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Published: 9/15/2009

Wood County board delays vote on wages

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

GRAND RAPIDS, Ohio — While eager to “put to rest” the controversy over pay raises for employees of the Wood County Park District, park commissioners Monday delayed adopting a new wage scale.

The delay came at the request of some members of the public, who said county residents — some of whom are still upset by the double-digit raises awarded then rescinded last January — should be given some time to comment on the 48-page compensation plan proposed by Clemans, Nelson & Associates. After park commissioners drew public fire over the raises, they hired the consulting firm to look at wages in similar-sized park districts in Ohio and propose a new compensation plan for the park district.

“I'm trying to put to rest an issue that has been plaguing the park district and the public,” George Thompson, president of the board, said after making a motion to adopt the compensation plan. “The intention is not to change any of the salaries at this point. We're not going to change any of what the employees are being paid presently.”

Dennis West of Bowling Green said there might not be more raises “presently,” but there would be in the future.

“It appears there is an anxiousness by the board to continue to keep pushing this issue through,” Mr. West said. “This report has a longevity well beyond the board members' life. I don't think to put it off for another 30 days is too much to ask so the public has a chance to review it and look through it and have a better understanding about it.”

Park District Director Neil Munger said the pay plan does not include a provision for raises based on the number of years employees work with the district but sets down a minimum and maximum salary range for each employee — most of which are in line with what employees are paid. It also sets starting salaries that are to be adjusted each year based on cost-of-living allowances.

“The biggest thing this study is going to do is to permit us to not have to cross this bridge ever again because what will happen from here on out is starting salaries will be adjusted annually so in 10 years we aren't looking at 10-year-old starting salaries,” Mr. Munger said.

After a lengthy discussion at the Beaver Creek Preserve near Grand Rapids, the board voted 3-0 to table a vote on the wage plan until its Oct. 19 meeting at park district headquarters, 18729 Mercer Rd.

Mr. Munger said copies of the plan would be available for inspection at the district office and at the nature center at the W.W. Knight Preserve at White and East River roads in Perrysburg Township. Mr. Thompson asked that members of the public submit comments in writing so that all three park commissioners can read them.

Also Monday, Rick Ruffner asked park commissioners whether they had discussed a recommendation he made earlier this year to increase the size of the board from three to five members. Mr. Thompson and Commissioner Joan Foster said they supported the idea, but the full board had not discussed it yet.

Mr. Ruffner said after the meeting he believes a broader-based board would increase the number of eyes and perspectives considering issues, which might have helped prevent the controversy over raises.

Mr. West said had the park board told county voters last year it planned to significantly increase employees' pay if its 1-mill, 10-year levy passed, it would not have appeared the raises were made behind the scenes.

aContact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.comor 419-724-6129.



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