Does county engineer need sanitary engineer’s job?
By Fran Odyniec
The Madison County commissioners Monday brought under review the sanitary engineer’s position that David Brand holds in addition to his primary job of county engineer.
“We are looking at this in terms of the economic, need and value to the county,” commissioner David Dhume said.
According to county auditor records, Brand, a publicly elected official, is paid an annual salary of $85,354, plus benefits.
As sanitary engineer, Brand is paid $25,700, plus benefits of $4,575.
However, both positions qualify for contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System.
“Do you have an issue with the way the sanitary district is being run?” Brand asked the commissioners during a Monday meeting.
“We want to look at it to see if we can identify a cheaper way to operate it,” commissioner Mark Forrest said.
Brand replied that a shared services arrangement exists between the engineer’s office and the sanitary district which saves the county money.
He pointed out that in his role of sanitary engineer he supervises the operations of the wastewater treatment plants at Burr Oak, Intertstate 70, Camp Wislohican and Choctaw Lake, as well as the countywide sanitary district. It is through his engineer’s office, he said, that he is able to supply the sanitary district with all administrative support services in addition to himself and deputy engineer Ken Koppes as two part-time employees and Nathan Peters as full-time accounts receivable clerk.
The labor costs for those three positions, which total $55,273, are billed out to the sewer districts on a proportional basis.
“For all those services, residents are paying $55,000,” Brand said, including those administrative services provided by the engineer’s office.
He pointed out the benefits the county receives under this shared services arrangement include: Office space, payroll support, budgeting, planning and covering time off.
He also mentioned before the meeting that the engineer’s office also processes 860 monthly bills to Choctaw Lake customers.
Brand added that when he took his position 12 years ago, he was hired as county engineer and sanitary engineer.
“It’s been that way for 12 years,” he told the commissioners.
“At the time the commissioners felt that the county engineer was the right person to deal with EPA regulations and engineering needs,” said Dhume, who was a commissioner at that time. He later commented that that may not be the case today.
“Four permit sanitary districts and a countywide sanitary district need an engineer in charge,” continued Brand, “to oversee operations and make decisions.”
When asked by Forrest how many supervisory hours he puts in a week, Brand replied, “Over the course of a year, two or three hours a week.”
He added that depending on situational needs, he could put in as many as 10 hours a week.
In defending his position as county sanitary engineer, Brand said, “If you don’t hire me as sanitary engineer, you can’t use the administrative services of the engineer’s office.”
“We don’t want to fire anyone,” replied Forrest. “This is not personal. We’re about saving money, not your money.”
Commissioner Paul Gross commented that Brand saying that “to hire me and make county services available shouldn’t be your motivation.”
“We can’t take away those shared services,” said Forrest.
Following an exchange that at one point got heated, Brand offered to expand those shared services.
“I’d be glad to be the sanitary engineer for Mt. Sterling, South Solon, West Jefferson, London, and Plain City,” he said. “I’m not out to gouge the county.”
Dhume concluded the meeting by telling Brand, “We now have a better understanding of where you’re coming from.”
“If you have any questions, call me,” said Brand in reference to calls the commissioners had made earlier in the day to some of his staff members.
The ultimate goal is to save taxpayers dollars, said Dhume.
The commissioners now believe that the wastewater plant operator has the qualifications to do Brand’s job as county sewer engineer.
In questioning Brand’s dual role, Commissioner Mark Forrest commented,” We may be able to lower operation costs and save economies for the public.”