County continues to debate replacement hiring

PLYMOUTH — Marshall County continues to work out employment issues in the wake of its tightening budget.
In order to meet constraints earlier in the year the Marshall County Commissioners suggested a policy to the Marshall County Council of a freeze on any new hiring and in order to continue to reduce costs, also suggested that the county adopt a reduction of employees by attrition — by not replacing employees in any department that decided to retire or leave for other employment.
Some department heads have come before both boards to ask for replacement of current staff retiring — pointing to a reduction in efficiency and ability to deliver current services. Highway Super-intendent Neal Haeck joined that number Monday.
Facing the loss of three employees by the end of the year — Haeck came before the Marshall County Commissioners to seek replacement of a mechanic, a sign person and a heavy machine operator.
Haeck stated that while the specialty of the mechanic position was repairing equipment they perform many other duties on a routine basis — such as snow plowing, mowing and road work as well as other duties — but the age of county trucks and other equipment and the need to not replace it with new equipment made it necessary to have the position. If rehired the new mechanic would keep the total number of mechanics at the department at four.
Haeck also said the need for a person to handle the county’s sign program was essential with new federal mandates about reflectivity of signs and GPS marking. The county program must meet federal guidelines to continue receiving grant money for road projects.
He said he currently would not ask to replace the position for a heavy equipment operator.
Discussion from the Commissioners centered on the sign position, questioning if the position could be handled part time. Haeck laid out federal guidelines regarding all signs in the county to be recorded in a computer database and marked on GPS. Every sign must also be tested and pass a reflectivity standard. He stated that he could not even tell the Commissioners how many signs were in the county and the demands for technical and computer knowledge also complicated the process.
The Commissioners voted unanimously to allow Haeck to approach the County Council about hiring a replacement mechanic but President of the Commissioners Kevin Overmyer asked Haeck to provide the board with more information on the federal signage program that the county will need to undertake with the help of the Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) before a decision is made on the sign person.
The Marshall County Highway Department is funded by the state tax on gasoline. No funds for the department come from the county General Fund or other sources. Haeck will need the favorable recommendation of the Commissioners and then must approach the County Council for the final approval necessary to hire any employees.