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Stevens Co. Commissioners approve salary increases for elected and non-union employees

MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved a one percent pay increase for the country's elected and appointed officials, but declined to increase their own salaries for the upcoming year at their last meeting of the year on Friday.

In a 3-2 vote, the commissioners approved a one percent pay increase for the county's four elected officials: County Auditor/Treasurer Neil Wiese, Sheriff Randy Willis, Recorder Virginia Mahoney and Attorney Aaron Jordan. The board also approved an additional $8,471 for Willis as compensation for his duties as the Stevens County Emergency Management Director.

Commissioners Paul Watzke, Larry Sayre and Jeanne Ennen voted in favor of the increase, with Commissioners Phil Gausman and Ron Staples voting against the motion.

When the salary increase discussion began, Staples moved that both Wiese and Jordan not receive one percent pay increases, citing Wiese's performance and Jordan's short time working for the county.

Staples said he thought Weise was not taking on the responsibilities that the county needed, including learning to do financial statements for the state auditor.

"We've been asking [the auditor/treasurer] for two years to do it," said Staples. "Some of the stuff that come in on our yearly audit, it's just a repetition every year and nothing gets changed as far as what they get done. ... I'm not happy with our audit procedure and us not taking on the responsibility of financial statements."

Staples also said that while he though Jordan was doing a good job in his role as county attorney, he should be in office for a year before he receives a salary increase.

Gausman agreed with Staples on the motion. "I was kind of disappointed that when the subject of passports came up and [the auditor/treasurer] said that he refused to do them because its not mandated," said Gausman. "As an elected official, I would think your job is to serve the public in whatever way it takes in your office."

Staples' motion was defeated on a 2 to 3 vote, with Staples and Gausman voting for a Watzke, Sayre and Ennen voting against. Watzke then moved that all four officials receive the one percent increase, which was approved.

Sayre said he wanted to keep the increases for elected officials uniform, which Watzke agreed with.

Ennen said she didn't think that the review procedure implemented by the county this year was developed enough yet to be used in salary determinations. Earlier this month, the commissioners sat down with the elected officials to do formal performance reviews. This was the first time the board had adopted the procedure.

The board unanimously approved a one percent cost-of-living adjustment to the county's non-union wage schedule, which impacts 15 appointed officials and supervisors and a one percent increase to Giese's annual compensation for the additional duties he takes on as county coordinator.

The only group not receiving a one percent raise is the commissioners themselves. The board voted to keep their per diem rate - the amount each receives for attending committee meetings - at $60 per meeting. The commissioners' annual salary was set at $16,787, the same salary they approved in 2011 and 2010.

Other business

In other end-of-the-year business, the board:

• Approved a solid waste collection/transportation license for Engebretson Sanitary Disposal Service.

• Approved a County Feedlot Program Work Plan for 2012-2013, which outlines the county's plans, strategies and goals for administering and implementing a feedlot program. Environmental Services/Planning & Zoning Director Bill Kleindl said the plan was similar to what was past two years ago - feedlots will be registered every four years when inspections are done.

• Approved hiring Maria Berlinger as an office support specialist for Human Services. Berlinger is scheduled to start work on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

• Approved a roadway signing and pavement marking policy for all county roads. County Engineer Brian Giese told the board that the policy requires the county to develop and maintain a sign inventory and outline a sign inspection plan.