Montcalm County drain commissioner’s request stalls

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:38 am on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sandy Raines

STANTON — A request from the Montcalm County drain commissioner continues to get clogged in committee meetings.

Last summer, Sandy Raines requested that her two seasonal part-time drain maintenance employees be made permanent and have their hours increased to 35 hours per week.

The Montcalm County Finance & Personnel Committee requested more information from Raines last summer. She submitted a detailed letter and attended last Monday’s committee meeting to further explain her request.

A motion was made to vote on Raines’ request, but the motion died due to lack of support.

“Can I go to the full board and ask again?” Raines questioned committee members. “Because you’re forcing my hand to go to contractors and ask for a lot more money.”

She was given permission to attend Monday’s full board meeting to try again.

Raines wants to make her two seasonal part-time employees permanent and increase their hours for safety reasons as well as more flexibility. She said safety plays a major role in her request as she does not want to send one of her employees out into the field alone with power equipment, such as a chainsaw.

She said the drain maintenance supervisor position is no longer effective with the loss of help from a prison crew, and utilizing the two employees during this summer’s construction season has proven to be far more cost-effective and efficient than paying contractors.

“At this time I feel we have a good team in place,” Raines said. “I’ve received a lot of compliments about how we’re managing our drains this year. I’m not really asking for more. It’s just a different way to do things and it will be so much more effective.”

The previous cost of a drain maintenance supervisor earning $19.16 per hour at 40 hours per week totaled $766, plus $15 per day for a prison crew and mileage totaling $750 for a weekly grand total of $1,516.

Raines’ proposal to have two employees each work 35 hours per week at $12.46 each per hour would total $8,72.20 per week. Along with health insurance, the grand total would be $1,383.20 per week.

Raines said contractors currently charge labor rates ranging from $25 to $50 per hour.

The proposal to make the seasonal part-time employees permanent and increase their hours would be reimbursed to the county from the drain districts. Some commissioners had a problem with this.

“I don’t like to see us putting the possibility of almost $36,000 onto the drain districts just for their health insurance because we have the possibility of going over the 30 hours at 35,” said Commissioner Ron Retzloff of Crystal. “I would agree to, like, 28 hours, keeping it under that 30 hour number, that gives you 56 hours versus the 40 hours you have a full-time person. I just can’t see throwing that money on the people who live out there.”

Raines said there’s too much work to be done to fit into less than 35 hours.

“The 28 hours just don’t work for me or my office,” she said. “I’m going to have to hire contractors to replace that. I’m asking for 35. It’s not costing any more than what we’ve been doing in the past.

“These two employees have been very efficient,” she added. “I’ve got to keep them. Nobody’s going to work for me for 28 hours. I’d be training every year because I’m sure these young gentlemen are not going to stay for 28 hours.”

Commissioner Betty Kellenberger of Carson City made a motion to vote on Raines’ request, but the motion died due to no support.

Raines will appear before the full Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Montcalm County Administrative Building in Stanton.

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