Board tables talk on bonus

Mary Katherine Murphy Staff Writer

November 5, 2013

LAURINBURG — After a division of commissioners on the question of whether or not all county employees should receive an end-of-year bonus, on Tuesday the Scotland County Board of Commissioners tabled approval of any payment plan until its December meeting.

The board’s policy committee, based on discussion at its October meeting, recommended a “one-time” December bonus for employees serving five years or more, calculated at 75 percent of longevity level. Those bonuses would range from $150 for those employed for five to nine years to $525 for those employed 25 years or more at a total cost of $55,000 for 174 employees.

Some 100 other county employees have been employed fewer than five years, and commissioners Clarence McPhatter and Bob Davis voiced concerns about the appearance of only issuing bonuses to some employees and preferred a flat bonus for all.

“I would rather see us do the same thing we did last year for everybody and not penalize and not shortchange any of the folks that have not been here up to five years,” Davis said.

Commissioner John Alford, who serves on the policy committee, said that the existing longevity scheme, which was discontinued last year, was designed to provide significant bonuses to employees who have demonstrated loyalty to the county.

“There were reasons we did this, one we didn’t have much money and we wanted the amount we give to be meaningful, and if we spread it out over everybody it would have been minuscule; it would have been real tiny especially for those who have been with us for 20 years or 15 years,” he said. “Since we have been doing this all along it kind of guided us to follow that part of our policy in making our decision.”

Initially, $30,000 was budgeted for employee bonuses this year, with $40,000 more available through allocation of lapsed salaries.

“… The concept of longevity was what we wanted to continue with or reinstate, we just didn’t have the funds to do it at 100 percent,” said Commissioner Whit Gibson, also a policy committee member.

McPhatter and Commissioner John Cooley questioned the distinction between bonus and longevity reward, with McPhatter suggesting that longtime employees be given a plaque if the county wishes to recognize their length of service.

“It’s clouded whether you want to call it bonus or longevity,” Cooley said.

The motion to allocate $55,000 to bonuses for employees of five years or more tied, with Cooley, Davis, and McPhatter opposing. The motion failed through negative vote by McCook, who requested that the policy committee revisit the issue and propose another plan in December.

“I don’t think we’re saying we don’t want to do anything; I think what we’re saying is that we want to do something different,” he said.

In other business, the commissioners amended an agreement between the county and the Town of Wagram regarding responsibilities for maintenance of the town-owned Wagram Recreation Center, which is funded primarily by the county. The center costs $180,000 annually to operate and staff.

“There was some give and take on both sides; one of the things was originally we had been responsible for paying all the utility bills for the facility, but the truth of the matter is that the Town of Wagram has been providing water and sewer and trash collection for the facility since it opened,” McCook said.

Water and sewer has been provided by Wagram at a cost of $594 annually. The town has also provided trash collection services valued at $162 per year, as well as grounds maintenance. The amended agreement transfers custodial responsibility for the center’s interior from the town to the county, adding provision of water, sewer, and trash collection to the town’s commitments, which also include recruitment of volunteers for up to 15 hours per week.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board:

— Approved a request by Duke Energy Progress for an easement at the 911 call center currently under construction on West Boulevard, pending review of easement map by County Manager Kevin Patterson and Chairman Guy McCook. Through the easement, Duke Energy will provide the center with backup electrical access at no cost to the county.

— Appointed John Ferguson to the Four-County Community Services executive board in the place of Commissioner John Alford, who resigned last month.

— Elected Whit Gibson as its representative on the board of Scotland County Partnership for Children and Families.