Politics

New county regime requests new positions, salary upgrades

By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
After the traditional swearing-in ceremonies Wednesday morning, the Hempstead County Quorum Court with new Hempstead County Judge Jerry Crane and three new Justices proceeded straight to business in the first meeting of 2019 and their respective new terms.
New was the order of day, even in “Old Business,” as the Quorum Court considered a pair of job changes, including a “Superintendent of the Roads Department” position and a current Courthouse Maintenance position to be “upgraded” to a so-called “Maintenance Supervisor,” who would have multiple responsibilities in both the old courthouse, the new courthouse, as well as the new library.
An old problem, however, reared its head as both position changes were also proposed with hefty salary increases. The Superintendent of Roads position was request with a pay increase from $33,000 a year to $36,000 a year, and the proposed upgraded Maintenance position would come with a $5,000 pay increase.
Justice David Clayton noted, “And we had trouble with $500 Christmas bonuses…”
The Hempstead County Library and its board, which as been a source of confusion on the Quorum Court before, particularly the fact that after a year, no one could still identify when the Library Board meets or what their budget was, was questioned by the Justices again this year.
Justice Cherry Stewart had famously said a year ago, “It is not the Library Board, it is the Hempstead County Library,” as she requested a monthly report from the Library Board to the Quorum Court, which never happened.
Clayton felt like the Library, who he said had plenty of money, should pay a part of the cost of “Maintenance Supervisor” since that person also had responsibilities in care of the library building.
Crane, touting his first major initiative as the new County Judge, said he envisioned the new Road Superintendent also being a “trainer.”
“The county has good equipment in the road department — that we paid for — that no one knows how to use,” Crane said, “If we can get some training and use this equipment, then we will all be better for it.”
When the vote came to fund the positions, the Justices voted 9-2, but Clayton along with Justice Jay Lathrop, voted no, out of concerns for funding, particularly with the library duties added on.
Often a contentious issue in Hempstead County over the past few years, Crane also announced another initiative, the establishment of a “road advisory committee,” which he said would assist and advise him on the improvement of the county roads.
The initial response to Crane’s proposal was positive, although no vote or official action was taken Wednesday morning.

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