Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, May 21, 2001

Wright Board cracks down on overtime

By John Holler

No employer like to pay overtime. It's a part of any business, but can be very expensive, as the the Wright County Board discussed at its May 15 meeting - deciding to come down hard on nonessential overtime pay.

The discussion arose from a significant rise in overtime use countywide, but especially in the highway, sheriff's and human services departments. The use of overtime has become common place and a headache for the county when it comes time to pick up the tab.

"We were looking at the highway department overtime budget and it had held pretty steady for several years and then it just shot up a couple of years ago," Commissioner Dick Mattson said. "We're not talking going up by 50 percent. We're talking going up four times what it had been for years before and those were years where we had mild winters that could have explained a big increase."

The commissioners were quick to note that the departments getting the most scrutiny are also departments that can't control all of their overtime hours. When it snows, the highway department needs to pay overtime if necessary to get the roads plowed. If a sheriff's deputy is at the end of a shift and comes across a life-threatening accident, the deputy must stay on duty until the service call is completed. These aren't points of dispute with the board, it's the rampant use of overtime where the commissioners aren't convinced it's necessary.

"We talked specifically about the highway department because of how much their overtime use went us," Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said. "We are asking that they implement some time management tools to reduce the costs of paying so much overtime."

The board is scheduled to meet with several department heads to discuss the overtime problem and, while the time management discussions will be helpful, if they don't succeed, the county still has option of pulling rank.

"The county does have the right to control schedules," Sawatzke said. "If this doesn't work, we may have to try that."

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