The county recently lost two internally-respected employees to other government entities, raising concerns about employee morale.
Tim McCart, the county's IT director, went to the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, and Accounting Manager Lorri Smith took a position with Jasper County, but Chairman Kathy Morgan said both employees left because of opportunities to advance.
However, when asked about employee morale, Morgan said the county was concerned.
"When we have asked employees to take unpaid holidays, when we've asked employees to do more with less, when we're cutting staff and asking them to absorb the work, that builds a morale problem. That's not the way to run a business; that's not the way to run a county," Morgan said. "We have only the budget that the (Board of Commissioners) sets...we're at maintenance only.
"Morale is low, (job) security is low. If the budget digest goes down 11 percent next year, what are we going to cut? We have nothing to cut but employees: That automatically affects morale. We have displaced qualified, experienced, skilled employees," Morgan said. "If you're looking at a county and say ‘Well, if the budget goes down, are they going to cut 30 more people? Will it be me?' And you go to a place that says we'll give you a three-year contract, it's a big difference."
Morgan said the county commissioners and citizens have to decide what quality of county services they want. If citizens want minimum taxes and minimum requirements, the quality of service will be lower.
The county will fill both positions. Morgan said the county has made an offer to an applicant for Smith's position and is planning to promote an internal employee for McCart's position.
Engineering director to be hired
The county has also created a job posting for a civil engineer, and Morgan said she wants to begin interviews during the next couple of weeks. The position would work with both the public works and water resources departments and would be tasked to find solutions to internal engineering problems and work with outside consulting firms.
The position was created after all county engineers were cut in June, and the public works and water resources departments were consolidated. Morgan said neither former County Engineer Kevin Walter, nor former Water Resources Director Karl Kelley, a civil engineer, could have been kept for the position, because they would have had to have been given a raise by law if given additional duties.
They both were invited to apply for the job; however, Morgan said the pay will be at or under what they were previously making.