Berrien County to discuss pay scale modifications for non-union county workers

Published 12:48 pm Friday, September 16, 2022

ST. JOSEPH — Action on a new salary study recommending pay scale modifications for non-union county employees has been put off by at least a week. Berrien County Commissioners had been scheduled to vote to accept it at their meeting Thursday but took it off the agenda. 

Berrien County Administrator Brian Dissette and County Board Chairman McKinley Elliott said the new salary study is now scheduled to be discussed at next week’s Committee of the Whole meeting with action possibly coming at that day’s county board meeting. 

The resolution pulled Thursday noted that the county board had hired a company to conduct the “classification and compensation” study in 2019 and received the report back last year. Since then, Dissette and county department heads have been looking over the recommendations and how they should be implemented. 

The report recommended that certain non-union job classifications receive a grade modification. While no details were discussed at Thursday’s meeting, most salary studies are conducted to make sure that employees are being paid similar amounts to their counterparts in other similarly situated counties. 

Also Thursday, commissioners heard updates about two of the county projects they’ve been discussing for much of this year: broadband and where to build a new juvenile center. 

County Commissioner and Administration Committee Chairman Jim Curran said that Berrien County Chief Trial Judge Mabel Mayfield and Trial Court Administrator Carrie Smietanka-Haney told his committee about progress on the juvenile center project. 

They said work sessions with county officials and others were set for yesterday and today (Friday) to brainstorm and develop a vision for the center and juvenile court facilities. The firms hired to do the study will then kickoff three days or work on Monday to detail the scope of the work and what the new center/court campus might look like. 

Commissioner Ezra Scott asked that the status of the entire county-owned property on Napier Avenue in Benton Harbor as well as adjoining properties be evaluated as part of the discussion. Commissioners have long talked about establishing a county campus on that property to be home to many departments. It is already home to the health department and animal control. 

Dissette assure commissioners that efforts are moving forward on both the juvenile center/court project as well as broadband. He reported that mapping efforts to detail county broadband needs are largely complete.  

“It will give us a very clear idea of what is needed,” he said. “The mapping shows the gaps in coverage and clear evidence of which areas need the most help. We are now pushing into the next step of applying for state and federal funding.” 

He said the county’s BC Bit taskforce will meet Sept. 29 with local leaders to discuss the next steps in expanding broadband in rural areas. He anticipates submitting applications to the state and federal governments to fund those projects by the end of the year.  

In other business Thursday, commissioners received the annual audit report from auditor Nate Baldermann of the Rehmann Robson auditing firm. He said the county received a clean, unmodified opinion for the audit of the 2021 fiscal year. 

Commissioners approved grants for the “Baby’s Own Bed” program and the Public Defender’s Office. The county is receiving $2,000 from the United Way for the “Baby’s Own Bed” program and $4.6 million from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission for the operation of the Public Defender’s Office in 2023. The county’s share in the latter case is $579,000. 

Commissioners also approved appointing Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Dave Albers to be a delegate from the county to the 5th Region Homeland Security Advisory Committee. He serves on that committee along with Capt. Rockey Adams.