MONROE - A split Monroe County Board of Commissioners last week voted to give large pay increases to the three members of the Monroe County Road Commission, tying their salary to that of the county board in an effort to “remove the politics” from the process.
The raise comes just one week after eight of the county board's nine members voted to return Robert “Mickey” Duffey to the road board, this time for a full six-year term.
The raises will bring the pay of the three road commissioners from its present annual rate of $7,365 to a number that is equivalent to 80 percent of the pay of the county board. For the road commission chairman, the pay will increase to $13,440, an 82 percent increase, while the other two members of the road board will be paid $10,972 next year.
Six of the nine county commissioners supported the raises, which were proposed by road board chairman Tony Majauskas, while commissioners Floreine Mentel, Thomas Mell, and David Scott opposed them. Mrs. Mentel cast the only dissenting vote against Mr. Duffey's reappointment on Dec. 12.
Mr. Majauskas - who along with Mr. Duffey was appointed in 1999 to help resolve problems caused by the road commission's dispute with former managing director Jerry Bartnik - had campaigned for a wage increase for those in what can arguably be called the most thankless appointed job in the county.
The road commission chairman has said the long hours, numerous meetings, and equivalent responsibilities to that of a county commissioner meant that some type of economic parity should exist between the two boards.
In addition, with the earlier appointments of Mr. Duffey and Mr. Majauskas, the county board began requiring that road commissioners hold at least a bachelor's degree and have some previous experience in related fields to be considered for the job. County board chairman Dale Zorn said the requirement of a college degree should elicit a pay premium for the job.
Initially, the county board appeared set to increase the road commissioners' pay along with their own last summer, but that plan was abandoned when the county impaneled a compensation commission to determine the salaries of not only the county board, but also other elected officials. The road commissioners, because they are appointed and not elected, were not part of the compensation commission's deliberations.
But while a majority of the county board cast approving votes toward the performance of the three-member road board, Mr. Majauskas said the road agency still is facing an uphill struggle with both funding and expectations of performance.
“We do not have enough money or resources to perform at the level the citizens expect or deserve,” he said. Among the problems he mentioned was the agency's recent inability to clear snow from subdivision streets in Bedford Township because of a lack of manpower and equipment.
He also took a swipe at recent criticism of the road commission's estimates to fix Rauch and other poorly maintained roads in the county. Earlier this month, Road Commission managing director Ralph Lange had laid out six alternatives to fix Rauch, all of which were dismissed by township supervisors as too expensive.
“It's time for those people to get their heads out of the clouds,” Mr. Majauskas told the county board, saying the days of fixing a mile of road for $50,000 were over.
If the agency can get its financial and operational houses in order in the next few years, Mr. Majauskas said it may even ask voters to approve additional millage to help fix local roadways.
Most of the funds to run the road commission and fix local roads are from the state. The agency is exploring revenue sources, such as allowing communications companies to locate radio towers on commission land.