Davison County employees will get a raise in 2021, but how the county is getting to that point is a little different for the new year.

Every full-time employee will get a raise of 2.5 percent and no raise will be less than 50 cents per hour, the Davison County Commission decided unofficially on Tuesday during their regular meeting.

The cost estimate for those raises is about $104,000 in total, Commissioner Randy Reider said.

It is a slight deviation from how the county has administered raises in past years. Ahead of 2020, the county had approved a raise of 1 percent, plus 50 cents per hour, which equated to an increase of about 2.6 percent for most county elected officials and department heads.

That was a one-year change from the traditional 2 percent plus 50-cent raise that the county had been using for most of the last decade.

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Reider, one of the board’s liaisons to the county’s Wage Committee, said the change is in part because the county has caught its starting wages up to other businesses and industry around Mitchell and the surrounding counties.

“If you dial it back to 2013, when I started on the commission, this board said, ‘We’re trying to get the wages of the county up to a more competitive standard.’ We’ve hit that spot,” he said.

He said that goal has been met, in part because the county is now drawing more applications and more candidates when it has a job opening.

“If the wage scale was out of line, I don’t think we would have that,” he said.

Commissioner John Claggett said the county’s current wage format is much different than a decade ago and has made huge strides.

“It’s brought up the bottom and moved forward,” he said.

Davison County Commissioner Denny Kiner was most frank about the county’s past approach to wage increases.

“If you go way back, there was no scientific basis on doing anything,” Kiner said. “What we’ve had recently, that was to catch up."

For 2021, a full-time county employee with a 50-cent raise would see an increase of at least $1,040 for the year. The 50-cent raise would likely go into effect for anyone earning under $20 per hour, Reider said. He also touted that the county covered cost increases related to health insurance, meaning county employees won’t be paying more for certain plans.

“In a difficult year, a trying year, we’ve tried to be fair and keep everyone moving forward without breaking the bank,” Reider said.

The raises will be formalized and considered for approval in the county’s year-end meetings at the end of the month. Also undetermined was the commissioners’ annual wages, which will likely be finalized at year’s end.

Bill to come due for historic courthouse elevator

Davison County is going to have to commit serious funding to replace its courthouse elevator, potentially the first major upgrade to the system in more than 80 years.

The elevator, which serves five floors of the courthouse, has had numerous issues in recent weeks, including frequently stranding people in it, and a call to the Mitchell Fire Division to help get individuals out.

On Tuesday, the commission committed to trying to replace the elevator. The project was not in the 2021 budget, but it has reached the point where the county can’t put it off any longer.

“I think it’s time to bite the bullet,” Claggett said. “People stranded (on the elevator) is not where our business is. We’ve played with this for a lot of decades.”

“We’ve kicked the can down the road about as far as we could,” Reider added.

Davison County Physical Plant Director Mark Ruml said the last price quoted to him for the replacement of the elevator in 2019 was $169,500. He said he estimates that the entire cost of the project would be close to $200,000. He said it’s been difficult for elevator maintenance workers in the past to diagnose a common problem with the elevator. When it does stop, county workers have to go to the building’s roof and essentially reset it and hope it restarts.

The courthouse, dedicated in 1937, had a state-of-the-art elevator included when it opened and it’s believed that there are some original parts still in use, including the elevator’s cab and some of the gears.

The commission tasked Ruml with getting new bids for the project for potential replacement in 2021.