Routt County prepares to contrast its employee salaries to competing counties

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday directed an employee panel to gather more details about nearby mountain counties whose salary scales and relative cost of living could become the basis for an updated salary survey here.

Yampa Valley Regional Airport Manager Dave Ruppel, who heads the seven-member panel, told the commissioners that the panel is leaning toward recommending comparing salaries and market studies with Eagle, Summit, Garfield and La Plata (city of Durango) counties.

“La Plata used Routt County in its evaluation,” Ruppel said. “In 2013, they looked at 52 different (cities and counties). They are a little lower in terms of what they pay and Durango is more of a year-around (tourism) area.”

Ruppel said La Plata County hired a consultant to carry out its salary survey, but the commissioners informed him they would not do the same.

“You’re looking at your consultant,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan told Ruppel.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said he would help the committee research details about cost of living, average rent and median home values to their study of comparable counties. Other committee members include: receptionist Rachel Lundy, Human Resources Director Chris Hensen, Finance Director Dan Strnad, Human Services Director Vickie Clark, Road and Bridge Assistant Director Mike Mordi and sheriff’s Lt. Doug Scherar.

Corrigan is wary of salary surveys.

“I’ve always been suspicious of salary surveys,” Corrigan said. “I’m curious how many surveys have been done that concluded that their employees are being paid too much.”

Sullivan said it has happened before that a survey found certain job descriptions were being overpaid compared to their counterparts in comparable mountain communities. In those cases, the pay of the affected employees was not reduced, but future raises were withheld.

Routt County goes into a new survey having restored 5 percent recession pay cuts to its employees in 2013 and giving them a 2 percent cost-of-living raise and restoring the salary schedule steps this year.

The purpose of the survey is to determine if Routt is at a competitive disadvantage with other comparable markets in terms of recruiting and retaining employees.

Commissioner Doug Monger said he is not concerned about losing rank-and-file employees to other counties. The competition for those administrative assistants and heavy equipment operators, for example, is Northwest Colorado’s own construction and mining industries, he said.

However, Monger agreed that the county should pay attention to how it is faring among other counties with regard to the professionals/managers it needs to employ.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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