Commission debates making wage exceptions from new scale
OSCEOLA COUNTY — Although Osceola County Commissioners were able to settle on wages for elected officials during a special meeting on Sept. 9, they were still considering making wage changes for department heads during a meeting on Sept. 15.
The discussion concerned the newly established pay scale implemented at the Aug. 18 meeting for non-union employees, which will take effect on Jan. 1. Wages for elected officials, including the register of deeds, county treasurer, sheriff and county prosecutor, were set at the market average during the special meeting. In addition, the county coordinator will stay at the same wage, but receive an extra $2,600 each year with an extended contract through September of 2018.
Equalization Director Rosie McKinstry expressed concern at the Aug. 18 meeting about the new scale not taking into consideration years of service. She said she has worked for the county for more than 40 years and as a department head for more than 20 years, though would only be at a middle level of pay in the new scale.
At the Sept. 15 meeting, she addressed the commissioners again about the subject, discussing former compensation surveys done in 2000 and 2008 showing her compensation was about $5,000 less than average. This year's survey, she said, showed her compensation at about $8,000 less than average based on the wage scale's maximum step, her job experience, years of service and certifications.
"I feel I should be somewhere different than where I have been placed," McKinstry said. "I don't feel what I'm asking for is not justified or out of line."
Commission Chair Larry Emig stated he would prefer to speak with the survey's creator before moving forward on the matter, and reminded the board the wage scale is about the position, not the people in the position. He said if they made the same consideration for everyone it may be too high an expense for the county and might compromise the study's integrity.
Commissioner Alan Tiedt stated he is pleased with the work done by McKinstry and other county staff, but adjusting her wages sets a precedence for other employees who may want the same outcome.
McKinstry responded, saying she believes the county already "opened a can of worms" when they set the elected official's wages at the average market value, and department heads should receive the same treatment. No other county department head with the same years of experience is as low on the compensation scale as she is, McKinstry added.
Osceola County Jail Administrator Russ Wayne briefly added to the conversation, telling commissioners if they make an exception for one person, they must make the same exception for everyone.
In other business, the board of commissioners approved a motion requesting Spectrum Health reconsider its move of AeroMed services from Big Rapids to Traverse City.
The move is part of the merger between AeroMed and Munson Healthcare’s North Flight rescue service. Concerns were raised after Roben-Hood Airport Director Mike Lafferty delivered a report in July which indicated the rescue helicopter would no longer launch for operations out of Big Rapids. Not launching from Big Rapids could potentially add upwards of 20 minutes to rescue flight times for residents, according to Lafferty at a Big Rapids City Commission meeting on Sept. 8.
Three Osceola County Commissioners expressed their desire to keep the service in Mecosta County, as they believe it will impact response time for local emergencies.