Blair struggles to fill vacancies | News, Sports, Jobs

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County continues to have difficulty hiring and retaining staff due to low wages, two employees told the county’s wage board, which voted Wednesday on starting pay scales for 15 job vacancies. or soon vacant.

The county has about 90 vacancies, human resources director Katherine Swigart said after the meeting.

“We are no different from other employers” Swigart said. “We all have job offers.”

United Mine Workers of America Local 2002 President Steffan Housum asked the wage board, which includes county commissioners Bruce Erb, Laura Burke and Amy Webster, to reconsider what the union proposed Tuesday to resolve contract negotiations blocked.

“There is a revolving door in this county”, Housum said. “We try to fight for fair wages, fair wages. … These are people’s lives we’re talking about.

Deputy Chief Sheriff Christopher Tatar said on Tuesday “failed attempt” to the negotiating table to discuss a contract offer that Tatar described as “pathetic” for those in his office. Full-time assistants currently start at $15.38 per hour and in the first year of the proposed contract, the hourly rate is expected to increase by a few cents.

“You are going to continue to lose employees, for salaries, not only in our office but also in several other courthouse and county offices,” Tatar said. “The perception among employees is that you really don’t care if they leave.”

Blair County has a long history of complaints about employee turnover, which the county took a step forward in 2019 when it raised the minimum wage by $7.25 an hour, as set by state, at $10 an hour.

Subsequently, the county continued with a study on job classification and remuneration which led, in mid-2021, to the adoption of a policy and a salary scale. This has resulted in a range of pay adjustments – for non-union staff – ranging from next to nothing to several thousand dollars.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the wage commission set the following pay rates for vacancies or soon to be vacant affecting non-union positions:

— $10.53 per hour for a criminal affairs officer at the court administration office.

— $11.58 to $12.73 per hour for a jury coordinator at the court office.

— $15 per hour for a part-time assistant at the assessment office.

— $15.51 to $17.06 per hour for a coordinator at the claims office.

— $48,677 to $52,571 annually for a case manager at the Childhood, Youth and Family office.

— $45,005 to $48,605 annually for a financial director.

— $46,805 to $50,549 annually for a manager in the human resources office.

The wage council also approved the following pay rates for unionized positions, based on existing contracts:

— $10.50 per hour for an administrative support staff position at the office of a district court.

— $10.99 per hour for a correctional case manager at the prison.

— $11.02 per hour for a clerk typist/legal aid in the Office of Children, Youth and Families.

— $11.56 per hour for a tax assistant in the Childhood, Youth and Family office.

— $14.42 per hour for a guard.

— $16.42 per hour for an electrician.

— $17.20 per hour for an automobile mechanic.

The board also voted 4 to 1 in favor of setting an hourly rate of $22.87 for a certified legal intern position in the district attorney’s office expected to be filled in early August by a law school graduate. awaiting results of bar exam.

District Attorney Pete Weeks questioned the need to set an hourly rate for the position. He said the person to be hired will have to handle a workload comparable to the lawyers in his office who typically work 60 to 70 hours a week.

Assistant district attorneys, based on their union contract, start at $45,000 per year. At $22.87 per hour, the certified legal intern would earn $41,623 per year based on a 35-hour workweek.

“It will not be a 35 hour per week position”, Weeks told the salary board, pointing out that at the proposed hourly rate, the county would pay a certified legal intern more than it pays assistant district attorneys.

“I want to be transparent with this” Weeks said.

Comptroller AC Stickel and Director of Human Resources Katherine Swigart said the certified legal intern must have an hourly rate of pay since the person will not yet have passed the bar. Stickel said this reflected the Fair Labor Standards Act and Swigart agreed.

Webster offered to lower the hourly rate for the position, but Erb referred to $22.87 as the base county rate for an attorney.

Webster voted against creating the post while Erb, Stickel, Weeks, and Burke voted for. Erb said the matter could be reconsidered as the position is not expected to be filled until August.

Weeks said he was proposing to create the certified legal intern position because of a lack of candidates for assistant district attorneys.

“Other counties pay a lot more, and even they don’t fill their openings,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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