The Highland County Commissioners on Wednesday approved a new contract between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the Highland County Sheriff’s Department, giving hourly employees a 2 percent raise each year for the next two years.
Commissioner Jeff Duncan said the raises could be more than that the first year, but, “depending on calculations, it could be 3.8 percent and maybe as much as 4 percent.”
Duncan said that was because of step raises that were incorporated into the contract’s first year, but the second year of the contract will be a firm 2-percent pay increase.
Commissioner Gary Abernathy concurred with Duncan’s assessment of the step raises in the contract.
“The additional step raises account for most of the differences,” he said. “Technically it’s a 2 percent starting point, but when you figure in the step raises for the first year it goes up.”
Abernathy said the contract was negotiated using figures from three perspectives.
“The sheriff was doing calculations and brought this to our attention,” he said, “then we did our own calculations, along with the auditor, and everybody settled on the same amount.”
Contract negotiations began last September.
“We thought it was going to be a straight forward 2 percent raise,” Commissioner Terry Britton noted, “but when the steps were negotiated in, that changed things a bit in the first year.”
The contract signed by commissioners Wednesday will expire on New Year’s Eve 2019. It is retroactive to Jan. 1 2018.
“It’ll open up again next year,” Abernathy said. “It’s only a two-year contract, so we’ll be back at the bargaining table as we go forward.”
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera was not in attendance at the meeting. As of Aug. 2, when the commissioners first approved a tentative contract, Barrera had not signed the document. The sheriff did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
In other matters, Duncan said he learned at a Tuesday night meeting of the Highland County Emergency Management Agency that the agency has received a grant in the amount of $28,812.
Duncan said Director Dave Bushelman told him the grant was for “pre-disaster mitigation” to reduce overall risk to the population and structures from future hazard events.
Duncan added the grant had the objective of reducing reliance on future federal funding in the event of some sort of disaster.
Commissioners also signed off on a contract for the upcoming Highland County Fair involving the Emergency Management Agency.
The Fairgrounds Emergency Operations Plan is a book that outlines policy and procedures in the event an emergency situation would occur during the county fair.
Also Wednesday, the commissioners opened sealed bids for cash rental of 64 acres of vacant land at the Leesburg Industrial Park.
Britton said the bidding out process benefits both the county and a local farmer.
“This gives the county some revenue since the land is sitting idle,” he said, “and it allows a local farming concern to enter into a contract to farm the land.”
The three-year contract was awarded to Hattan Farms of Hillsboro.
Commissioners approved a resolution for an additional $145 from unappropriated funds for the Highland County Common Pleas Juvenile Division for payment of expenses.
Commissioners offered their condolences to the families of Dick Zink and Ray Cook, both of whom recently passed away. Zink was a longtime city legislator and mayor, and Cook was a master gardener volunteer for the Highland County Extension Office, who passed away unexpectedly.
“Those two individuals will be missed,” Duncan said.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.