LISBON - Columbiana County commissioners may consider granting pay raises to employees in the three-county waste management district, just not the 30 percent increase they requested.
Commissioners reported they and their fellow commissioners from Carroll and Harrison counties balked at the hefty pay raise request at the December meeting of the waste district board.
Commissioner Tim Weigle said Eric Matthews and Barbara Walton, co-administrators of the district, submitted a 2014 proposed budget that would have raised their salaries from $17 an hour to $24. They also requested the office administrative assistant's pay be increased from $14 an hour to $20.
Matthews and Walton received pay raises when they were promoted to their new positions last March, while the new administrative assistant was hired after that.
"We would not approve this," Weigle said of the requested 30 percent pay raises. "The consensus of the commissioners at the meeting is we're not sure this is the right step."
Weigle went on to say commissioners were willing to consider smaller pay raises, and the matter is expected to be considered at their January meeting.
Former waste district administrator Chris Jacobs had just received a pay raise to $24 an in early 2013 before quitting to take another job. It was then the board decided to create the job of co-administrators for Matthews and Walton.
Matthews, when contacted later, said they were only trying to raise their salaries to what other waste district managers around Ohio are earning and reflect new job responsibilities they assumed.
"All we wanted to do was put us in line with what others are getting ... We weren't trying to be greedy," he said.
Before 2013, they had not received a pay raise in four years, "which put us even further behind" what other districts were paying, Matthews said, noting they have added new programs in recent years and plan to continue doing so in the future.
"We think a salary adjustment is in order ... because of the additional responsibilities," he said.
The district operates a voluntary recycling program consisting of permanent Dumpster sites where the public can drop off recyclable materials. It also hosts periodic events where the public can dispose of appliances and other electronic devices, household hazardous wastes, batteries and tires, and school recycling and education programs.
With a budget of about $600,000, the majority of the district's funding comes from a $3.50 per ton dumping fee charged area landfills designated to accept trash from haulers doing business in the three counties.
Weigle said the 2014 budget proposal also sought to create three CHARM sites, one located at each county fairgrounds in the district. CHARM stands for Center for Hard to Recycle Materials, which are sites that would be open once or twice a week where household hazardous wastes could be dropped off on regular basis.
The waste district envision hiring one full-time and one part-time person to staff the CHARM sites. The full-time person would be paid $20 an hour, while the part-time worker would be paid $15.
While the board liked the concept, they would rather undertake a pilot program initially by starting a single CHARM site to see how it works out before deciding to expand the program to the other counties, Weigle said. The board also favored seeking a 50/50 matching grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to fund the pilot program.
The district has also proposed funding a series of other new programs in 2014, such as $50,000 to train and help local police departments in disposing of meth labs, $50,000 for county health departments to police illegal dumps, and $280,000 to help Carroll County commissioners close their county landfill.
Weigle said this ambitious agenda is made possible by a significant increase in district revenue resulting from the oil and gas drilling boom underway in the region, especially in Carroll County. He said companies are required to dispose of the drilling dirt at licensed landfills designated by the district.
"When the drilling really started in Carroll County that's when it took off," he said of the increase in district dumping revenue.
Revenue this year is expected to total $1.69 million. The district submitted a 2014 operating budget of $3.29 million and expects to end next year with a carryover balance of $1.66 million.