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David Palmer, county engineer

Highway department amends budget, seeks more employees

Another lengthy discussion regarding employment and budgeting for the Franklin County Highway Department dominated the Franklin County Commission meeting Jan. 22. This discussion took place a week after the commission work session Jan. 14 when county engineer David Palmer originally brought up the topic.

Palmer requested to hire nine permanent employees for the highway department, expanding the department from 13 full-time employees to 22. The department also has two part-time and six temporary employees in the current budget.

When the budget was made for this year, funds were not allocated to hire so many new permanent employees, but Palmer said he has a plan in place to handle that: amending the budget by moving money from a certain line item.

Commission Chairman Barry Moore said he was hesitant to approve hiring so many new employees at one time in case something happens that would put the budget and the department in a bind.

“I’m on the side of caution,” Moore said.

Palmer said there is about $390,000 set aside for contract labor and equipment. He suggested taking some money from that fund to pay for the salaries for the employees – benefits included. Palmer said this reallocation of money would good for the department because it is cheaper to have county employees for projects and work orders than it is to hire contractors for the same tasks.

“We need to be able to run a work order crew, project crew, pothole crew and people for brush cutting, mowing and herbicide,” Palmer said. He said all of that cannot be achieved with a department of 13 people.

Commissioners agreed something needs to be done to staunch the overflow of county road problems that currently exists.

“We have to stop it somehow,” Commissioner Rayburn Massey said.

At the Jan. 22 meeting, the commission approved to post advertisements for the nine permanent positions.

Other actions taken at the meeting include:

  • approving the promotion of Felisha Weeks to lieutenant in the sheriff’s department.
  • approving the resignation of Dale Frederick from FCSO.
  • approving the hiring of Rhonda Bullion as a corrections officer/dispatcher for FCSO.
  • approving hiring Alaina James as a corrections offer/dispatcher for FCSO.
  • approving hiring Kyle Palmer as a deputy sheriff.
  • approving hiring Richie Michael as deputy sheriff.
  • approving hiring Ricky Johnston as a permanent Solid Waste Department employee.
  • approving the Road Gear industrial access agreements with Civil Group for $26,860, to be fully reimbursed.
  • approving acquiring loan quotes for the purchase of a new pothole patching machine for the county highway department.
  • approving the notice for the vacating of the road off of Highway 31 and setting a public hearing for March.
  • approving the internal controls for the Franklin County Commission.
  • approving the catastrophic sick leave policy.