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New Staff Positions, Employee Benefits Get Nod From Summit County Council

The Summit County Council has passed two resolutions to amend the 2021 budget.

At their June 16th meeting, the Council restored some staff benefits, following a pandemic year that saw budget cutbacks.    They also created some new staff positions.

But that didn’t come without some questioning, and some debate, from Council Members.

The County Council voted to provide a 3 percent Merit increase for those employees who did not receive that scheduled benefit in 2020, because of the disruption brought to the budget by the pandemic.     They also approved a 4 percent Cost of Living Adjustment for all employees.

The Council also approved some new staff positions.    Those include a multi-media coordinator—due to the county relying more on Zoom technology and increasing its demands on the IT department—and a public lands manager.

However, the vote on the two resolutions was 4 to 1.    Council Member Doug Clyde said he only voted Naye because he discovered during the discussion that the proposal wasn’t adding more money and staffing for code enforcement.       

“We’re doing the same code enforcement that we’ve been doing for 20 years, which means we’re missing things that are falling through the net, like we don’t even have a net.   If we hired another code enforcement person, I would be in favor, and that’s why—I did not realize that we weren’t doing that.   For some reason, I was convinced we were, and I’m sorry.   (Stevens) We could have staff explore that, and bring that in a separate resolution.”

The latter comment there from Council Member Malena Stevens.

Council Member Roger Armstrong ultimately voted for the package.   But he said he was concerned about the fiscal impacts of adding more and more staff positions in recent years.

Concerning the position of public lands manager, County Manager Tom Fisher said they already have an employee who would be a good candidate for the job.    And Deputy County Manager Janna Young said they have a lot to keep that person busy.

But Armstrong said the county shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that hiring in-house is better than contracting to an outside person or firm.      

“It always bothers me a bit to say we have plenty of work to keep somebody busy.   We’re not looking to keep somebody busy, we’re looking for somebody to actually solve the problem.   Have we done the analysis, a thorough analysis, that tells us that hiring a body in-house to do this work is more efficient and more cost-efficient, and allows for better and higher and more expertise lift than hiring out on a discrete basis for each of these things that we need to accomplish.”

Council Member Clyde said there’s a critical need to manage the many, complicated facets of their forest lands.      

“I know from personal experience what that means.  It means, essentially, that the resource is going to be destroyed through some catastrophe, be it wildfire, be it flood, be it flood caused by wildfire.   It doesn’t matter.  The resource will be destroyed if we do not manage it.”

Armstrong responded that he agrees with that priority.      

“And I’m not questioning that.   I’m questioning how we’re doing it.  Is it an individual?   Is it a company?  These wildfires are breaking out.   California has to have people doing this exact kind of work right now, and they’ve got far deeper expertise than any individual that you’re going to hire.  So my guess is what’s going to happen on this is you’re going to hire an individual that’s then going to have to hire a company, and oversee that company’s work.  And that doesn’t strike me as an efficient use of resources.    (Clyde) Yeh, and having managed a lot of timberland and an enormous amount of soils and erosion control and all of those related items, I can assure you that there are people out there who do that really well, and you don’t have to hire a company to do that.”

County Council Members Roger Armstrong and Doug Clyde.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covers Summit County meetings and issues. KPCW snagged him from The Park Record in the '80s, and he's been on air and covering the entire county ever since. He produces the Week In Review podcast, as well a heads the Friday Film Review team.