Stutsman County Commission discusses wages for road department employees

Human resources director says she is looking at ways to revamp pay structures.

JSSP Stutsman County News

JAMESTOWN – The Stutsman County Road Department does not currently have enough employees on staff and wages could be part of the reason, according to Jim Wentland, county road superintendent.

He said the only thing he hears about is wages.

“People tell me that they can’t come to work for me,” he said. “They are making $25, $26, $27 (per hour) with the local construction companies doing the same thing, and they are not going to come work with us for that.”

Wentland said getting enough help comes down to wages. He said he has a couple of employees who will retire in the next few years and is worried about losing the experienced workers. He said the experienced workers train for many years.

“They train young guys for years and years and years,” he said.


Wentland said the road department has specialized equipment that needs specific people to operate it. He said there are also more regulations to obtain a commercial driver's license.

“We got one guy going through it right now,” he said. “By the time he’s ready to get his license, I will have three months invested in him.”

Commissioner Chad Wolsky said he thinks the issue is wages. He said the county needs to have competitive wages.

“That is the only way you are going to solve the problem,” he said. “Otherwise, you aren’t going to have anybody left.”

The starting wage is $20 an hour for road department employees, said Shannon Davis, Stutsman County human resources director. Jessica Alonge, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer, said the average wage for a step 5 employee in the department is $22.03 per hour.

Commissioner Steve Cichos said a 5% increase in pay will only increase an employee’s pay by $50 per week if that individual makes $25 per hour.

Mark Klose, commission chair, said Stutsman County offers better benefits than a lot of contractors and that has to be a factor for the lower wages the county offers.

Davis said she is looking at ways to revamp pay structures and is hoping to have something to present to the county commission at its first meeting in March.


“I’m also looking at doing something far more detailed for the 2024 budget cycle,” she said.

Cichos said the road department might be in a position where it cannot assist townships. He said it’s not an easy decision for any of the county commissioners but they may be forced to make the decision because the road department doesn’t have the staff.

“I’m not advocating that by any way, shape or form, but your priority … is going to have to be the county,” he said.

Wentland said the road department helps townships by installing culverts and repairing roads.

In other business, the county commission unanimously approved paying the South Central Regional Council dues for 2023.

The amount owed to the Regional Council is more than $36,400 with a 63-37 city-county split, with the city of Jamestown’s share being almost $23,000 and Stutsman County’s share being about $13,500.

The Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee recommended approval 4-0 on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to pay its share of the Regional Council’s dues.

The county’s payment is subject to a review of the joint powers agreement with the Regional Council.


Cichos said there is only a spot for Stutsman County to sign the agreement and no one else.

“There is nothing there for the city and the South Central Dakota Regional Council,” he said.

Commissioner Jerry Bergquist said the agreement is fine the way it is but there should be an agreement between the county and the city of Jamestown showing the cost split.

Commissioner Joan Morris also questioned the invoice from the Regional Council because it shows that Stutsman County owes the full amount of more than $36,400.

Klose said the county-city split was established after the dues for the Regional Council were paid out of the economic development fund. He said the agreement was between the county and the Regional Council but now the city of Jamestown contributes its share of the dues.

Alonge said the county and city each send its share of the dues to the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., which sends the full amount to the Regional Council.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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