ON BEHALF OF THE LABOR UNION for Carroll County Jail, union steward Tracy Newlin urged county delegates to approve the terms of the negotiated two-year contract at their meeting Aug. 27. Several corrections officers attended in support of the contract. Later in the meeting, the delegates gave their stamp of approval to the contract that will add about $44,000 to the jail’s payroll budget over the term of the contract. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
August 30, 2012OSSIPEE — The Carroll County Delegation met at the county complex Monday for a three-hour session of goodbyes, reviewing the second quarter county budget progress, and voting to adopt the two-year union contract for jail employees.
Tracy Newlin, a jail employee and the union steward read a statement to the delegates, seeking their support for the proposed pay increases that resulted from the negotiations. Currently, corrections officers are hired at a salary of $13.25 per hour. Officers also pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs, pay union dues, and pay into the state retirement system. The cost of the county's health insurance plan increased by 14 percent this year. This, coupled with the fact that the CCHOC officers are the lowest paid in the state, Newlin said, "Each year we are losing money that we need to feed our families and pay our bills," and many are receiving training to become certified officers and then leaving to go to other jails or getting out of corrections work completely.
Delegates seemed overall sympathetic to the turnover rate and how the low salary might be attributing to the problem. They raised several questions, however, about how many are leaving their jobs at CCHOC simply over the pay concern and how the turnover numbers might be skewed by other reasons for leaving. CCHOC Superintendent Jason Johnson conceded that some leave because they realize corrections work is not a good fit for them or because they are fired. Nevertheless, Newlin's presentation highlighted the increasing turnover rate. In 2011, 11 corrections officers let their employ at CCHOC, in 2010 five left, in 2008 six, in 2007 seven, in 2006 eight. Newlin did not have the total number for 2009 and said that, to date, in 2012 five officers have left.
Several delegates questioned whether or not exit interviews are being conducted with those leaving their employment and suggested a more stringent procedure be in place to get to the root of the turnover problem. Once the reasons for their departure are determined, said both Rep. Karen Umberger and Rep. Joe Fleck, perhaps new policies and trainings programs can be implemented to lower that turnover rate. "And we want to provide a just wage for the people and entice them to stay," said Fleck.
Commissioner David Sorensen presented a fact sheet with salary comparison information and wrote some of those numbers on the board as he presented the negotiated salary terms in the new contract. According to Sorensen, the starting salary for corrections officers in Belknap County is $15.53, Coos $15.40, Merrimack $14.72, Strafford $13.45 and Carroll $13.25.
The delegation voted, nine in favor and two against, to adopt the two-year contract. For corrections officers this will mean a 30-cent per hour pay increase in the first year of the contract and a 90-cent per hour increase in the second year.
Commissioners will find $11,000 in this year's county budget to cover the cost of the increases in the first year and will add $33,759 into the proposed 2013 budget to cover the second year increase.
Delegates presented a basket of flowers, a goodbye card, and a standing ovation to nursing home administrator Sandi McKenzie, and thanked her for her hard work and dedication to the staff and residents at the home and to the taxpayers of Carroll County. Delegation Chair Betsey Patten said she was very sad to see McKenzie leaving, "I know you are leaving to take care of yourself and that's why I'm leaving, too, to take care of myself," said Patten who has chosen not to seek re-election and will complete 18 years as a state representative on Dec. 31. State representatives also serve as county delegates in their respective counties. Other Carroll County representatives who have chosen not to seek re-election this year are Laurie Pettengill (R-Glen), David Knox (R-Wolfeboro), Dino Scala (R-Wakefield), Joe Fleck (R-Wakefield), and county commissioner candidate David Babson (R-Ossipee).
Larry Ayers, Commander of American Legion Post #46, asked the delegation to make no moves towards tearing down the old nursing home until he can gather more information and more support for converting the old home into a homeless shelter.
"We've been discussing what to do with the old home for at least a year and we have been unable to come to a two-thirds majority vote to be able to take it down," responded Patten. "At the moment, the wrecking ball isn't even at the complex. The next delegation, voted in in November, will likely renew the conversation. That is the best input I think that we can give you. I would assume the delegation would listen to any proposals you can give. Our budget hearings start in December to approve by March 31. From now until then the wrecking ball hasn't hit the complex. Doesn't mean that it isn't or is going to come," she said.
Others spoke in support of not moving forward with any demolition until all proposals on what to do with the old home are considered. Currently the pellet boiler system that heats the new nursing home and its hot water, the maintenance storage and offices, and the county's laundry facility are all housed in the old home. Several ideas have been brought to the table including moving the UNH Cooperative Extension from the county-funded rental space in Conway back to the county complex, a privately-run daycare facility, moving probation and parole offices from rented space in Wolfeboro to the facility to make it more convenient to the jail and county courthouse, and now a homeless shelter for veterans and the general public in need.
A delegation subcommittee met several times and agreed on a plan that would have demolished two wings and the front façade, bringing the demolition and renovation in at about $1 million, a number set by a vote of the whole delegation. When they brought their plan to the delegation earlier this year, the group still failed to come to agreement on a plan and any demolition or renovation has been set aside, awaiting the newly elected delegation's wishes come November.
Susan Wiley (D-Sandwich) who is seeking election to regain her state representative seat said Monday, "There still is rumor about tearing down the nursing home – seems to me that would be squandering the county resources. I do see a homeless shelter of some sort could be a consideration. We are the only county without a homeless shelter. Looking at homeless numbers and needs from five years ago is not as important as looking ahead to the future."
Gino Funicella drove down from Jackson for Monday's meeting to tell the delegation he "supports using the wings of the nursing home for the poor and unfortunate or the veterans" and that "we should lend every bit of support to the veterans when they come back."
Delegates agreed to give Ayers until their Dec. 10 meeting to come back with more information about the homeless shelter idea.
After the Nov. 6 election decides who the state representatives will be for the next two years, they will be sworn in at the State House Dec. 5.
The Carroll County Delegation will hold its next meeting Dec. 10 when they will hear Ayers' proposal, elect a chairperson, vice-chairperson, and clerk and start reviewing the commissioner's proposed 2013 budget. "For those of you who plan to attend, prepare for a long day. It won't be snap, snap, snap," said Umberger.
The meeting will be held in the county delegation room on the second floor of the county administration building on Water Village Road in Ossipee, likely beginning as is their usual meeting time at 9 a.m. Information about this meeting as well as all other meetings held by the delegation or the commissioners can be found on the county website at www.carrollcountynh.net or by calling the business office at 539-7751.