• 63°

County to buy graders, give employees bonuses

As a result of the county’s improved financial outlook, commissioners agreed Monday to pay off eight motor graders, buy eight more and to give out “one time pay supplements” to county road crews and administrative personnel.

Cou-nty Engi-neer Darren Capps said he felt the timing “was right” to replenish the county’s grading fleet.

“The economy is up,” Capps said. “I see an opportunity now where we can get our money out of them.”

The grader fleet was reduced from 10 to eight when the county converted to the unit system for road maintenance. Now, those eight graders will be sold using sealed bids.

Capps said he estimates a return of approximately $127,000 for each grader sold.

“That means we can pay off each grader and save the money we would have had to pay out for equipment payments this year, which would have been about $230,000,” he said.

Capps said additional large equipment sales would cut the county’s overall equipment payment by $750,000 next year.

Chairman Lynn Sasser said the county is now in a financial position to distribute “one time pay supplements” for employees; however, when discussions began, a difference of opinion arose just how and where that money would come from.

Commissioners agreed there were four basic “departments” of employees – those who did not work under an elected official and those in the Sheriff’s Office, those in the Probate Office and those in the Revenue Commissioners office – each of whom fall under the supervision of an elected official who could utilize discretionary funds for the annual supplement.

County Administrator Brenda Petty said there are 67 employees that do not fall under the supervision of an elected official and that the county could utilize $10,000 from the county’s contingency fund for the supplements.

Probate Judge Ben Bowden said he expects to spend $2,000 for supplements for 11 employees and asked to use his regular wages and salary budget to pay for them. He also said while he understood the commission’s position, he didn’t feel it was fair.

“I think it’s a bad precedent in my office to use that money to make ends meet,” he said. “That (contingency fund) money has been abused in the past, and I feel like we should pay these supplements out from the regular budget from the commission.

“(The supplements) are something that should have been put in the budget,” he said. “I feel it’s a dangerous thing for you to use the line to give just road employees a bonus.”

Commissioner Bragg Carter said, “If we do it for you, what about the other departments? If the other departments take care of their folks, we’ll take care of the road crews.”

Commissioners agreed with Carter and voted to pay $150 to fulltime employees and $75 to part-time employees within that group of 67.

Sheriff Dennis Meeks said he plans to utilize his portion of the federal inmate funds to pay supplements, which equates to an estimated $33,000 for supplements for 54 fulltime employees and two part-time employees.

Revenue Commissioner Janice Hart said she plans to spend approximately $2,000 for supplements for 11 employees.

The day’s meeting ending with an executive session where commissioners discussed the “good name and character of an employee.” The meeting will reconvene today at 8:30 a.m.

In other business, the commission:

• approved to purchase two vehicles from the state surplus for use by the sheriff’s office.

• announced owners of the Tiger Quick Stop in Straughn had made application for an off-premise beer license. The commission will hold a public hearing in January.

• announced that as the lease partner of the Pt. A Campground, Thom Watson with the Sweet Home Alabama Campground has the authority to set fees for the boat launch at the Pt. A campground.