GREEN RIVER — Following a yearslong compensation comparison survey, salary increases have been approved for certain positions in Sweetwater County government.
County departments found to be compensated below market rates include internet technology, law enforcement, and one job in the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office. Specific positions recommended and approved for wage increases based on the survey include IT systems administrator, IT PC support technician, legal secretary, and entry-level and other patrol deputies. The total cost for the wage increases is $239,337 per year.
The commission has yet to decide on an effective date for the changes. Commissioners accepted the income recommendations at the Jan. 5 meeting. Sweetwater County Human Resource Director Gary McLean plans to present a resolution at the Jan. 19 meeting for the board to take action on for a retroactive effective date of January 1, 2021, or as the board otherwise directs.
Although the results have come during a time of economic downturn and hiring and salary freezes, the Sweetwater County Commission decided to approve the income recommendations in an effort to make headway on having competitive compensation to attract and retain quality employees.
When the wage comparison study was initiated more than four years ago, only one of the five current commissioners served on the board. At that time, the board commissioned Condrey & Associates to collect data from public and private entities for comparison with 50 benchmark positions in the county.
McLean told commissioners that the positions were chosen based on the likelihood of finding good commonality and data from other entities. The county hoped to get more private sector data, but most of those entities were reluctant to provide salary information, McLean said. The hope was that by using a third party, some of that reluctance could be overcome, but it remained a challenge, he added.
Overall, from the data received, McLean said most of the county positions surveyed are very competitive in the relative market segments. There were a few that weren’t, though, and those are the ones he recommended for increases.
The survey found that the county is very competitive in market rates for road- and bridge-type jobs and compares favorably with private sector entities for positions like equipment operators, construction individuals, and truck drivers.
Internet technology is one of the highest demand areas of employment right now, McLean said. Technical positions are in demand both in the private and public sector across the country, and there are not enough people to fill those positions. The county previously had an employee who left for a job in Utah that paid about $60,000 a year more. The compensation survey found that Sweetwater County IT positions pay about 20% lower than the market rate across the board. McLean recommended a wage increase for the two county IT jobs to remain competitive. It will cost the county $108,564 per year.
McLean also addressed compensation at the County Attorney’s Office. The county attorney’s salary is set by state statute, but the survey found that both the starting and maximum rates for the legal secretary in that office were a little low. McLean recommended a 5% wage increase at a cost of $21,336 per year.
In law enforcement, McLean said the county’s detention officer positions are some of the best paid in Wyoming.
Patrol positions, however, have been a problem in recent years due to increasing rates of pay for law enforcement in Rock Springs and Green River, according to McLean. Part of the issue is that most officers get the same training and are in the same state retirement system. They can go from one entity to another for a small wage increase with little difficulty. McLean suggested a 10% increase at the entry level patrol deputy positions and a 5% increase across the board for the patrol positions.
Commission Chairman Randy “Doc” Wendling said he made a pledge more than four years ago to see the wage study go through and to do what’s right for employees so the county can remain competitive.
“This is not a raise in salaries,” Wendling said. “This is purely a move to put us in a competitive position so that we can get and keep quality employees as well as to attract quality employees.”
Commissioner Roy Lloyd said that although the timing didn’t feel right in a lot of ways, the fact that the compensation survey decision was made prior to COVID-19 and the county’s current economic situation made him even more inclined to support it.
McLean told commissioners that he thought the changes he was recommending were clearly merited. He also noted that 11 county employees have decided to take early retirement for a savings of just over $1 million if those positions are not replaced.
The recommendations passed unanimously.
To view the compensation survey, see pages 130-170 of the complete packet from the Jan. 5, 2021 County Commission meeting included with this story at rocketminer.com.