May 3, 2023
May 3, 2023
Commissioners Scott Miller, Scott Blain, Administrative Officer Angela Newell Road Union President Phil Nardinger, Eric Walker, Tyson Bauwens, AFSCME Field Representative Hannah Nash, County Attorney Alex Nixon, and Human Resource Specialist Kate Asbury were in attendance for Union Wage Opener.
10:10 Nardinger opened negotiations and expressed concerns about employee retention and attracting qualified candidates who do not need a ton of training. Nardinger commented that in snow events road crew operations pre-empt the function of the rest of the County. Walker noted the requirements to hold a CLD certification and for employees who have a multi-faceted skill set (electrician, mechanic, plumber) make finding qualified candidates a challenge. Nash noted CDL regulation changes that eliminated on-the-job training for CDL certifications; the Road Union members would push for an increase to 95% and 90% of the Elected Official base wage.
Blain noted his shop would prefer higher wages over the additional staff. Blain noted he does not disagree with the crew’s points and noted the skill level of many of the operators, but has heartburn over a 15%+ increase in a single year. Blain noted the benefit of working the 4/10 schedule, retirement, and paid holidays that make the hourly wage hard to compare with the private sector. Walker noted the need for many members of the road crew to take on additional work to afford to live here. Blain noted he is agreeable to working toward a further increase in subsequent years.
10:20 Bullock joined the meeting.
Nash clarified CPI and previous increases.
Sheriff Josh McQuillan joined the meeting.
Blain discussed equipment upgrades that have been made over the years. Concerned about the domino effect on other departments requesting additional increases.
Bullock noted the parallels he sees with union members and deputies in Elected Offices and the role of other department heads lobbying for increases for their deputies which have been elevated to the statutory maximum at an expedited rate. Bullock noted the Commissioners’ split responsibility as department heads and overseeing the overall budget have kept them from pushing increases for their employees historically. Bullock noted the lack of qualified applicants in the last hiring pool and sees a need to attract qualified applicants for the benefit of the public and for the continued operations of the shops. Bullock believes rates should be commensurate with Sheriff’s wage
structure; 95 or 98% for Foreman and 90% for crew with a perpetual tie to the Elected Base wage and eliminate the annual wage opening. Nash cannot guarantee that wages would never again be negotiated but suggested that the addendum could be structured to indicate that it is the intent to permanently tie wages to a percent of the Elected Official wage.
Miller asked about phasing wage increases with a higher percentage in subsequent years rather than doing it all at once. Bullock would rather do it and be done with it.
Bauwens asked about future increases; Bullock noted other positions are perpetually tied to a percentage of the Elected Official’s wage and receive the same increase as elected officials; he would like to see a similar wage configuration for the Road Department.
Blain noted after comments in compensation board hearings regarding fiscal responsibility and the need to accommodate for increases to operational expenses he is unwilling to exceed the original offer made by the County.
Sheriff noted comments in the Compensation Board hearings that a 3% increase was fiscally responsible and that the County could not afford the 8% recommended by the public members of the Compensation Board. McQuillan noted his support for the road crew, but that he also supported the Commissioners’ 3% cost of living increase because of public perception and the other needs of the County. Asbury noted applicant pool and retention is a County-wide issue. Discussion of statutory wage rates identified in statute for Sheriff and employees. McQuillan noted the discussion of position cuts and hiring freezes which helped justify the lower rate and noted the perception is that other department employees are paying for a road crew wage increase. Discussion of Union benefits and the Union’s negotiating voice in relation to the Compensation Board. Nixon noted that historically there has not been a deviation or much of a deviation from the county-wide increase. Nixon echoed McQuillan’s comments.
Nash discussed the Union’s negotiating authority.
McQuillan noted if money exists for this raise then why doesn’t it exist for more of a raise for other staff and why were budget cuts and hiring freezes discussed at Compensation Board Hearings?
Blain noted Commissioners have been painted into a corner with Bullock’s proposal to the crew outside of Union negotiations. Nixon noted the County’s decision to not match the CPI for the rest of the staff was partly due to the current economic uncertainty. Blain would like to see the road crew’s wages elevated but does not agree with doing it all in one year. Blain promised that in wage discussions next year, he will not forget that the cost of living increase was below the consumer price index.
Bauwens noted dealing with the public has become more challenging.
Nardinger expressed frustrations with not getting an additional 1% requested last year, but the County hired an additional road employee.
Miller noted the increased demand for services and the County’s need to explore if additional staffing would meet that increased demand. Noted this year he is willing to concede the additional staff position to help provide resources to fund the Road Crew wage increase. Discussed equipment needs (which have also increased). Miller commented that the jobs of Road and Sheriff’s deputies are apples and oranges. Miller also echoed comments about the challenge of serving a dual role as Road Superintendents and Commissioners. Miller noted the difference in the wage advocacy role for other departments and noted that unfortunately, the Road Crew has been on the losing end of the Commissioners’ dual role.
Blain asked what would prevent future negotiations from asking for more; Nixon clarified other positions have a statutory ceiling already established. Walker noted that the Crew wants to be caught up from the historic shortfall from when the crew fell behind; not looking to go beyond wages for other positions.
Discussion about the possibility of re-establishing the Road Superintendent position and whether the wage scale is tied to the supervisor’s wage or tied to the EB as other wage scales are.
11:00 McQuillan Departed.
Newell configured percent increases for putting the Crew at 90% of the Commissioners Base wage (a 16.24% increase) and 95% for the Foreman (an 11.91% increase). Bauwens noted that if there is a plan in place to get to those percentages in short order it does not need to happen all at once. Walker asked how they got so far behind on wages compared to other wage scales in the County; he agreed that there needs to be a plan to get them caught up.
Nixon noted the county recognizes the gap, it is a question of the speed in which it can be bridged. Discussion of the progressive steps to guarantee increases over a 2 or 3-year period to reach the 90% and 95% levels. Blain would prefer a three-year period but is not opposed to doing it in two years. Bullock agreed to a two-year period with the caveat that language be added to perpetually tie the wage scale to a percent of the Commissioners base wage.
11:10 Union adjourned to discuss outside of the open meeting.
11:30 Union returned. Nash thanked the Commissioners for their honesty. Noting the negotiating members are agreeable to a 2-year strategy with wages set for 7/1/23 at 85% and 90% with an increase to 90% and 95% on 7/1/24. With the addition of MOU and then to integrate MOU when opener.
Bullock moved to approve increases as proposed above with the addition of increasing the boot allowance in the MOU; Blain seconded; Bullock commented thanking the crew for their efforts; Miller noted that in 1961 the road crew was at 92% of the Elected base wage and at some point between then and 2003 that fell to 82%; would like to rectify the historic shortfall, but can’t justify it all in one year noted the importance of every employee position in serving the public’s needs; Walker thanked commissioners for their working relationship and noted this will be a great increase to the crew’s morale; motion carried.
Respectfully submitted: Angela Newell, Administrative Officer