PLYMOUTH — To hire or not to hire.
The Marshall County Commissioners continue to debate the replacement of employees in various departments of county government in an effort to meet what continue to be challenging times for the bottom line in the county budget.
The Commissioners put forward a policy of reduction by attrition to the Marshall County Council during budget hearings in August. While many governmental agencies have faced the laying off of employees to meet the demands of drastically reducing tax revenue for programs, the Commissioners hoped to avoid layoffs of current employees and instead sought to reduce the payroll by not replacing workers who retired or decided to resign to seek employment elsewhere.
While the policy has met the need to reduce payroll, it has left many department heads and elected officials struggling to provide services for county residents with drastically reduced staff. County Auditor Penny Lukenbill, County Clerk Julie Fox, and Highway Superintendent Neal Haeck have all faced reductions in staff and while they have accepted the reductions, they have also come before the Commissioners and Council to plead their case to maintain efficiency.
Haeck is currently seeking to replace a mechanic on his staff, as well as a staffer assigned to signage around the county. Since “mechanics” perform all other duties for the staff in addition to working on the county’s aging trucks, the Commissioners approved a replacement of the staff member retiring. They are seeking more information regarding upcoming federal requirements on county road signs.
The county must meet all federal guidelines regarding road signs in order to be eligible for federal road funding. Nearly all county projects are funded in whole or large part by federal funds and the need to stay in compliance to be eligible for those funds is at the forefront of the Commissioners’ decision.
All county signs must be mapped by GPS and meet reflectivity and other standards set by the feds.
While Haeck has the board’s endorsement for the mechanic replacement, he must wait for any word on the sign position. The Commissioners did not endorse or reject Haeck’s request, waiting for information from the Michiana Area Council of Governments regarding the extent of the federal requirements for signs.
Former Commissioner Cliff Allen made an appeal to the current board of Commissioners to approve the replacement, pointing to the fact that the Highway Department has reduced 10 employees in the past 10 years.
The decision on the replacement of any employee in the county also requires County Council approval.