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No pay hike for commissioners

Washington County

Washington County commissioners denied themselves a pay raise for 2017.

At their Dec. 20 meeting, commissioners voted to keep annual 2016 salaries of $52,713 unchanged for next year.

That figure has remained the same since 2009, Commissioner Karla Bigham said.

"I made a commitment to the residents of District 4 that I wouldn't support a pay raise, so I'm keeping that commitment," Bigham explained later.

The board also set 2017 salaries for County Attorney Pete Orput and Sheriff Bill Hutton at the meeting. Both will be paid $159,609, a 3 percent increase. First Assistant Attorney Brent Wartner and Chief Sheriff's Deputy Dan Starry will receive salaries of $143,648; and Cathy Rochel, executive assistant to the county attorney office, will receive a salary of $61,529.

"We have a really hard-charging county attorney who is not afraid of anything," Commissioner Lisa Weik of Woodbury said. "I have never heard any complaints against the county attorney's office or staff. I've never heard any complaints against the Washington County Sheriff's Office."

The board also approved a 1.6 percent increase for County Administrator Molly O'Rourke, bringing her 2017 salary to $167,978. Because O'Rourke's salary is nearing the state's local compensation limit, the board also voted to give her an additional week of paid time off.

Weik called O'Rourke "not only the best administrator in the metro but in Minnesota. I know that other counties have tried to recruit her because they talked to me about it....There's a trickle-down effect. If you don't have leadership at the very top, it's not going to go through the rest of the county departments. We have a high-performance culture because of the skill set of Molly."

Commissioners also approved a tentative labor agreement with the county's Association of Supervisors that would be effective Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2018.

The agreement includes a 2.5 percent increase effective the first full pay period in January 2017, and a 2.5 percent increase the first full pay period in January 2018.

At a separate meeting where they acted in the capacity of the Washington County Regional Railroad Authority (WCRRA), the board voted Dec. 20 to recommend a locally preferred alternative alignment for the Gateway Corridor, which will be sent to the Metropolitan Council. The Gateway Corridor, or Gold Line, is a proposed bus rapid transit corridor that would run from the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul through the east side of St. Paul, through Oakdale to Woodbury.

The Oakdale and Woodbury city councils voted to approve the route last month.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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