PHILIPSBURG – Even Neo might have gotten lost in this Matrix.
The Granite County Commissioners approved a measure Tuesday to establish the base pay for Road Supervisor Paul Alt, giving him a $7,000 bump immediately and another $7,000 on July 1 pending a satisfactory performance evaluation at the end of the fiscal year in June.
That final solution came from Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter after some 90 minutes of debate, discussion and public commentary. New District 3 Commissioner Chuck Hinkle seconded the motion, but when the vote was taken it was Adler and Slaughter voting in favor and Hinkle voting nay.
The decision took a most unexpected route, with Hinkle offering the first of five solutions. His motion was that Alt receives $4,000 now, $4,000 in July, $3,000 in July 2020 and the final $3,000 in July 2021. After some discussion among the commissioners Hinkle changed his motion to state that Alt would get $7,000 now and another $7,000 in July 2020. Again the commissioners discussed it, but when Slaughter called for a second and got none, the motion died.
Slaughter then made a motion that would eventually become the final solution, but after discussion it too died on the table. The main reason was that in discussing the motion, the commissioners tried to assess how Alt would receive periodic raises from the county. It was thought that he might be put into the county’s salary matrix. Commissioners Adler and Hinkle had trouble understanding where Alt would fit into the salary matrix or what his eventual top salary would be. Commissioner Slaughter attempted to explain it, but never seemed to hit pay dirt with either of his cohorts.
A fourth motion was made by Adler, who suggested that Alt should get $5,000 now. He was beginning to add more to the motion when Slaughter and Hinkle attempted to get clarification. Adler then rethought his motion and rescinded it.
When Slaughter eventually made the final motion, identical to his previous one, it opened the door for county residents to voice their concerns. Commissioner Slaughter directed those wishing to speak to keep their comments to the motion currently before the commission.
Susie Browning was the first to take the podium, citing that the comparison counties that were handed out at the December 18 meeting did not, in her estimation, seem like accurate comparisons. She noted differences in mill values, the amount of roads in various counties and number of employees supervised as reasons for the comparisons being inaccurate. Slaughter responded that all of the counties were different to some degree and that he got his original information from Montana State University.
After several more speakers Dick Motta addressed the commissioners, getting clarification on what the decision being made was and expressing concern that the pay raise being given to Alt was too much. But toward the end of comments Motta reiterated an earlier assertion that Commissioner Adler should recuse himself from the vote due to his previous business relationship with Alt. The commissioners told Motta that the discussion would not continue, but Motta did not relent. The discussion finally concluded when Slaughter banged his gavel and told Motta to, “Sit down or meet the sheriff.”
When the commissioners were questioned by the Flint Creek Courier as to the motion’s language, it was determined that the base pay was being established for Alt as the current Road Supervisor, but that he would remain a county employee but not be on the county’s salary matrix. His pay increases, if any, will be discussed and reevaluated on a year-by-year basis. Later, before the motion was passed, it was determined that Alt would be evaluated on a year-to-year basis with commissioners determining any increases or cost of living adjustments that be applicable. If Alt were to ever leave the position, the commission could negotiate a new pay rate with the new contractor.
NOTE - This article's final paragraph was edited for clarification and accuracy from its original version.