December 11, 2012

Whitfield commissioners approve employee bonus plan

Charles Oliver

— Some Whitfield County employees could be getting bonuses soon.

The members of the Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 on Monday to approve $282,455 so that department heads can OK one-time discretionary bonuses based on performance. That money, which will come out of the general fund, will be divided by departments based on the number of employees.

Each full-time county employee is eligible for a bonus, but an information sheet passed out by board members says the award “is truly discretionary and should not be expected by any employee.” The sheet says department heads are to award the bonuses based on “an employee’s performance, attendance, job difficulty, individual liability, inherent physical danger” and other criteria.

Each department head will determine how much the bonuses are, but County Administrator Mark Gibson said the upper limit is $2,000.

Commissioners budgeted $357,000 in 2011 for longevity pay. But Board Chairman Mike Babb said commissioners decided not to award longevity pay this year.

“We had a majority of commissioners who said that they didn’t think the fact you’d managed to stay with the county a certain number of years was a very good reason to receive a bonus. They wanted it attached to some sort of performance,” he said.

Babb said federal employment law has also changed recently, marking it harder to award such longevity pay.

“We really couldn’t give a bonus just based on years of service. It would have to be based on more than that,” Babb said. “The employees haven’t had a raise in four years, and we are spending less on bonuses this year than we did on longevity pay last year.”

Board members also voted 4-0 to extend Gibson’s contract, which would have expired on Dec. 31, for two more years. He will receive $95,000 a year, the same as under his existing contract.

“I’m thrilled. I’m enjoying the job, and I’m proud to be working for the commissioners and serving the people of Whitfield County,” Gibson said.

Commissioners also approved 4-0 a public works service delivery agreement with the county’s cities that spells out the county’s responsibilities for jail operations and road maintenance. The general terms of the agreement were hammered out during Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) talks with the city of Dalton earlier this year. The agreement promises that Dalton will receive a share of whatever funds commissioners approve for road resurfacing equal to its share of total county street and road miles. That’s currently about 20.5 percent.

“So if the commissioners approve $1 million for roads, Dalton would get about $200,000 of that,” said Babb.

Babb said the county could end 2012 in the black but the LOST agreement will divert about $3 million in LOST dollars from the county to the cities in 2013.

“Even with the 1-mill property tax (the board passed this year), we will start the year a half million behind because of that,” he said.

Board members also voted 4-0 to:

• Approve a bid from Dalton’s Brooker Ford for two 2013 mid-sized, four-wheel drive SUVs for $23,776 each for the sheriff’s office. The purchases will be funded from the sheriff’s forfeiture fund.

• Approve a contract with Connie Blaylock to serve as Juvenile Court judge. The contract will pay Blaylock $101,810.  The Juvenile Court judge is a county employee but is appointed by the Conasauga Superior Court judges. Blaylock has served as Juvenile Court judge since 1996, but Gibson said the contract clarifies her status.

• Approve the purchase, for $11,910, of a new dryer for the Whitfield County jail from Southeastern Laundry Equipment Sales of Marietta.