County board OKs 15% bump for sheriff’s staff, premium pay for EMS shifts

Fedler opposes rate hike saying 10% increase “was huge”.

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber whittled an extra 5% for staff wages out of his budget for next year, but had a bit of a battle getting the Lee County supervisors on board Tuesday.

In January, Supervisors approved a 10% increase for all county employees, with the exception of Weber and his administrative team who got 45% under the new Back the Blue calculations.

Weber said Tuesday at the regular Lee County Board of Supervisor’s meeting that Chief Deputy Will Conlee was able to thin the budget in the way of equipment to find an additional $100,000 for the added increase.

WEBER

“We’ve asked the staff to be a little more responsible with the equipment and treat it well so it lasts a little longer. That sacrifice will be in cars and the equipment that goes into them.” Weber said.

Chairman Matt Pflug said he had given it a lot of thought even though he didn’t vote yes on the 10% increase.

“I’ve had a few calls on it and basically people are saying, ‘Where does this thing stop?’,” he said. “I know your officers are going up and down the road and they are at risk. There’s no doubt about it.”

Fedler said he’s had phone calls and private conversations around the raises, but he hears the same thing.

“Once you pass it, it’s not going away next year. It’s not like your buying an item and that’s it. This will continue on year after year. They were not happy with the amount of increase.”

FEDLER

Fedler say he understands inflation is high, but said in comparison he can find bacon and hamburger on sale.

“I’m a frugal shopper and I’ll look for bargains to hold my costs down. When I think of that and the 10% to the majority of the public I represent – they weren’t happy with it.”

Weber said it was his goal with the budget this year to get his staff to $25 an hour for jail staff and $30/hour for deputies.

“I’m going to appeal to you again. It’s 5% that we found again in our budget. We don’t pad our budget. These are things that we do need, but my staff understands and they’re willing to get by on less to get that extra 5%,” he said.

Weber said when he first approached the board with his budget, he said this was the year of the employee.

“I don’t just say that. I mean that. We gotta walk the walk. I don’t just talk the talk,” he said.

“I cannot strongly suggest this enough to you. I know it’s just 5% but it means a lot to my staff. It’s a nod to them. It’s an appreciation and it’s going to keep staff here.”

Weber said it costs $180,000 to train a new deputy, and it’s cheaper to pay them more than to hire and train them.

He also said there are other departments around the state watching on zoom to see what the county is going to do with wages because it’s that competitive.

Fedler told Weber the 10% increase was a huge increase and next year Weber won’t be able to keep those budget cuts in the department. Weber said his message to the staff is this is how it gets funded and those behaviors that yielded the savings this year would continue.

The motion to approve the extra 5% was passed 3-1 with Fedler being the dissenting vote.

In an unrelated issue the county also approved a Lee County EMS premium pay policy that will compensate non-exempt staff at double time and a half for hard to fill shifts.

EMS administration designates open, hard to fill shifts no earlier than 48 hours prior to the start of the shift and lets all employees know at the same time. Then employees can notify either Director Dennis Cosby or Director of Operations Jason Dinwiddie that they are willing to pick up the shifts.

The move comes after Cosby informed the board two weeks ago that staffing was at a critical state.

In other action, the board:
•approved 4-0, the purchase of three pieces of equipment for secondary roads including a motorgrader, wheel loader, and excavator from Caterpillar at a cost of $726,395. Caterpillar offered a 3.7% total discount on the equipment if the county purchased all three pieces. Caterpillar’s bid was $893 over the bid of John Deere for the three pieces without the discount.
•approved 4-0, the 10% increase in wages under the administrative personnel contracts.
•approved 4-0, to lift leave time requirements for county staff.

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