February 20, 2019The Crawford County Council last Tuesday night, at its regular monthly meeting at the judicial complex in English, approved a job description for the county's next Emergency Management Agency director, including approving pay based on certification level, along with adding a pay level for an assistant director.
"This is a starting point. At any time the council can amend, subtract from or add to, but we've got to have a point to start because we're going to start an interview process, soliciting applications, and we need this first," Mike Benham, chairman of the Crawford County EMA Advisory Council, said.
The job description, which is based on one provided by Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 10, to which Crawford County belongs, after being approved by the EMA Advisory Council, was approved by the county board of commissioners prior to being presented to the county council.
Following a motion and a second by Councilmen Chad Riddle and Dale Roll, respectively, Councilman Jerry Brewer asked Benham to explain what was being done a bit more prior to the council voting.
Benham explained the job description is needed so the seven-member EMA Advisory Council — comprised of one representative from each of the county's five incorporated towns and the county council and board of commissioners — can interview candidates for a permanent full-time director. He noted that, according to the law, the commissioners can only hire a director after the advisory council has made a proposal.
Currently, Don Burnham, of English, is the interim EMA director, having been appointed by the commissioners following Larry Allen's resignation in January.
Following a call by President William Breeding, the council voted 6-0 (Councilman Lucas Stroud was absent) to approve the job description.
Benham also discussed several items that the EMA Advisory Council believes need to be addressed, beginning with increasing the annual salary of the director's position and the creation of an assistant director's position.
The EMA director's position had been paid $28,710 per year, with half of that being reimbursed by the state if in compliance. Breeding and Mark Stevens, the council's vice president, presented the rest of the council with a five-tiered schedule for salary based on certification level, beginning at $34,000 and going up to $40,000.
Brewer said he didn't think the director's pay should increase, at least not until it is proven a qualified candidate cannot be found for the amount being offered.
"I will support $5,000, $6,000 for a part-time or whatever you want to do. We've been lax in that. … But I won't support any salary increase until you can't find anybody," he said.
"The county ain't blessed with money, and you're going to put them a whole lot ahead of a whole lot of other people."
Breeding said the salary isn't out of line with others in the county, noting that sheriff's deputies begin at $34,000 and the investigator in the Prosecutor's office makes $35,000. He added that the EMA director's position is 24/7.
"We've been told that we won't have a chance at starting anybody at $28,000," Breeding said.
Burnham said $34,000 is still below that of surrounding counties in District 10.
"The Dubois County assistant is making $38,000 a year," he said.
Breeding also proposed keeping the $28,710 in the salary ordinance, but shifting it to the assistant director's position.
He and Burnham reiterated that both positions would actually only cost the county half of what is being proposed, as the state will reimburse the county 50 cents for every dollar spent if in compliance.
Following a motion by Riddle that was seconded by Stevens, the council voted 5-1 (Brewer against) to adopt the proposed pay schedule for the director's position and to set the salary for the assistant director at $28,710 with the understanding that it currently is unfunded.
"Not $28,710 for an assistant when we haven't ever had one," Brewer said, explaining his decision to vote against the motion.
As part of his presentation to the council, Benham said the EMA Advisory Council noted seven items, including two that it ranked as critical, that need to be addressed by the new EMA director.
Critical items, he said, include creating a plan to obtain services to service back-up generators and battery back-up systems (i.e. judicial complex, communications equipment, early warning sirens and radio maintenance) and replacing the communication building at the English tower site. The building houses the repeaters for Crawford County Emergency Dispatch, Crawford County Highway Department and Crawford County Community School Corp, as well as the English Volunteer Fire Department back-up repeater and the local internet supplier.
Benham showed various photos of the building, which has a lot of rot. One of the photos showed a blown battery.
"This is one of the reasons we're pushing for these duties to go do the job not like it's been done in the past," he said.
Benham also showed a photo of the Carefree tower site from last fall with weeds grown up around it.
"If you can't drive around and say the weeds are this high and it needs to be mowed, there's a problem," he said.
Other issues included needing a communication service agreement for all repeater and voter sites; the addition of early warning sirens in the Alton and Wickliffe areas; the need for a storage building behind the judicial complex; the establishment of a fund for expenditures during emergencies; and the replacement of handheld radios with both 800 MHz and VHF capabilities.