The Marshall County Council heard from Highway Superintendent Jason Peters during their meeting Monday about the future of the department.
Peters told the council finding new employees is extremely hard, in fact, he’s had a position posted for 2 months without any response. He also said retaining employees is beginning to be an issue with “headhunters” contacting some of his employees offering large sign-on bonuses and more money hourly. Peters said the current market and the new CDL requirements are making it more difficult to fill open positions. He said, “It’s not just here, it’s the same for almost all highway departments around.”
The Highway Superintendent said there is a minimum number of employees that he can operate with, and they are at that number now. He said the County Highway Department is down 8 employees from when he started in 2004 and 10 employees from 2002. Peters said, “We have to do what we can to keep the employees we’ve got. I know these are not simple tasks, but I also know if nothing happens and we will lose some, more will follow.”
Jason Peters estimated losing 5 employees from the Highway Department if nothing happens in the next few months.
Auditor Julie Fox told council members a heavy equipment operator is paid $21.04 and a road foreman makes $22.04 an hour. Peters suggested raising their pay to $25 hourly as a way to keep them on board.
Councilman Tim Harman suggested giving employees with a CDL a stipend of possibly $5,000 noting how valuable they are to the county’s road program. He asked about having them reclassified by Waggoner, Irwin and Scheele, the county’s HR consultants.
Councilman Jon VanVactor said all county employees are important to the workings of the county and his recommendation was to the County Commissioners. He suggested they cover the insurance costs for employees for the rest of the year. He estimated that cost to be $66,000. He also recommended covering that cost for employee insurance in the 2023 budget.
Commissioners Mike Burroughs and Stan Klotz attended the Council meeting on Monday and said they were supportive of the suggestion of covering the insurance cost for employees.
Commissioner Klotz felt $25 an hour for a CDL driver was reasonable and suggested other ways to let employees know they are appreciated. He mentioned looking at longevity pay, the vacation package, insurance, and wages and said, “We are only as good as the employees we’ve got.”
Commissioner Burroughs also suggested covering the cost of CDL physicals for the drivers which aren’t covered by the county’s health insurance plan.
A joint work session with the County Council and Commissioners was scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday, June 20th following the commissioner’s meeting in the second-floor meeting room of the County Building. The council is inviting all department heads and elected officials to attend and make a case for their office since this economy is affecting everyone. The Auditor will also see if a representative from Waggoner Irwin & Scheele could attend the joint work session too. The meeting will be live-streamed.