will pay a stipend to the 127 or so county employees with county cell phones if they are willing to use their personal cell phones for county business.

Engel had some concerns about the policy for employee flex time, but that issue was not on the agenda and he was advised to talk about it with LeFebvre outside the meeting.

County Board had been slated to meet newly appointed District Attorney DeShea Morrow at the meeting, but she was in court on the morning of the meeting and was unable to get to the Board room until after the meeting adjourned. Morrow was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to fill the post vacated by the resignation of Allen Brey. She has been Assistant District Attorney for Marinette County for about eight years.

At the start of the meeting Facilities Manager Martin Keyport reported on upcoming projects. Keyport said there are four somewhat major exterior projects in the works, including the exterior wall repairs at the UW field house building and parking lot, UW library, the courthouse annex flashings and walls, and the front steps at the former main entrance to the courthouse on Hall Ave.

There is also major work to be done on the antenna atop the courthouse. Most of this work will be done in spring of 2018.

Work on the UW fieldhouse interior and River Cities pool HVAC equipment is to be done late this summer, as are improvements to some of the buildings at the fairgrounds in Wausaukee. Keyport said he intends to put the HVAC equipment for the pool and fieldhouse outside, protected by a chain link fence, for safety, efficiency, and easier access for future maintenance.

The board approved appointment of Supervisor Fred Meintz to replace Supervisor Al Sauld as Health and Human Services member on the Building and Property Committee, and appointment of Wayne Gerondale to another three year term on the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

LeFebvre noted there are still two vacant positions to be filled as alternates to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and asked anyone interested in filling them to come forward.

To clear up an old series of errors the board agreed a request to release any interest the county has in a property owned by the estate of Dale Nutt in the Town of Amberg. Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison explained the property once was part of the old Amberg School Forest, which has not existed for many years and became property of Wausaukee School District, which signed off. However, there was a reversionary clause to the county, which no one was aware of, so the county still had a residual interest. Heirs are now trying to clean up the deeds to the Nutt property. "It was kind of a comedy of errors," Mattison told the board before its unanimous vote to approve the release request.

On recommendation of LeFebvre County Board unanimously approved elimination of three jobs and replacing them with another.

An Assistant Jail Administrator post was created, and an administrative correction officer post is to be eliminated.

A Waste Facilities Manager position was created to replace a Conservation Technician position, and an Assistant Land Information Director position was created, replacing the GIS Coordinator position in that office that was eliminated. Before being named County Administrator earlier this year LeFebvre had been Land Information Office Administrator and was manager of the MarOco Landfill. LeFebvre told the board that in each case, the people currently in the positions being eliminated will likely to move into the newly created positions.

Rezoning a Town of Pound property at the Intersection of Hwy. 141 and Double R road was rezoned from Agricultural Residential 1 to Highway Commercial Business District, as recommended by the Town of Pound.

The board approved a contract with Farm and Home Publishers to print 1,800 plat books in an 11X11-inch size with aerial photos at a cost of $17,867 ($9.93 per book) and to raise the price from $27 per book to $30.

Sauve commented the new plat books are much more definitive with far more information and the $3 per book price increase is well worth it.

Without dissent the board approved the 2018 budget policy as recommended by the Finance Committee.

They also approved a $34,960 agreement with ELEXCO, Inc. to install fiber connections for sharing high speed fiber optic connectivity with Marinette School District, the City of Marinette and NWTC.

To questions from supervisors, Information Technology Director Kevin Solway explained Marinette County is taking the lead on this project that will allow the county to connect to WISnet so they have control of how things are done, but will pay only 15 to 25 percent of the total cost.

Before the meeting adjourned, Anderson reported the Brown County Board had unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Back Forty mine project, and Door County Board is slated to take up an anti-mine resolution, "so there is opposition out there."

The proposed Back Forty Mine is to be located near the banks of the Menominee River on the Michigan side, and opponents have expressed concerns that the sulfide mine operations will pollute the Menominee River and the Bay of Green Bay. Marinette County months ago unanimously passed a resolution opposing the mine.


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