ALPENA - Last fall the Alpena County Board of Commissioners implemented a spending freeze that included raises and new hires until the county could rebound from a financial pitfall caused by an overrun in the child care fund. But as the amount of work climbs for some employees, the commissioners believed it was important to review the pay of several employees and approved some increases during Thursday's meeting.
The raises and two promotions were on the commissioner's consent agenda and passed 6-0, with Commissioners Mark Hall and Eric Lawson absent.
The raises were issued to County Clerk Bonnie Friedrichs who will receive a wage increase of $4,018 annually, and Tammy Bates, who took the new title of executive manager to the board, saw an increase of the same amount. Laura Ellery will take over Bates' former position as board secretary and get an increase in hours not to exceed 40 hours, and a $1.22 an hour raise.
Commissioner Cam Habermehl said the spending freeze is still in effect, but compensation levels needed to be made because of the amount of work and responsibility that is placed on them.
"We have all of this extra work and we can't afford to hire people to do it. If you hire someone and then pay the benefits you're looking at a lot more," Habermehl said. "We have excellent, excellent, excellent people. We have a prosecutor who is top notch, Bonnie, the treasurer, Tammy, Laura. We have people going over and above and doing a great job. We are constantly giving them more work and we need to compensate them for it."
Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said the move was anticipated, and as a result money was set aside in the county's contingency fund when the budget was done to cover the increased costs. He said there are others being evaluated as well, including Prosecutor Ed Black and County Treasurer Kim Ludlow. VanWormer said the employees who are doing the most for the money will be the ones who will reap the rewards.
"This is about value and the people doing the work we need to take care of," VanWormer said. "If they are providing the county and the taxpayers a value for that work then they deserve it. These hard working people are the ones that are going to help us get to the point to where we can lift the spending freeze."
The county operates without a county coordinator and has for the most part done so in an effective manner. Habermehl said even with the increase in work for the staff and the commissioners, a coordinator is not needed.
"I think when we had a coordinator nobody on the board knew what was going on," Habermehl said. "You look at it now and all the commissioners are involved and you can ask any one of us a question and we will know the answer. If we don't, we can find out in a hurry. We are all involved in all of the issues."
VanWormer said he didn't believe the raises would come back to hurt the county when contract negotiations begin with the union employees.
"There are raises starting this year for the union workers. We need to take care of the good workers we have union and non-union," VanWormer said.
In other business:
* the board voted via phone poll that VanWormer have his monthly compensation set at $1,000 and then he and the county will true-up at the end of the year.
* the commissioners voted to purchase one hot water heater for Northern Lights Arena from the surcharge fund and another from the contingency fund. VanWormer voted no because he didn't want to see the fund drained further.
* Commissioner Tom Mullaney updated the other commissioner on the recent MAC conference in Lansing.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.