RENSSELAER — Animal Control Director Mark Sinclair asked the Jasper County Council for an additional $20,100 to pay part time employees through the remainder of the year. He was asked to return to this month’s meeting with a reduction in that amount as the council felt his employees’ hours were excessive.
At the September meeting, held on Sept. 15, Sinclair said he could drop the needed amount by $1,000. This is the amount he would need to maintain his current staff at their current hours. Council President Rein Bontreger asked if he had considered reducing hours as they had discussed at the August meeting. He said instead of being open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., he could change it to 12 to 4:30. “We’re trying to help you stay within your budget,” Bontreger told him.
Sinclair argued the hours the shelter is open don’t affect the hours his employees put in because they still have to clean and care for the animals every day. He did reduce his weekend employee from 25 to 12 -15 hours per week.
Councilman Paul Norwine asked Sinclair if he couldn’t do most of the work himself. Sinclair said he could, but he’d have to work many more hours and he asked what would happen if he has to leave for a call.
Norwine said he thought last year the department was over-staffed. He looked at work hours for one day in August where there was one employee working from 8 to 11 a.m., one from 8 to noon and two others working 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “That’s an awful lot of hours for one day he said.
Councilman Steve Jordan said, “When we set a budget, it’s not a suggestion.” He said Sinclair’s part time employees were paid $62,000 last year when the budget was set at $43,000. In 2020, the budget was set at $33,000 and the council has already approved an additional $10,000 for employee pay.
Bontreger said going forward, Sinclair will have to function with what they give him. Councilman Gary Fritts said Sinclair dug a hole and backed the council into a corner. He looked at the numbers, and suggested Sinclair would need $3,800 to $3,900 per month to get through the rest of the year, and that is the amount he will have to work with each month next year, so by approving an additional $12,000, payroll should be covered and he and his staff would get used to working within the budgeted amount in 2021.
With that, the council approved an additional of $12,000 to finish out the year.
A request from the coroner’s office for $7,500 to replenish the autopsy fund was approved, while a request to replenish $4,900 to a pathology fund after it was depleted to purchase PPE for county offices was denied. Deputy Coroner Andy Boersma said the $4,900 has been sent in for reimbursement from the CARES Act money since it was used for gloves and other PPE by government offices at the beginning of the pandemic. He said the additional money for autopsies may not be used and it would go back to the county general fund if that were the case. The coroner’s office has seen an increase in autopsies cases this year, and the fund is nearly depleted.