Disaster declaration draws no action Tuesday
No action was taken on a county disaster declaration at Tuesday morning’s Washington County Board of Supervisors. Chairman Steve Davis read from a proposed declaration, based on storm damage beginning on June 26. Davis also said that emergency management coordinator Larry Smith requested the supervisors approve the declaration.
Davis added that when the damage done to public and private property in the county and in the city of Kalona were added up, the county qualifies for a declaration.
County Engineer Jacob Thorius said that such a declaration hasn’t been done in the past, but he also said the Federation Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is operating with some new rules.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said he wanted to find more information about the specific statute, and hear from Smith.
Smith will be invited to next week’s board meeting to discuss the declaration with them.
Thorius put in a personnel change request acknowledging that Chris Syphert has been hired for the Secondary Roads Department. He will work in the Crawfordsville area of the county.
The county engineer also wanted to clarify his decision to hire an assistant engineer. He is the only licensed engineer in the county. Engineers have to work with a licensed engineer for four years before they can be licensed. Thorius sees hiring another engineer as saving expenses in the county. If a consultant works on a county project, the consultant receives 10 percent of the project as payment. With another licensed engineer, the county can save the cost of a consultant.
Davis pointed out that three employees have left the engineer’s office — Jacob Hotchkiss, David Patterson and Lyle Moen. Thorius has been working with the smaller staff since he took over two years ago.
In final action, the board approved a motion concerning scheduled step increases in the sheriff’s department for deputies who are in a union.
Following the meeting, the board held a work session with Sheriff Jerry Dunbar and Chief Deputy Jared Schneider to discuss the pay scale and step increases for jailers.
The county jail loses jailers to surrounding counties that pay better wages than Washington County. The county officials present looked at the pay scales for the counties of Washington, Muscatine, Des Moines, Lee, Iowa, Henry, Poweshiek, Louisa and Jefferson.
A beginning jailer in Washington County earns $14.34 an hour, which is less than jailers in the other counties. The top beginning wage is $17.60 in Muscatine County, which is also the most populated county. After six months, six counties raise the jailer’s pay to a range from $14.92 to $17.59. Jailers in Washington County have to work one year to get a raise, which is $14.89.
At year two, Washington County pays $15.44; Des Moines County, $18.07; Iowa County, $19.66; Henry County, $16.98; Poweshiek, $17.62; and Louisa, $17.02.
It takes Washington County jailers seven years to top out at $18.11. In Poweshiek County, a jailer is paid $19.77 at the four-year mark; and Louisa County, $19.49 at four years.
Dunbar said he wants to pay a fair wage to retain jailers and hire new ones.
Supervisor Bob Yoder talked about what it really costs the county to train a jailer and then have that jailer leave after a couple of years.
“You’re trying to hire good help with not much motivation,” Yoder said.
Schneider said that after two to four years, some jailers get tired of dealing with the people jailed.
The supervisors scheduled another work session following the board’s meeting on July 22.
Schneider said he hopes the work can be done with just two work sessions.