Friday, December 28, 2012

County staff get pay raises, meet new face

Salaries rise by more than $6,000

Express Staff Writer

Jacob Greenberg

Blaine County government saw a number of changes in 2012, including a rise in compensation levels and the resignation of a multi-term commissioner.

County commissioners voted on Aug. 20 to raise their salaries from $55,434 to $61,522 for fiscal 2013, despite a citizen committee’s recommendation to forgo any raise for the next fiscal year.

The committee, made up of 10 county residents, was formed by the commissioners to determine how much of an increase would be warranted. County Human Resource Generalist Susan Potucek suggested that the commissioners’ salaries could be raised by $21,265 each, and County Administrator Derek Voss said the market-rate wage would be more along the lines of $90,147 annually—similar to the salaries of Ada County commissioners, who make $95,524 per year.

The commissioners said they worried that too low a salary could prevent others from running for office. Then-commissioner Tom Bowman said during a budget hearing on compensation in August that many qualified people who might be of value to the county currently have better-paying jobs, including as teachers and engineers.

“It’s a policy question of whether we should broaden the pool of who can sit in these chairs,” he said. “[There are] a whole host of professionals that make substantially more than this position does.”

However, committee members did not agree, and submitted a report stating that a raise of $3,158 would bring Blaine County commissioners to a salary that would match the average salary of commissioners in Idaho counties with similar populations—but also recommended that the commissioners not take the increase.

“When we looked at [the economy], we did come to the conclusion that we cannot recommend an increase in your salary at this point,” said committee member John Meyer.

Bowman agreed with the committee despite his earlier statements, saying the public would not support a raise this year. He was overruled by Commissioners Larry Schoen and Angenie McCleary, who voted to approve an increase of $6,087.61. That added a 5 percent cost-of-living premium to the benchmark salary determined by the committee.

 “These are hard jobs that deserve to be fairly compensated,” Schoen said. “This job shouldn’t just be for old, wealthy retired people.”

Bowman was the only commissioner to vote against the increase—and also the only one not to benefit from it, as he resigned from his position as commissioner in October.

Bowman announced his resignation in late July, stating that he was leaving to become chief executive officer of Sentinel Fire and Security, in charge of operations and development. Bowman had sold his private company, Ketchum Alarm, to Sentinel in 1999.

Bowman had served nearly eight years on the board of county commissioners and on the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority. After a lengthy selection process by the Blaine County Democrats, Gov. Butch Otter appointed Hailey resident and Shorty’s Diner owner Jacob Greenberg to the post in October.

Greenberg was officially sworn in on Oct. 29, diving directly into issues such as providing skilled nursing care in the county and forming formal opinions on airport issues.

“I am ready to make decisions the first day on the job,” Greenberg said in October.

Kate Wutz:

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