It was during the Nov. 13 meeting of Commissioners Court that Wiatrek explained that he was having difficulty filling the positions that are available, and that higher rates of pay may be needed in order to get the county’s manpower up where it needs to be for the work that needs to be done.
“We didn’t get one applicant,” Wiatrek said. “To make this system work, I think we are going to have to change our wages.”
The county is working on building roads, Wiatrek explained, and the jobs need to be filled in order to get the work done.
“We are going to have to pay a little more to get some applicants walking in the door,” Wiatrek said. “This is going downhill for us, right now. To step ahead we are going to have to find some operators out there and we are going to have to get competitive.”
“Right now we need help, and that’s the only way – in my opinion – to get it,” Wiatrek said.
The positions were advertised for two weeks in The Karnes Countywide, according to Wiatrek. But no one applied for the positions offered.
The ads which ran in October, offer a maximum salary of $12 per hour for CDL drivers and heavy equipment operators. The positions are subject to random drug/alcohol testing, the ad says.
County Commissioner Carl Hummel made reference to a bond issue that voters passed about a year ago, funding $3 million in supplies and materials for construction and improvements to county roads.
“Why did we even pass this $3 million bond to fix the roads, if we don’t have the manpower?” Hummel asked. “Maybe we have the money for the material – do we not have the money for the manpower, or did we just choose not to spend the money for the manpower to be able to put this material out on the roads and fix the roads?”
Hummel said the court made a mistake when it voted to take back step pay increases that initially were approved for the road and bridge department.
“This is just plain wrong,” Hummel said. “It is not working, and it is not going to work until we fix it.”
Similar positions with energy companies are being paid at twice the rate the county is offering, Hummel said.
“If you want quality people, you are going to have to pay them quality wages,” Hummel said.
Commissioner James Rosales said the issue may not be the rate of pay that’s offered.
“Maybe it is something else,” Rosales said, explaining that pay raises for these positions have been approved by the court in the past, yet the problem is still not fixed.
“I just think that if we give more money, and more money, and more money, people are still going to quit,” Rosales said.
“I’m not talking about my guys quitting,” Wiatrek said. “I am trying to get people to come to work.”
Rosales said he knew people who quit jobs paying $20 per hour, but choose to stay at home and not work.
“What do we need to do, Jeff?” Commissioner Tracey Schendel asked.
“The quality people pay for themselves,” Wiatrek said. “I can’t get nobody through the door.”
Wiatrek said something needed to be done to take care of the county.
Schendel said paying $18 per hour to new hires might make the other employees, who are earning considerably less in similar positions, unhappy.
Hummel said the county needs to be run like a business, and with businesses, some employees earn more than others, based on skill level and demand in the local market for similar positions.
“Karnes County has changed,” Wiatrek said. “We can’t get anybody through the door because there is too much competition out there.”
County Auditor Lajuana Kasprzyk questioned whether anything could be done in regard to wages for the raod and bridge department in the near future, because the problem may not meet the criteria to justify an emergency budget amendment.
The court took no action on the agenda item, but agreed to revisit the issue at a later date.