Seven months after the Pottawatomie County Public Works Administrator job became vacant, the county commission is still struggling to find the right fit.
The commission voted 2-1 Monday to advertise a full salary range for the position. In the past, the county administrator only had authority to offer pay at the starting wage ($70,000) and up to 25 percent above that ($88,000). Commission Chair Greg Riat says that has handicapped the county’s ability to find the right fit.
Commissioner Pat Weixelman opposed the motion, preferring the county take a different approach.
By comparison, Riley County’s assistant public works director position was advertised at a salary range of $92,000 to $110,000, which is well above what Pottawatomie County had been advertising.
Riat says he’s fielded a number of concerns from Pottawatomie County residents over some of the county’s infrastructure. He says the county nearly got sued over issues with the Shannon Creek Road bridge near Olsburg.
Commissioner Dee McKee says while public works is doing a great job in the interim, she fears a lack of leadership could hinder the department’s ability to prioritize projects.
Weixelman disagreed, telling McKee following the motion’s passage that the county was “opening a can of worms” to which McKee acknowledged they already had in place. Weixelman quipped that McKee doesn’t know how to handle that can of worms. He says the decision only adds more tension among county employees, many of which haven’t received pay increases, other than cost of living adjustments, for several years.
Weixelman pointed to a larger issue affecting a number of employers in an already squeezed job market, saying the county is also struggling to hire truck drivers among other positions.
The idea of a wage study was tossed around by Commissioners Riat and McKee as a means of better aligning Pottawatomie County with its neighbors in terms of competitive salaries. Noxious Weed Director Tim Eisenbarth says it doesn’t solve the problem for long-time departmental employees, prompting a heated exchange between he and Commissioner Riat.
The public works administrator position has been vacant since former administrator Peter Clark resigned last fall.
The full salary range will be posted from $70,000 to $117,000, with the commission able to the negotiate with a respective applicant.