September 23, 2015

County tensions rack short P&Z meeting

By Daniel Arens

A county agency meeting that is only 11 minutes long must set a record of some kind, but the Mercer County Planning and Zoning Commission had little they needed to discuss. In fact, most of the meeting hinged on previous discussions, including tensions about employee pay.
Commission Chairman Dwight Berger said that he has reached the end of his patience regarding pay raises. He noted that the per diem rate should have been an increase of $100, but that the Mercer County Commission had only raised the rate by $75.
“All you hear is we’ve gotta treat our people right,” Berger said, arguing that the commission did not live up to its standard of fair treatment. Other employees have also expressed concern about employee wages.
The tension regarding wages has carried over since wages were discussed last year, in which some offices saw notably larger rates of wage increase over others. Berger argued that the same discrepancy could be found in wage discussions this year.
County commissioners Wes Gunsch and Duane Scheurer, who sit on the planning and zoning board, were present but did not speak about the issue. At the last county commission meeting, the commissioners discussed balancing a more conscientious approach to employee wages with a need to look at each budget and employee separately rather than basing decisions about one department’s wages on what a different department received.
Berger brought up concerns about Mel Roth’s variance request for three campers instead of the one camper pad that his permit allowed. Berger pointed out that there wasn’t even a residence at the site when the permit was for a temporary residence and camper pad, and now Roth was requesting two more pads.
The planning and zoning commission determined that they could possibly change the wording of the ordinance to ensure that things are handled more carefully by potential permit applicants. Because Roth’s variance has already been approved by the county commission, he will not face any changes or penalties; any new ordinance would apply to future cases.

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