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March 12, 2014

 

Director: County needs repair workers

Maintenance department stretched thin, calls for creation of 2 positions

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

Cortland County Maintenance Director Brian Parker and worker Chuck Miller said Tuesday that the county is stretched thin when it comes to responding to certain emergency repair situations, advocating for the creation of two new positions.
Parker made the case for creating two building maintenance mechanics, at a total cost of about $90,000 yearly, but legislators tabled the idea after discussing it Tuesday at the Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting.
Parker said he is prepared to reintroduce the idea in a scaled-back form calling for only one new position, at next month’s committee meeting, if legislators will entertain it. He also wants any new employee to have masonry experience to help with needed masonry work countywide.
Parker and Miller say that in certain situations because of OSHA rules, the county must send three of its four maintenance employees to fix problems that arise. Since OSHA requires three workers be present when working in confined spaces, for example, that leaves only one employee to deal with any other issues that come up during that time.
But County Administrator Martin Murphy said the county should just prioritize which issues it deals with, using the existing staff, rather than “throwing money at the problem.”
In 2009 Parker requested and was denied a maintenance mechanic post and in 2010 during budget negotiations he conceded a building maintenance worker to fill a custodial position with the understanding he could hire another building maintenance mechanic, but that never happened.
“I’m just trying to get us back to where we were in 2008,” Parker said.
In addition, Parker says workers have been spread thin since 2005 when they went from being responsible for four buildings to 23 buildings scattered throughout the county when the county took on maintenance of more sites. The maintenance staff became responsible for buildings once taken care of by the Sheriff’s Department staff and Highway Department, for example, said Parker. The staff maintains sites like some senior centers and the Virgil and Solon cell towers as well as buildings like the Planning Department at 37 Church St., the Public Safety Building and jail, the County Office Building and the County Courthouse, and the Department of Motor Vehicles and the mental health offices at 7 Clayton Ave., to name a few.
Committee member Charles Sudbrink (R-Cincinnatus, Taylor, Freetown and Willet) said he hopes the committee comes to an agreement on scaling back Parker’s work load in addition to hiring a worker who is also an experienced mason.
Sudbrink said Parker should be able to focus on his maintenance work but the department is constantly called upon to do other projects, such as the current jail renovation work. This work has hit a snag with vendor availability for the shower stalls but Parker still hopes it can be completed in April.
The county is pursuing the $70,000 expansion using mostly in-house labor. When it is complete, the jail will house 34 more inmates, addressing the problem of overcrowding that led to about $400,000 in boarding costs in 2013.
The maintenance department is also called upon to do other work periodically, to cut back labor costs by instead using in-house staff. But for years the county has been trying to decide how to deal with needed masonry repairs at the County Office Building and Courthouse, among others.
“As of right now, if we could find an experienced mason that’s also well rounded in general carpentry skills, I think it would benefit the county not to bid these smaller projects out,” Sudbrink said.

 

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