March 22, 2017

Heavy debate surrounds policy change proposals

By Daniel Arens

It was a contentious scene at the Mercer County Courthouse. Three new policy changes were being considered by the commission. Though one of these was routine, the others caused considerable controversy.
The commission, meeting March 15 first addressed Policy 403 on paydays. This policy simply strikes out one sentence in the policy which contradicted another sentence. It does not change the meaning of the policy at all, but is designed to clarify the language.
Commissioner Wayne Entze moved to approve the second reading and adoption of Policy 403. Commissioner Dwight Berger seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.
Much more debate came forth with Policy 606(B). This policy deals with inclement weather procedures. It was discussed at the March 1 commission meeting, and proved controversial there. Entze moved at that previous meeting to kick the policy back to the policy committee to consider the issues raised.
There are two primary points of dispute. First, the policy as presented March 1 stated that these inclement weather procedures applied during “normal business hours”. This was objected to because not all employees work normal business hours, and there was concern these employees would not be covered the same as those who work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The other point, raised by Commissioner Dwight Berger, was that the policy change granted holiday-level pay in the event of inclement weather to all affected employees. Besides arguing that pay should not be at holiday levels, Berger also contended that it was unfair to grant the same level of pay to employees who stayed home due to a storm and “essential employees” like sheriff’s deputies who had to come to work in the storm in case of emergency situations.
“If everyone gets paid to stay home, what’s the compensation for those who do have to go out on the roads?” Berger asked.
The other county commissioners stressed that the reason for this policy change was because it was very hard for them to keep track of hours with the existing policy. This change would create a uniform system that would allow the commission to better monitor the compensation employees receive, necessary in building a solid budget.

 


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