Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says the request to create employee budget positions was misunderstood by the county commissioners at their last meeting. Neither Ritzler nor Commissioner Kathy Norem were there, and the other two commissioners denied the request citing a top-heavy management structure within the department.
Ritzler says that’s not the case. He says rather than creating new levels of supervision, this is actually taking one away.
“We actually want to eliminate one of our foreman positions and then create a position for the sign technician, paving technician and four heavy equipment operators. Almost every highway department around has different (garbled) of heavy equipment operators, people that need some training. The sign technician (is) very important.”
Ritzler also spoke to the county’s insurance agent and says the restructuring carries a potential for savings by having defined positions with additional training requirements. He says that will help the county should a lawsuit or claim be filed due to work performed by the department.
Ritzler notes the proposed internal restructuring is similar to the sheriff’s department having officers with various ranks and responsibilities. He notes the county saves a lot of money by making its own asphalt, for instance. He adds the salaries can be incorporated into the truck driver line item in the budget.
“And actually because we’re reducing one foreman position, that will save $5,000, so it’s only going to cost a couple thousand more dollars for these new positions. They’re not supervisor positions, but there are times where they will act as supervisors. For example, if someone’s running the excavator, and running a crew with an excavator, while he’s running that crew he’s in charge of that thing. He is not a supervisor at all times, just for that job, that specific job.”
The commissioners did not act on Ritzler’s request Monday night. The county council will consider the 2016 salary ordinance at their November meeting.