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07/27/2019

Mississippi County Raises Several Employees' Pay

 

Tuesday night, the Mississippi County Quorum Court approved a measure that appropriates $7,049 from the County General Fund to raise pay for several employees in the Senior Citizen Center, Collector’s Office, Sheriff’s Department, Assessor’s Office, Emergency 911 and Veterans Service Office.

These employees will see the increase in their paychecks beginning in the July 28 pay period and continue the remainder of the 2019 calendar year.

Finance Chairman Justice Michael White said in last Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting, justices discussed 15 employees who were below the second quartile — three being below minimum and 12 being in the first quartile. White noted that two employees on the 15-employee list were left off due to “extenuating circumstances.”

White added, “What you will see tonight in the last part of our meeting will be an appropriation ordinance coming out of the Finance Committee where we are going to move those 13 people up and with the exception of the two that I just mentioned we will have everybody in at least the second quartile and that’s the first time that I can remember that ever happening since we initiated the JESAP (Job Evaluation and Salary Administration Program) comparison program.”

White said the county has done a JESAP comparison since 2010 and performs them every even year. He added that Mississippi County is considered a Class 4 county, which means there are 30,000 to 50,000 citizens.

County Clerk Janice Currie read the JESAP appropriation measure, White moved to adopt the ordinance, and Justice Neil Burge seconded, with it passing unanimously.

White added that the numbers may seem low but it’s because they are only half a year. Therefore, in the 2020 budget they will be higher. Not shown in the JESAP comparison is that the county pays 100 percent of the insurance benefits.

County Treasurer Peggy Meatte reported the current interest rate at Farmers Bank and Trust in Blytheville is 2.65 percent and that the sales tax in June is up — the highest it has been in 10 years.

Meatte also noted that there is $1,408,153.24 in the County General Fund and that the Senior Citizens Fund is negative $2,289.91; however, they are waiting on a check to come in which will be them in “good shape”.

Thursday, the Personnel Committee met, with County Judge John Alan Nelson calling the meeting to order.

Judge Nelson said that JT Harris is being paid out of the road department in the heavy equipment operator line, and he said he would like to make a change to better reflect Harris’s position within the county as he is the county judge chief strategist.

Nelson said he would like to keep the slot of heavy equipment operator and add another slot funded by the road department.

Justice Bill Nelson asked the county judge how many hours Harris works, and Judge Nelson responded that varies because Harris also works at Big River Steel on a four-on, four-off shift.

Financial Director Kelli Jones stated Harris is a part of the retirement but doesn’t take insurance.

Judge Nelson added that he doesn’t anticipate Harris will ever be a full-time employee.

The position will be open for a strategic planner for a yearly rate of $29,354 in the Road Department.

Judge Nelson said he would be still be paid out of the Road Department budget but that he does a lot of work throughout the county.

Judge Nelson added that Harris has saved the county money in several contract negotiations; several companies paid for a road to be asphalted paid and he also negotiated the leachate rate, which saved the county $73,000.

Justice Howard “Bubba” Norvell made the motion and Justice Alvin Clay seconded.

The slot and appropriation will be sent to Finance for approval.

Judge Nelson added, “We’ve got far more people in the judge’s office than I think any county judge has ever had. We use more and we are getting a lot done and it really helps. There’s no way one person can do what has been generated out of that office.”

Another topic discussed was adding another slot for custodial duties with the Blytheville Courthouse doubling in size and needing a lot of cleanup work.

It was mentioned that there are two custodians at the Osceola courthouse and one custodian at the Blytheville courthouse.

Justice Rick Ash asked if Nelson wanted the slot now or after the renovation is completed in the Blytheville courthouse?

Nelson responded, “No, it doesn’t have to be done now.”

Ash suggested looking at the issue during the budget process and possibly adding the position then.

Nelson said they will be moving four offices on August 15 to Vo-Tech building and the Circuit Clerk’s office and extension service will still be in Blytheville.

Ash then asked again if a slot needed to be opened.

Nelson responded, “I would not fill the slot now, but I’d like to see it there. I am in no hurry to fill it.”

Norvell asked when and if the Blytheville custodian comes back from medical leave would the currently used contracted labor stop?

Judge Nelson explained that there is enough work in the courthouse that he would keep the contract labor if and when the custodian comes back. He added that he would like to see the slot opened so he can hire the contracted labor possibly in the future.

Justice Nelson stated they needed the slot.

Norvell made the motion to create a new custodial position in the Blytheville courthouse, starting the salary at $23,834. Justice Nelson seconded the motion to send the matter to the Finance Committee.

Lastly, Norvell said he and Judge Nelson have been working on a project with the Arkansas Game and Fish to build a new boat ramp in Blytheville at the end of Highway 18, over the levee and behind Nucor Yamato Steel where the current lookout is.

Norvell added that Arkansas Game and Fish just approved $60,000 to do the survey this year and hopefully the boat ramp will get built in 2020.

Norvell said Game and Fish will build the boat ramp and more than likely turn it over to the county.

Norvell said several “players” are in with this project and it has been going on for a long time. “Basically the Game and Fish now has a county judge they can work with and this is where it is going,” he said.

Judge Nelson stated it’s “way too early” to be discussing it but his goal is to be, “a really, really nice well-kept park. Hopefully, with facilities there that makes it comfortable for visitors.”

Nelson said the overlook currently there is “sad” and he’d take a cutting torch to it if it were his.