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Committee divided over emergency management coordinator’s hours

Taylor County Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Committee board members were divided on monetary expenditures during their recent meeting. The divide stemmed primarily from the notion of moving emergency management coordinator Coleen Handrick from a 35 hour work week up to a 40 hour week.

“She’s being paid on a 40 hour week right now, so putting her on a 40 hour week next year would not really change much, except for on paper,” said chairman Lester Lewis, voicing his support. “ We should do it because this [pandemic] won’t be over that soon. We all wish it would, but it won’t.”

Lewis proposed that the board not make it a permanent 40 hour work week, but that they go year-by-year, starting with 2021. If they denied to pass the motion, Handrick would go back down to 35 hours a week, with no overtime, and would not receive compensation for time worked until she reached 45 hours, at which point she would again receive payment.

Board member Scott Mildbrand was against the idea of cementing Handrick in a 40 hour work week, although he said he supported the notion of paying for hours worked. He said that previously it was decided any time worked over 45 hours a week would be paid as straight time for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, not overtime.

Mildbrand noted that the finance committee made a directive to reduce budgets by 2%, and by not putting Handrick at 40 hours a week for 2021, they would be in that range. He said he predicted funding from the state will be cut to their already “tight” budget in the near future, and they need to look at ways to save money.

Lewis countered, underlining the importance of having a readily available emergency management coordinator, especially considering the current circumstances.

“You said two conflicting points there, Scott,” replied Lewis. “You said you believe in paying for time worked, but you’re not going to pay her for 10 hours of time if you have her locked in at 35, and only start paying her again [after the 35 hour threshold is reached] for anything over 45 hours.”

The committee approved the motion in a 3-2 vote, but it still has to go to the personnel committee and budget committee. Lewis, along with board members Myron Brooks and Catherine Lemke, voted yes, while Mildbrand and board member Ray Soper voted no.

Lewis then called for a vote to approve the budget, which likewise passed in a 3-2 vote, due to no reductions of the budget in line with the finance committee’s request.

“The budget this year is going to be gruesome,” said Mildbrand, giving his thoughts on the matter. “We’re adding positions, we’re not following the 2% reduction, it’s just a scenario for disaster.”

The committee also voted on the purchase of law enforcement body-cameras for $24,665.90, which was unanimously approved.