St. John Council ups pay for key water plant workers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – In a move to help the parish stay competitive in their hiring practices, the St. John Council unanimously approved an ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting that gives a raise in pay to the parish’s water plant operators.

Administrators at the meeting said the boost in pay, roughly a dollar an hour across the board, will help the parish cut overtime expenses by attracting more plant operators with class 4 certification. Parish Spokesperson Buddy Boe said that the parish needs to hire three more class 4 operators to meet water quality standards set up by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Health and Hospitals.

“These aren’t positions that we can just ‘fill’ with anybody to get overtime down,” said Parish President Bill Hubbard. “The positions addressed in this ordinance require certification and continuing education because they deal with the public’s health. We are going to have to pay more to find the people to fill them.”

In addition to attracting more qualified candidates from outside the parish, Hubbard said he hopes the raise will also entice some current employees to go through the necessary training to achieve higher certification levels.

The ordinance including the raise originally failed to receive council approval when it was put up for adoption at the May 13 meeting, because it included two other stipulations that certain members of the council did not approve of.

The raise was coupled with a measure that would award credit to new and existing employees for job-related experience outside of parish work, giving them the opportunity for higher starting pay. Another part of the original ordinance included the creation of a new pay grade and a new parish position called “professional administrator,” that would have a starting salary of $21.50 per hour.

Hubbard said the measures would allow the parish to hire more middle management, and would also attract more potential employees with higher education. Division A Councilman-at-Large Dale Wolfe, and District 3 Councilman Charles Julien argued that the two additional stipulations were not fair to current employees, and that it gives too much power to the parish president.

“When it comes to our employees, I am one of the first to stand up and help them out,” said Wolfe. “This puts other things in place that are not helpful to them.”

Both measures were reintroduced as separate ordinances to be voted on at the next council meeting, which is scheduled for June 10. Hubbard thanked the council for approving the raise, but asked that they seriously consider the two new ordinances.

“They are good business practices, and could really help the parish move forward,” said Hubbard. “Approval of these ordinances means you are being progressive.”

Hubbard said at the meeting that more middle management would allow the parish to process work orders faster, and get more of the smaller issues parish-wide taken care of. He said the process has been slowed because he has to review all work orders that come through the office.

“We are trying to institute new ways to handle smaller issues,” said Hubbard. “These measures would certainly help.”

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting, the council renewed the appointment of L’Observateur as the official journal for the St. John Council, a position it has held for many years. The parish also received an award, and a $78,000 check from Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation for the parish’s exemplary commitment to safety in the workplace.