City Ink: New year could come with more money for city employees

Augusta city employees can look forward to a merrier Christmas and a happier new year with more cash to spend if the Augusta Commission votes to implement the results of a compensation study as expected.

 

The new pay scale will take effect in January, but not all of the raises will be in the first paycheck of the year.

The lowest-paid employee in the city now makes $16,000 to $17,000 a year, but under the new plan, no one will make less than $20,000, said City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson.

“And that’s one of the best things about the plan,” she said in last week’s presentation to the administrative services committee, which approved it unanimously.

Every full-time employee will receive a 1.5 percent raise Jan. 19. A second pay adjustment to meet new market minimums for all employees goes into effect March 16. The second adjustment affects 917 of the city’s 2,652 full-time employees.

Increases for employees with 10 years or more of service will go into effect March 30. Some 968 employees are eligible for these “veteran premiums.”

For example, the pay for a 10-year senior heavy equipment operator will go from $24,380 to $30,990. The 1.5 percent increase will add $366 to his paycheck. Adjusting his pay to meet the new market minimum for that job will add an additional $5,052, and he’ll receive $1,192 more for longevity.

The pay for an animal control officer will increase 32.4 percent, from $22,500 a year to $29,798. A firefighter II who now makes $30,000 will see a $6,275 increase.

Part-time employees will also benefit from higher hourly rates – 4 percent increases for those with 10 to 15 years with the city, 5 percent for 15 to 20 years, and 6 percent for 20 years or more.

Of the $2.8 million authorized for next year’s raises, $505,000 will go for longevity and only $284,000 will come from the general fund.

The rest will come from enterprise funds such as utilities and landfill and from rain tax revenues.

Administrators with the highest salaries will benefit the most from the 1.5 percent increase.

Jackson, who makes $173,400 a year, will get a $2,601 raise. Deputy Administrator Chester Brazzell, who makes $137,700 a year, will receive a $2,065 raise. What he does to earn that much money besides sit through hours of commission meetings I haven’t figured out yet. But it seems criminal that he makes $10,000 a year more than Sheriff Richard Roundtree, who bears an awesome responsibility for law and order throughout Richmond County.

Good Money after Bad: There are other political things to talk about this week, such as Richmond County Superior Court Chief Judge Carl Brown’s appeal to renovate the old Joint Law Enforcement Center at 401 Walton Way into a juvenile court and education and training center to help reign in some of Augusta’s wayward youth, but it’s so close to Christmas, I won’t go into them this week. I will say, however, that I’d be more of a mind to be persuaded that renovating is a good idea if I hadn’t been brainwashed for years about how the building was uninhabitable, unsalvageable and should be condemned. It was leaky and moldy, and employees there were said to be dying from the ill effects.

Once, when it rained really hard, the lobby flooded and someone put little yellow rubber ducks in the water to float around. The pipes and toilets upstairs in the jail were always overflowing. The roof leaked and torrents of water would come pouring through the ceilings in the sheriff’s offices, ruining computers and records.

Augusta needs a proper juvenile court facility, and the location is good, but people I know who know about such things say it would be cheaper in the long run to raze the building and build anew from the ground up.

A commission committee last week decided to spend almost $100,000 on a two-part study to see whether it’s worth rehabbing and what it would take to do it. Why don’t they just dust off the one they had done a dozen years ago and see what it says?

Crossing the Line: I’m still working on my Christmas gift list for Augusta officials, but I have completed one for a few in Columbia County.

Since Commission Chairman Ron Cross promised that work on Washington Road from William Few Parkway to Gibbs Road would be finished by Dec. 31, Santa should bring him a hard hat and a front-end loader so he can get out there and help get it done by Valentine’s Day.

Of course, Cross didn’t know when he made that promise at the Columbia County Chamber State of the Community meeting in September that one of the construction workers would be on a walker.

Work on four-laning the 2.9-mile stretch of road officially began three years ago.

Santa should also bring Cross, who took heat recently for including his personal conservative political thoughts in a newsletter that went out in county water bills, some envelopes and stamps so he can editorialize at his own expense when he leaves office.

And while some have poked fun at Columbia County Commission Chairman candidate Pam Tucker’s campaign posters showing stars on a flag surrounding her head, I think that poster couldn’t be more appropriate. When they did what they did to her, rejecting her complaints of a hostile work environment and ruining her career as the county’s EMS director, I’m sure she felt like they’d knocked the stars out of her.

County Administrator Scott Johnson should receive a #Team Tucker T-shirt and bumper sticker.

Santa should bring District 1 Commissioner Doug Duncan, who’s also running for commission chairman, a truckload of asphalt so he can help finish the roads.

The third candidate for commission chairman, Mark Herbert, will need a miracle to win and can only hope Santa isn’t fresh out.

Santa would be remiss if he failed to bring Columbia County school board member Mike Sleeper a Power Ranger video game so he can play like a Ranger. He claimed he’d been one in the Army until a “stolen valor” website challenged his claim.

Shopping Stories: Every year, my Christmas shopping story is the same. The first time I go, everything I buy is for myself because I want everything I see that I think somebody on my list would want.

Others have far more interesting stories, but few can beat Commissioner Grady Smith’s account of going shopping with a contractor friend on Christmas Eve after enjoying a little Christmas cheer. They went to the mall and, after wandering around for awhile, ended up at Victoria’s Secret. The contractor found something he thought would look good on his wife, so Smith said he’d take one, too. When the saleslady asked him what size his wife was, he made a guess and ended up with a super petite.

When his wife Kathy opened the present Christmas morning she said, “What did I do? Get the wrong box?”

“That wasn’t a very good Christmas,” Smith said.

It could have been worse, though: “What if I’d bought extra large?”

Commissioner Marion Williams’ best Christmas shopping story began in Kmart. A lady was looking at some roller skates and said, “These are just what he wants.” Then she looked at the price tag and said, “I don’t have $25,” and put them back.

When she’d walked away, Williams said a spirit spoke to his heart and asked, “Why don’t you buy those skates for her?”

By that time, she’d gone, but he found her, and when he told her he wanted to buy the skates for her, she started jumping up and down and praising the Lord, he said.

 

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