Commission votes down county employee bonuses

Published 8:15 am Friday, October 19, 2018

It was a busy night during Monday’s Carter County Commission meeting at the courthouse.
The meeting, which ran roughly four and a half hours, saw much discussion on the topic of raises for county employees as well as the need for help at the Carter County Landfill and the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.
During the committee reports portion of the meeting, many budget items were brought up for a vote as Budget Committee Chair and county commissioner Ross Garland addressed the commission.
Garland raised three separate motions to fund monies that were originally taken from the Carter County Highway Department, the Carter County Emergency Management Agency, and Elizabethton Senior Center using money obtained through unclaimed funds from the State of Tennessee.
The commission approved, 14-8, to fund the Highway Department $61,765. The commission, however, later that same evening, voted to reconsider the motion that provided the funds to the Highway Department and then voted to send the matter back to the budgeting committee. The commission also voted against funding the EMA $20,000  from the unclaimed funds. The Elizabethton Senior Center was, however,  approved unanimously for $600.
Carter County Commissioner for the seventh district, Sonja Culler, raised issue with providing funds to the EMS and Highway Department, since, according to her, the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter and the Carter County Landfill were short staffed following resent lockdowns of trustees at the Carter County Detention Center.
“Since last Tuesday, the animal shelter has been open partially, one day, because, unfortunately, we depend on trustees to run the animal shelter,” said Culler. “We don’t have employees to run the animal shelter. They are trying to clean the animals, clean up the shelter, and get it open, but they cannot do it.”
Culler also went on to say that the Carter County Recycling Center hasn’t been open for the same amount of time.
“If you want to use some money, use the money to put somebody at the animal shelter and the same thing with the recycling center.”
During the meeting, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said that trustees cannot be relied upon as regular employees due to the possibility they could be made unavailable during lockdowns and that the number of available trustees fluctuates.
Later, Culler raised a motion to hire two temporary, part-time employees for the animal shelter and the landfill. The motion passed 14-8 with commissioners Willie Campbell, Nancy Brown, Mike Hill, Patty Woodby, Ronnie Trivett, Randall Jenkins, Gary Bailey, and Travis Hill voting no.
The issues of bonuses for county employees was also brought up and Garland made a motion to fund a $250 bonus for full-time employees and a $150 bonus for parttime employees. The motion failed 9-9 with five commissioners abstaining due to cause. Mark Blevins, Bradley Johnson, Robin McKamey, Kelly Collins, Rick Richardson, Ross Garland, and Ginger Holdren all voted yes, while Robert Acuff, Mike Hill, Ronnie Trivett, Charles Von Cannon, Jerry Proffit, Austin Jaynes, Randall Jenkins, Gary Bailey, and Sonja Culler all voted against the motion.
Culler said she believes that the county should, instead of pursuing bonuses for employees, seek a way to provide pay raises.
Jenkins also spoke up about the matter during discussions.
“I have sat on the commission for four years now, and we have talked and talked and talked about giving raises,” said Jenkins. “And we have given raises of one percent and two percent. But here we are again if I vote no on this (bonuses) tonight, I will be darned if the budget committee better get off their butts and figure out something before budget time comes around, and we have to scramble to figure out a decision.”
Later that evening, the commission voted to give school paraprofessional with the food service program bonuses of $250 for fulltime and $150 for parttime. The money totaling $19,120.05 would come from the Cafeteria Fund unassigned fund balance.

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