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MOROCCO – Just a month after the Newton County Council voted down a raise to potentially keep its Public Health Nurse, the county’s health board is asking them to reconsider the salary for the position.

“We only got one application, and they were a no show for the interview,” said Ray Chambers, president of the health board. “The salary is too low, we have to do something, and we are going to ask for that $10,000 increase again. By law, we have to have one, Kim’s (Durham) last day is Wednesday (Nov. 25), and we are backed into a corner.

On Oct. 23, a motion by the county council for a $7,000 raise for Durham did not pass as councilmembers Abbey Rossiter, Mick Vanderwall, and David Atkinson voted for the raise, while Tim Lohr, Scott Carlson, Michael Mark, and Pat Mulligan voted no.

“Trying to fill a skilled position in under a month would be very hard,” said Mark. “I suggest reaching out to other counties to see about sharing resources. There is a shortage right now of nurses due to the pandemic, but throwing money at the problem is not the solution.”

“It was a no-brainer for me to give Kim a raise to try and keep her here, but going back and raising the salary now for a new employee after we told her no is a hard sell for me," said Rossiter. "We can’t change what has happened. I think we had an easy solution before, but that did not pass, and now we are in this predicament.”

The council could not take action on the request since there was no official additional for the salary increase.

In other action from the Nov. 20 meeting, by a slim one-vote difference, the county council approved amending the salary ordinance to allow for an extra $1 per hour for employees in the E911 Department while they train new employees.

“We don’t do that for other departments, “ said Mark. “ I don’t understand the logic in that. I feel we will be opening up a can of worms for the other departments if we approve this.”

“A dollar an hour is not too much to ask for employees who are on duty for emergencies and training someone new at the same time,” said Rossiter.

Councilmember Atkinson agreed, “This is a crucial position that needs a lot of training.”

The motion for the $1 an hour increase while training new employees passed by a 4-3 vote. Councilmembers Rossiter, Atkinson, Carlson, and Lohr voted yes, while Mark, Mulligan, and Vanderwall voted no.

The council also approved a $70,000 additional for the Newton County Ambulance to cover overtime for the rest of the year. Ambulance Director Tonye VanWienen said the department is short on those funds due to employees being off for an extended time due to the pandemic. He added that he estimated high because he didn’t know how the final two months would pan out.

The council unanimously voted to retain Linda Harris as its attorney indefinitely.

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