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Emergency operations manager considered

Crawford County officials are looking to hire a new emergency operations manager, change how raises are given and reconsider how vacation days are donated.

Members of the Crawford Count Quorum Court Personnel Committee met Monday night to discuss several important county issues, brought forward by Crawford County Judge John Hall.

“The quorum court appropriates all the money, and these are things you all need to know about,” Hall told committee members Monday night.

One topic under discussion was the possibility of Dennis Gilstrap leaving his position as manager for emergency operations.

Gilstrap instead will be taking on a new role overseeing storm water runoff and the flood plan, and county road and subdivision permits that received new regulations in 2013.

Hall also has plans for Gilstrap to help with the building of the new detention center, he said.

A new employee would be hired and trained by Gilstrap to fill the management position at a lesser salary, and Gilstrap would remain over the Department of Emergency Management as a supervisor.

While Gilstrap has already taken on the new duties, Hall said they are overwhelming for someone who already is head of a department.

Gilstrap also spoke to committee members, adding that it was important to look down the road five years to a time when his age may interfere with his ability to handle the 24-hour-a-day duties of the emergency operations manager.

Because Gilstrap would be working with roads, the road department would pay a portion of his salary and only an additional $20,000 for both salaries would need to come out of the county general fund, Hall said.

Committee members attending the meeting seemed in agreement.

“Dennis is qualified and capable to handle these duties and obviously you have a lot of confidence in him,” Justice of the Peace James Lane said to Hall.

Hall also put forward the idea of implementing percentage raises versus the step raise policy now in place. Percentage raises would be determined by they amount of money available in the County General Fund, Hall said.

“By doing the step, it means we have to give ‘x’ amount of money,” Hall said. “We don’t have any way of giving less.”

Current step raises are at around 3.2 percent, Hall said, and has become to big an increase for the county’s dwindling funds, preventing the county from giving raises at all. Several JPs agreed.

“I think the opportunity for us to give a step raise is very, very small now,” said JP Elaina Damante.

By changing to percentages, the county would at least be able to give small raises when the money was available, Hall said.

Once topic that remained an item of contention, as it was when first discussed and passed in 2013, was the vacation day donating policy.

Though the policy was implemented at the beginning of the year and there was a month-long open enrollment for the program, no vacation days were donated to the collective pot, said JP Stanley Clark.

Clark helped work on the ordinance allowing full-time employees that have worked for the county at least one continuous year to donate accrued vacation time to a vacation time “bank.”

The program is meant to help employees who need to take time off because they or a family member is suffering a catastrophic illness.

Employees must retain at least 40 hours of vacation time for themselves, and to be eligible to benefit from the program, an employee must participate, meaning employees would not be able to be a part of the program until they have been with the county for at least two years.

Hall told committee members that he was not sure how the current policy was going to work, and that some things may need to be changed.

“We don’t need to throw the whole thing out, we just need to change some things to make it more user friendly,” Hall said.

Some county employees spoke up at the Monday meeting and said they were hesitant to donate in January to an empty bank.

“I thought to donate, but I felt my eight hours would make little difference to someone with a catastrophic illness,” said Pam Neel, chief deputy circuit clerk.

Neel suggested the county start the bank with a base amount of time to make employees feel more comfortable about donating time, and while Lane argued that would cost the county more money, Clark encouraged employee ideas.

“It’s always open for anyone from the Quorum Court to come back and tweak the system,” Clark said.

Other items discussed Monday included an increase in salary for IT technician Laura Hall, pay for city-county employees and the annual leave policy.

Only five of the 13 committee members attended the meeting, too few for a quorum. Topics were kept at discussion status and no official actions were taken. All items will be brought forward in future quorum court meetings, Hall said.

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