Building official comes at a high price

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The Levy County Commission has approved hiring Chiefland building official Bill Hammond as the county’s building and zoning official but it was not without some heartburn over his salary and benefits. 

Hammond, who earns $58,520 with Chiefland, started negotiations with the county by asking for $75,000. He came down to $73,000 and has stayed firm on it, said County Coordinator Fred Moody. 

The decision to hire Hammond came at Tuesday’s regular commission meeting. Later Tuesday afternoon, Hammond sais he had given his notice to Chiefland City Manager Grady Hartzog and would be leaving the city on April 5. He starts with the county on April 9. 

Moody said Hammond also wanted a take-home vehicle and to work four 10-hour days per week. 

“We have comp time and we are working on some changes that would say employees have to take it in the same pay period (worked) or in the next one,” Moody said. 

Moody said Hammond is an hourly employee at Chiefland, but the position at the county is salaried. He also would be gaining a larger staff to supervise in the county office,” Moody said. 

Hammond was the No. 1 candidate for the commission after interviews with the top two candidates were done on March 7.

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 2) said, “We were firm at $69,000 or $70,000.”

He added that he could not fault Hammond for putting a value on the knowledge he brings to the job. 

Moody said Hammond will not be working a four-day week if he takes the job because the county’s building office is a Monday-Friday operation. And he noted that in Chiefland it is Hammond and one other employee, while at the county level he will be supervising five employees. Also, Hammond would be taking on code enforcement duties as County Code Enforcement Officer Ted Parada has retired. 

Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5) asked if Hammond has all the certifications the other job candidates had. The county had ranked four candidates, but only interviewed two after two dropped out. 

County Building and Zoning Official Rob Corbitt, whom Hammond would replace on April 9, said Hammond is a building code administrator which covers all the necessary certifications. 

Moody said, “You don’t have to have those (certifications) if you have the administrator.”

One thing Hammond does not have is flood plan manager certification. But Corbitt said Hammond has not needed that in Chiefland. He said Hammond could take the four-day course offered by the Suwannee River Water Management District and, if he wished, could sit for the test, but it was not necessary to take the test to manage the flood program. County Attorney Anne Bast Brown said Hammond has taken the course. 

“Well, I don’t want to be in the position today to come to a price and have to hire one-two people down the road,” Stevens said. 

Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3) said he was not happy with the salary, especially considering that county employees have not had a pay raise in five years and have fallen behind on earnings. “I am just kind of hung up on the salary,” Joyner said. He vowed, “We are going to try to get some money for county employees. This is salt in the wound. We are going to have to tighten the belts up because I am going to fight for the rest of the employees.”

Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) said, “I don’t like the way he held our feet to the fire on salary. “ But Meeks indicated Hammond was the choice to replace Corbitt.