IT, engineering and employee benefit coordination affected by departures

Last updated: March 20. 2014 11:31PM - 3978 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com



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New resignations will leave voids in three Luzerne County offices that were already short-staffed — information technology, engineering and employee benefit coordination.


County Manager Robert Lawton said he believes these and some other recent departures stem largely from the county’s lack of non-union raises for several years and the stress of budget-related staff cuts that have forced many departments to perform the same level of work with fewer people.


An outside analysis of market salary ranges for non-union positions that have not increased in six years is planned to determine if raises are warranted in the 2015 budget, he said. Lawton also plans more employee training to prepare workers for additional duties.


“We realize that there are many opportunities available, often at substantially higher salaries, in both the public and private sectors, and we would not begrudge anyone who chooses to improve their own station after spending so many years improving the county’s performance,” Lawton said.


County Benefits Coordinator Jay Zupa, who had a one-person office handling employee health insurance, is leaving to become Nanticoke’s city manager.


The city position pays $55,000, or about $19,300 more than Zupa’s county compensation. Zupa could not be reached for comment.


County assistant engineer Mel Morris, who is paid $41,200, said he has submitted his resignation to accept a private-sector position with a local company.


“I had another opportunity to further my career,” Morris said.


One engineer left


His departure leaves the county with only one engineer — Greg Parrs.


The administration has not yet filled two other vacant engineer positions — the chief engineer job vacated when Joe Gibbons resigned in May for a position outside the region and the assistant engineer position previously held by Chris Belleman, who is now executive director of the county Flood Protection Authority.


The county also must hire an engineer as operational services division head to oversee that office and others because Belleman gave up the division head post to work for the flood authority in September.


The county’s IT department will have only one employee on April 4 — IT specialist Bob Connors — because systems/network administrator Michael Shoback has resigned to obtain private sector employment.


The department already was down two employees due Henry O’Dell’s layoff in January and Executive Director Steve Englot’s retirement in October.


Two court branch information technology workers also are gone due to a recent retirement and resignation, eliminating backup sometimes provided for non-court offices.


Contingency plans


Dave Parsnik, head of the county Administrative Services Division that oversees human resources, said plans are in the works to ensure services are covered.


A temporary outside administrator will handle employee benefits for several months while the administration evaluates future plans for Zupa’s position, he said.


Parsnik had not received notice of Morris’ resignation as of Thursday afternoon but said interviews were conducted last week for the chief engineer position last held by Gibbons.


The administration should receive engineer resumes next week from an outside recruitment company for the operational services division head position, he said.


Morris said staff engineers manage building projects on all county structures, roads and bridges. They also review subdivision and land-development requests and handle county roadway permits and land-development inspections.


Keeping engineers on staff makes sense to reduce the county’s reliance on outside contractors and consultants, Morris said.


“Our ability to handle this work in-house has been a major cost savings to the county,” Morris said.


Parsnik said he is preparing to review applications for the IT executive director position last filled by Englot.


The county may rely on an existing outside technology contractor to assist until Shoback’s non-union position is publicly advertised and filled, Parsnik said.


The administration has no plans to restore the union IT specialist position last held by O’Dell, who was furloughed to help close a 2014 budget deficit, Parsnik said.


The two court IT specialist positions have been publicly advertised at a salary range of $25,000 to $40,000, with resumes due March 24, said county Court Administrator Michael Shucosky.


Both positions became vacant this month because Bill Ostroskie retired and Lee Greenberg left to accept another position, Shucosky said.


In addition to assisting non-court offices as time allowed, these two employees manage computers and networks in multiple court branches, including magisterial offices and domestic relations, Shucosky said. Some of these systems are linked to state and local law enforcement databases, he said.


Getting candidates


Attracting applicants is more challenging for governments that cannot compete with compensation provided in the private sector, Shucosky said.


Parsnik said the county IT executive director position may be readvertised at a higher salary if there are not enough qualified applicants to interview. The current range is $55,000 to $70,000.


Lawton told council members in February the search for an IT director was not going well because of the salary and working conditions.


Englot, a 15-year employee, has said he left because he didn’t want to get burned out in a cash-strapped environment where cutbacks and staff reductions are the norm. Englot obtained a position in the private sector.


The county’s IT staff size pales in comparison to other similarly sized counties, Englot has said. The office manages computers, software, networks, telephones and website support for most county departments. The county has about 50 computer servers, not including 911.


O’Dell had predicted productivity would suffer with his elimination, saying he was always busy responding to computer malfunctions and other maintenance issues.


The administration also must fill positions overseeing 911 and the planning/zoning office.


Jack Robshaw has resigned as 911 executive director to accept a position outside county government. Resumes for the 911 position, advertised at $60,000, were due Monday.


Adrian Merolli left the planning/zoning director position in December, after four decades of county employment, to begin his retirement. Resumes for the job paying $50,000 to $60,000 were due in January, but the county is still accepting applications because the position was kept on the county website, www.luzernecounty.org.


Planning/zoning worker Nancy Snee is serving as interim director.


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