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Zoning office wants reorganization

A somewhat surprising request for a reorganization of the County Zoning Administrator’s Office was presented to the Budget Committee during its Oct. 11 meeting.
Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford asked for a reclassification of GIS Specialist Chris Pape’s position with an increase in pay to $42,000, the addition of a full-time employee at $33,000 to fill Pape’s former role, and an almost $22,000 salary increase for himself. If approved, the increase would have Rutherford making more than $85,000, making him one of the highest paid employees in the county.
“I’m asking for a reorganization because of the increase in projects to the department,” Rutherford said, referring to the redistricting process, assisting people in the community, and new commission projects that have increased his workload.
“As you have increased my responsibilities, you should also increase my salary,” he added.
Commissioner Pete Speropulos, of the Zoning Committee, encouraged Rutherford to explain why his requests had not been made before.
“I thought when we were preparing the budget, we were in cutting mode,” Rutherford said.
“But new positions were created and money was given to other departments. If we’re going to expand, we need our fair share.”
Rutherford said the Zoning Department has been passed over for years, and its “broken” status should be fixed with the approval of his three requests, which total $85,000.
Commissioner Joe Grandy said he was struggling with the timing of the requests, which are coming after months of discussions and public meetings regarding the budget.
“Our objective was to hold firm (on expenses); that was not misrepresented,” he said.
In addition, Grandy referred to a private conversation during which Rutherford said he was okay with the department pay and workload.
“I said I’d live with it,” Rutherford said.
“You’ve only been here 13 months, I’ve been here more than 20 years.
“Why are Chris and I working until 9 p.m., and no one else is taking it seriously?”
Rutherford said changes in the stormwater rules and requirements, which represent the bulk of the work, have been evolving since January.
Commissioner Mitch Meredith asked if any of the work could be contracted with an outside contractor rather than adding a full-time employee.
Rutherford said the new employee would be assisting Pape in his new role.
“We need to build some white space into Chris’ calendar so he doesn’t have something to do every minute,” he said.
In addition, Rutherford said he personally resents the stormwater project.
“It was assigned to me, I didn’t ask for it, and it has taken over the office,” he said.
Commissioner Mark Larkey made a motion to approve all three requests.
“I would like to keep it moving,” he said.
“We told them (staff members) to come back if they needed more.”
Meredith disagreed.
“I think we saw in the last commission meeting what happens when we pull the trigger too quickly,” he said.
“I’d like to consider all of the ramifications.”
No second was made to Larkey’s motion.
Meredith asked Rutherford if he had a problem with the committee taking an additional 30 to 60 days to consider his $85,000 request.
“I certainly do, when a department head with my credentials tells you there is a need,” Rutherford said.
“But you do what you need to do, and I’ll do what I need to do.”
Meredith moved to place the topic on the agenda for the November meeting of the Budget Committee, and Grandy seconded.
The motion passed, with Larkey opposed.