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Pay hikes approved

WINDSOR –At their May monthly meeting the Bertie County Board of Commissioners voted to increase to salaries of two of the county’s employees: Sheriff John Holley and Water Department Supervisor Rickey Spivey.

“Now is the time to act decisively”, encouraged Commission chairman Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson. “When you examine the events around the country, it is incumbent upon this Board to strive for stability and continuity of leadership in the area of law enforcement.”

Earlier in the Commissioners’ regular monthly meeting for May, Commissioner Stewart White shared recent crime statistics from across the nation. Wesson, in his remarks, reminded his fellow Commissioners of the work load demands on the Water Department Superintendent based on priorities established by the Commissioners.

Wesson reminded the Commissioners that Holley has served the community his entire career in law enforcement, and that his service to Bertie County has been outstanding by all measures.

The chairman further noted Holley is now eligible for retirement after more than thirty-two years of service and that to continue on his present path Holley would begin to lose significant income to continue working, rather than drawing his retirement earnings.   In fact, the County would be paying more in local funds for Holley’s supplemental separation pay in retirement, than it would cost to retain him under the proposal before us this evening.

Former Sheriff Greg Atkins, who served in the post for 11 years from 1999 to 2010 when he and Holley essentially switched jobs as Sheriff and Chief Deputy, filed for retirement this year and Wesson said now is not the time to experience another void in leadership for the Sheriff’s Office.

“Sheriff Holley has agreed to work within this existing budget as he reviews his command structure and he desires to make an across the board increase for his staff utilizing lapsed salary money already earmarked for his department”,  commented Commissioner Ernestine (Byrd) Bazemore.

Commissioner John Trent then offered a motion in three parts:  first, to increase the Water Department Superintendent’s annual salary to $70,000 effective in the new fiscal year that begins July 1.  Spivey increase would also coincide with the merger of two municipal water systems, Lewiston-Woodville and Roxobel, into the county’s district water system.  This increase of $14,019 or a 25 percent increase will be absorbed within the water system’s enterprise fund with no impact on the General Fund or the county tax rate.

The second part of Trent’s motion was to include the Commissioners’ immediate retention offer of an annual salary of $76,000 for Sheriff John Holley in recognition of his more than thirty-two years of service to Bertie County.  The increase of $10,172 or 15.5 percent is said to be based on the Commissioners’ commitment to maintaining a strong continuity of leadership for law enforcement in the County.

“It also recognizes that Sheriff Holley would be losing significant income earnings if he were to postpone his retirement for which he is eligible,” said Trent.  “This motion includes the implementation of the electronic monitoring program (EMP) which will be supervised by the Sheriff’s Department, and closely coordinated with the court system and the staff at the Bertie-Martin Regional Jail.

Trent, who serves on the regional jail board, added that the staff member assigned to coordinate the EMP will receive an appropriate salary adjustment, not to exceed 10 percent.

The Sheriff has also made it a priority to provide an across the board increase for his staff of five percent, and utilizing lapsed salaries including holding the chief deputy position vacant upon Atkins’ retirement to cover all of the increases noted above.

The Sheriff’s retention proposal includes two $2,500 increases set for his salary scheduled for July of the next fiscal year (2016) as well as July 2017.

Trent emphasized in commenting on his motion that the Sheriff will not be eligible for any across the board adjustments which are received by other county employees.

Finally, the third part of Trent’s motion included a directive for the County Manager and the development of the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget to include targeted salary adjustments for workload, performance and market conditions for other key positions within the county structure.  Additionally, Trent said he hopes the Commissioners are seeking to include in the next budget, funding for a comprehensive job classification and compensation study for all departments.

The motion was seconded by Bazemore, and passed by a vote of four to one in favor, with the lone dissenting vote coming from Lee.

Prior to adjournment, Wesson requested that a statement be placed on record noting that the Commissioners have made a commitment to its citizens to be clear, transparent and forthright in all deliberations and decision making.

“Since the newly organized Board of Commissioners began its work in December 2014, the Commissioners have focused on strategic decisions that will benefit Bertie County residents for years to come,” Wesson’s statement read. “The Board has also identified “human capital” as a component of the county’s critical infrastructure.  We further recognize that county staff is a valuable resource, and we encourage the County Manager to develop succession planning strategies, and to invest in staff training and promotion opportunities for County employees.”