By Ralph Echtinaw
County Commissioner Jan Bunting implied last week that county employees frequently leave work early, especially on Fridays.
“I come over here (to the county building in Ithaca) a lot of Fridays when there’s hardly anybody here,” she said. “So I’m thinking there’s a lot of employees here (that are) paid (for) 40 hours a week, or five days, but are only here maybe four days a week.”
Bunting continued, saying if she visits the county building at the end of the work day “hardly anybody walks out.”
The setting was the regularly-scheduled Dec. 6 meeting at the county building in Ithaca. The subject was a request from County Administrator Tracey Cordes to elevate Human Resources Officer Sheila Barnaby, 40, to Human Resources director, which would come with an increase in pay from $21.50/hour to $32.51/hour.
Barnaby, a St. Louis resident, has a bachelor’s degree in human resources and has worked in HR locally for ten years. Last year she was certified as an HR professional through the Society for Human Resources Management.
The county hired Barnaby two years ago, and since then she has performed the duties of an HR director while being paid at the lower HR officer level, Cordes said in a memo addressed to the board of commissioners.
In Cordes vision, an HR director would interpret contracts, help managers “stay within the lines,” work directly with department heads on employee coaching and disciplinary action and keep abreast of changes in legislation and regulations.
However, commissioners Chuck Murphy, Sam Smith and Bunting weren’t buying it. They provided the three no votes necessary to quash Cordes’ request.
“What I see here is that (Barnaby) will be making more money than all the elected officials,” Bunting said. “And she’s not an elected official.”
Commissioner George Bailey took exception to that. Elected officials “knew what their salary would be when they got elected,” he said. “It’s completely different situation.”
“I don’t see it as different,” Bunting said. “I would not give anybody $11/hour raise unless it was probably maybe someone that like the Sheriff’s Office deputies who work seven days a week off and on and 24-hour shifts.”
County employees are already paid “really well,” Bunting said. “If somebody doesn’t want their job I’ll switch with them. I make $9.87 an hour (as an Alma schools paraprofessional), and I’m more than happy to work with the schools to help them out. I’d be happy to work here to help you guys out. And I think this is ridiculous paying $11 more an hour, and they make more than people who have been here five or six years. You’ve got people here longer than that who don’t even make that much.”
Bunting went on to request a list of all county employees, how much they are paid and how long they’ve been employed by the county.
“When I get back (from a funeral) I’m coming over here, and I’ll sit there and I will wait until I get that information. And I think this is ridiculous giving people this kind of a raise.”
To hear Bunting’s whole speech, visit the county’s YouTube video of the meeting and fast forward to the two hour, one minute and 45 second mark.
Commissioner Smith objected to creating the new position because the raise Barnaby would get would dwarf the 4.5 percent raise most county employees got this year. “It wouldn’t sit well with me,” he said. Besides, “I don’t know if we need that position here,” he said.
Rotunda paint and plaster work authorized
Commissioners voted unanimously to award a contract for plaster and paint work in the courthouse rotunda as well as circuit and probate courtrooms to Bud Percha Painting of Mt. Pleasant for $48,156.
Other bidders were Dave Cole Decorators of Sparta ($84,380), C Squared Painting of Farwell ($93,123), and John Canning & Company of Connecticut ($291,000).
Building inspector Tony Miller said Percha Painting did similar work on a church that was built in 1881 and was also involved with a museum project in Edmore with good results.
“It’s going to be a winter time project so we should be able to start fairly soon,” Miller said.
Health department heating and cooling
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a $386,000 contract with Custom Heating & Plumbing of Mt. Pleasant to install a new heating and cooling system in the health department building.
Also bidding was Refrigeration Mechanical Services of Greenville ($477,075.)
That’s a better price than the county got earlier this year when bids were first solicited for the project ($427,000 and $629,000).
Part of that change was due to the county redesigning the project. Instead of installing four furnaces in the attic they will be on the ground floor.
“I’ve worked with Custom Heating professionally in the past, mainly on a residential scale, but I could tell you if Dan says he can do it he’s going to do a good job,” Miller said. “We’ve used them several times. They’ve gotten us out of a couple bad jams over at the jail with some plugged drains, done some other work for us here at the county. (And) they employ a lot of Gratiot County people.”
Water softener for the jail
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve purchase of a new water softener system for the jail from Kinetic Pro Total Water Care of Clare for $11,486.
Also bidding were Lindsay Soft Water of St. Louis ($17,598) and Total Water-Culligan’s of Alma ($17,985).
The Kinetico CP216S is unusual where water softeners are concerned. There is nothing to plug into an electrical outlet, as the system is driven by water pressure.
Miller checked around to see how local institutions using that kind of softener like it. “I spoke with the head plumber over at Alma College for his advice, and it sounds like a really good deal.”
Other nearly places that use the CP216S include Perry Hotel in Petosky, Chippewa Motel in Mt. Pleasant, Crystal Mountain resort and Treetops Resort of Boyne City.
Five year warranty
Commissioners unanimously approved a non-disclosure agreement between the county and Point Broadband, an internet service provider in Gratiot County.
This was done so that Point Broadband officials can be more forthcoming with county officials about their plan to bring fast internet service to the whole county as county government works with ISPs to make this happen.
For more information, read this Sentinel story.