By Gina Smith
September 02, 2012 

What if…

You hear that phrase on many occasions.  In today’s society, it seems we play the “what if” game quite often. But, on the other side, we say “oh, that could never happen to me.”

9/11 wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did.  Flooding in Lincoln County causing extensive damage to many houses and communities wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did.  Life altering automobile accidents on Lincoln County roadways isn’t supposed to happen, but it does.

The Lincoln County budget is facing this same scenario. We aren’t supposed to be having these issues, but we are.

The budget impacts every single community member in the county.  What if you are in need of police assistance, and no one answers the phone? What if someone answers the phone and they advise that there is no staffing available and they are not able to assist in your issue?

What if you drive down the road and your car falls into a sink hole. The road department cannot help because there is no staff to come bail your car out, or fix the hole to prevent other cars from falling in.

The county budget was finalized, and negotiations are complete with  employee unions. With supplies cut as much as they could be over the past few years, the county employees’ salaries, benefits and concessions took the hit on this year after another budget shortfall.

These employee budget items are split into two entities represented by two different unions. The Sheriff’s Association negotiates the Sheriff’s officers’ salaries, and the Teamsters Union regulates the dispatcher, road department and county courthouse clerical staff.

Both unions agreed to freezing pay, with a reduction of concessions (which is incentives) and benefit cuts.

Sheriff Kerry Lee expressed satisfaction with the outcome.  “I am very proud of the associations that they stepped up to the plate to come to an agreement on concessions and on the contracts, as well as try to avoid layoffs for the county,” he said.

Commissioner Paul Mathews, who was in charge of the negotiating process on behalf of the county commissioners, said the negotiators reached the best solutions with the situation we had.

Some may feel all this isn’t their concern.

When does it become our concern? Maybe when we are in need of services, and they aren’t available? It doesn’t have to be that way. We can all get actively involved and come together to solve these important issues before it gets to the catastrophic stage.
What can we do as citizens of Lincoln County to be involved in our community?

There are many different entities to find your niche in. From volunteering with the ambulance or fire services to serving on a board. Or you could, as Commissioner Mathews suggested, “Show up to meetings and voice your feelings. Maybe study the issues, where money comes from and how it can be used and provide feedback to the commissioners and local officials. Even telling the commissioners what you think. Communication is key.”

We have some brilliant, smart intelligent and creative people in this great county we call Lincoln. We can put our heads together, work together and make this a better place to live.