The Highland County Commissioners on Wednesday approved a 40-cent raise across the board for employees of Highland County Job and Family Services following a visit from the agency director, who said her department’s pay rates are comparatively lower than a number of similar Ohio counties.
The increase, which will be allocated from state funds that cannot be used for child placement, totals $41,000, according to JFS Director Katie Adams.
Adams cited a number of reasons for requesting the increase at the commissioners’ regular meeting on Wednesday.
Adams said the average salary at the agency is $36,400, while the average county employee salary is $39,100; JFS employees in seven Ohio counties similar to Highland top out at $3 more per hour than agency employees here; and agency employees here have not received a raise in several years.
Adams and Board of Commissioners President Shane Wilkin also discussed staff turnover at the agency.
Adams said the agency has lost 10 or 12 workers in the past year. As a result, the agency’s effectiveness has taken a hit, Adams said, since it takes time for new employees to be trained and become adept at their jobs.
Wilkin said while approving the pay increase may draw criticism, it is in the best interest of the agency.
“I don’t have an issue with it,” he said.
Commissioners Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton said they had no objection. The board voted 3-0 in favor.
Wilkin also lamented poor funding from the state for children services.
“We rank 50th in the nation for what we do for child protection,” said Wilkin.
Adams said she has been able to slash the county’s placement costs by more than $1 million since she was hired three years ago. Currently, annual placement costs for the agency total $1.5 million, she said.
Adams said as of Wednesday morning there were 110 children in the agency’s custody.
Also Wednesday, Britton said the Highland County Community Action Organization recently expressed interest in taking over the county’s recycling program after Heidi Devine, the current county recycling outreach specialist, offered her resignation effective March 31.
Britton said while Devine performed excellently as outreach specialist, the position itself has been somewhat of a “revolving door,” since it is only part time and attractive to individuals who are retired or otherwise engaged.
Wilkin said if the CAO takes over management of the program on a contract basis with the county, it would allow more than one person to oversee operations.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins will review the matter, Wilkin said.
“I think it’s going to be a great move for the county,” Britton said.
In other recycling news, the deadline to apply for the 2018 Recycling Grant has been extended to April 1, according to a release from Devine. For more information, call Devine at 937-509-2899, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duncan said Highland County Emergency Management Agency Director Dave Bushelman told him the agency applied for a state grant for computer upgrades at the office, and was denied. Duncan said Bushelman will continue to look for funding opportunities for the computers, which are in need of an upgrade.
Also in need of an upgrade are the cast-iron drain pipes beneath the Highland County Justice Center, according to Britton. Britton said the pipes are deteriorating, and he is getting quotes for repairs.
The board also discussed the benefits of the Rocky Fork Lake sewer. Wilkin and Britton said the water quality of the lake has improved thanks to the sewer system, and as a result more events have been held at the lake.
Wilkin said the board will soon issue an official response to a series of letters from a property owner at the lake asking for a reduction in sewer assessments on his property.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” to reduce the assessments, Wilkin said.
Wilkin said the dates have been set for the 2018 Smokin’ in the Hills event at Rocky Fork. The barbecue cook off will be held Sept. 21-22 this year, and coordinators are working on making the event “bigger and better” than the inaugural cook off last year, Wilkin said.
Britton said Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie brought in designs for a fountain to possibly be placed in front of the county courthouse.
In other business, the commissioners appointed Commission Clerk Mary Remsing to the Highland Metropolitan Housing Authority Board; appointed Michael Richards to the Highland County Board of Developmental Disabilities; and approved routine financial resolutions.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.