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Blair may contract again with salary study firm

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County commissioners are considering a follow-up contract with East Coast Risk Management, the company that took much longer than anticipated to finish a salary study with recommendations not yet addressed.

“This is for work going forward,” Human Resources Director Katherine Swigart told commissioners Tuesday when she presented four job-related tasks that East Coast could handle.

Those tasks include updating the study’s pay scale report, at a cost of $140 per hour, reviewing and/or creating a job description, establishing a task-based value of each job title and assigning jobs to pay grades. For a task fitting into one of those three descriptions — estimated at about 15 annually — the county will pay $450 each under the proposal.

After presenting the pending agreement to commissioners Tuesday, Swigart clarified for Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb that if a county department creates a new job, East Coast, for a $450 fee, will handle tasks associated with creating a job description and evaluating pay levels.

Commissioner Amy Webster asked if that fee would fall to a county department. Swigart said yes.

Commissioners Erb, Laura Burke and Webster reviewed the proposal when meeting Tuesday. A vote is set for a 10 a.m. Thursday during a business meeting that will be convened through telephone and video connections.

The contract has no specific timeframe and can be canceled by either party with written notification.

Swigart described the agreement as a way to sustain use of the study, presented in October 2020, containing job-related information that was relevant as of August 2020.

The company’s study contained a mix of recommendations — including pay raises and pay freezes — applicable to the county’s 550 employees, excluding elected officials. East Coast, in a description of its work, said recommendations were based on job descriptions, salaries and wages paid to county employees and what the company deemed as market-rate pay for similar positions.

Collectively, the company found that employee wages added up to $16,433,110. That calculated to $710,932 less than the East Coast’s recommended pay rates totaling $17,144,042.

Commissioners acknowledged completion of the salary study in October, more than two years after it was authorized.

The previous commissioners board consisting of Erb, Terry Tomassetti and Ted Beam Jr., commissioned the study in June 2018 at almost $75,000 plus expenses. That same board also rejected a draft copy of the proposed study after finding that it lacked required information.

Current commissioners, after receiving the study in October, indicated that the report would be forwarded to the county’s salary board for review and implementation. Commissioners sit on the salary board with Controller A.C. Stickel.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Burke asked if the county could use another vendor for the four job-related tasks proposed for East Coast, while acknowledging that the county had difficulty finding a vendor to undertake the salary study.

Because it did the study, the county has access to information that any vendor could use in undertaking the recommended tasks, Swigart said. But she said the county doesn’t have access to the proprietary system East Coast used to reach its recommendations.

Swigart also clarified that updating the county’s pay scale, at $140 per hour, could be undertaken every year or every two years. While her department could handle the task, Swigart said the department would prefer an outside vendor.

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