02/25/05 — Pay raise urged for Mount Olive employees

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Pay raise urged for Mount Olive employees

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 25, 2005 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Town of Mount Olive needs to give its employees a raise, says Town Manager Ray McDonald.

McDonald told members of the town Board of Commissioners this week that he doesn't believe the town should go another year without giving its workers an increase in pay.

The town has good employees, McDonald said, and will have to pay them or watch them leave for better-paying jobs.

"People are going to come looking them," McDonald said.

Public Works Director Glenn Holland told the board that all of his supervisors are certified as specialists. Six are certified in more than one area, he said.

"They're doing jobs that used to have to be contracted," said Holland. "These guys are saving the town money."

Town Commissioner Lloyd Warren said he believes the town has "the most enthusiastic and capable department heads and employees since I've been here. Morale is good, and they're doing a good job."

McDonald's comments about a possible pay raise came during a work session on the town budget.

McDonald said that Mount Olive cannot continue to cut its budget to the bone. The town is going to have to find ways to come up with new money, he said.

The town hasn't raised its tax rate in several years. The rate is 59 cents on the $100 of property value. It was 69 cents but was lowered in 2003 because of tax revaluation.

McDonald said the board needs to consider raising rates for some services. The sewer rate is high enough, he said, but the town's water rate is among the cheapest in the area. The water rate is a minimum of $11.20 up to 300 cubic feet, and sewer is $16.20 up to 300 cubic feet of water use. The water rates might need to be increased, he said, and the town may need to charge a pick-up fee for trash. The garbage rate paid to Waste Industries is $11.15 a month, but pick-up is currently free for yard debris and household items at the street.

"We're at the brink of going six years without an increase in revenues," he told the board. "This is election year. You're going to make these decisions, not me."

Emergency service needs

During the work session, Mount Olive Fire Chief Steve Martin told the board that the fire department is outgrowing its station. The building is 40 years old, he said, and he and McDonald are looking for grant money or a loan to expand or replace the building.

"It was constructed when we had no idea the trucks would be 10 feet longer and three feet wider," Martin said.

The firefighters are also going to need new radios if the county switches over to a new communications system, Martin noted. The Mount Olive Fire Department has four mobiles, which would take $4,000 each to replace, and eight portables, which would cost $2,500 each to replace. Nothing is wrong with the radios in the trucks, he said, and the town could use them to switch up from low band to high band.

The Mount Olive Police Department is going to be in the same situation, Martin said. None of the current radios will work with the new communications system if the county decides to switch to a VHS trunking system.

This type of system would be able to tie together all of the fire, police and rescue people in the county. A VHS trunking system also opens up more frequencies.

The county hasn't made a decision about what to do, and if it did switch over to a VHS trunking system, Mount Olive Police Chief Emmett Ballree said it's going to be phased in gradually over five years.

But Mount Olive has a problem now, said Ballree. A police officer was shot at during a chase on Christmas Eve, and the chief could not hear the officer when the chase advanced into the Red Hill community of Duplin County.

Under a VHS trunking system, Ballree said he could pick up a portable radio in Mount Olive and would be able to hear people in Pikeville and Fremont, even Wilson County, if one of the radios were provided to Wilson County. The same could be done in Kenansville, he said.

Still, Ballree said, Mount Olive is in better shape than some parts of Wayne County.

"They can't hear us in Goldsboro with the car radios," he said, "and with the hand-helds, it's worse."