Commissioners look for Fairgrounds Maintenance remedy
December 19, 2019
POMEROY-A Garfield County Commissioners workshop was held in the County courtroom to discuss plans for providing County Fairground maintenance on Monday, December 9. The recent resignation of Paula Kessler, long-time fairgrounds maintenance person, and Ron Kessler, volunteer, has left the County searching for a solution to the problem.
Before the Kesslers’ resignation, the Commissioners had been discussing the need to establish a job description for the maintenance position and a prioritized list of future capital improvements and repair projects. The Kesslers had been taking care of the fairgrounds for so long that no one else really knew everything that the job entailed, and the commissioners suspected that there were probably hours of work put in that were not reported. The prioritized list of projects was needed to be able to budget County funds for the next year, as well as look for opportunities for grants to supply funds. Requests were made to the Fair Board for this information, but as of yet, no responses have been forthcoming.
Currently, janitorial work and maintenance needed at the fairgrounds is being done by the courthouse maintenance person, Dave Watko. However, it has been a challenge for him to keep up with the work load at both locations. The County Commissioners have suggested and discussed the possibility of forming a Garfield County Maintenance Department, which would be made up of Dave Watko, primarily responsible for the courthouse, and a new person hired to be the primary maintenance person at the fairgrounds. They would also be available to help each other on major projects. Because it is unknown if there would be enough work year-round at the fairgrounds to keep a full-time employee occupied, it has also been suggested that the new person could be shared by the Garfield County Roads Department during slow times. The big problem which remains, however, is how to fund this new position.
The Fair Board’s budget has set aside $17,000 for maintenance each year. Much of the improvements done each year at the fairgrounds is accomplished through grants. Also, a full-time employee would require benefits, and could possibly earn overtime wages at peak activity times. This could amount to about $60,000 in expense to the County, and currently there is no allotment in the budget for wages and benefits. However, when contracting out construction work, the County is required by the State of Washington to pay prevailing wages, set on a scale equal to union wages paid in the Tri-Cities. A full-time County employee would be paid their set wages, and would be able to complete most work needed at the fairgrounds, which would be a great savings to the County.
Specific skills and availability will be required for the maintenance position.
It was suggested to make the position part-time, a benefit cost savings for the County and more adaptive to seasonal work. Another suggestion was to allow the person hired to live there rent free as part of their compensation. They could move their own trailer or RV into the RV park. This would give the fairgrounds more onsite supervision.
The County Commissioners will continue to work out the details and a decision should be made in the near future.