ALBION — It’s the wrong time to have a vacancy at the health department.

And the Noble County Commissioners are doing what they can to fill that spot — sweetening the pot for the county health nurse position and asking county attorney Dennis Graft to come up with a contract.

County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff reported to the commissioners Monday that longtime Noble County Health Nurse Cheryl Brown was leaving her position after 11 years to take a job with an area hospital. Brown’s last day will be March 15.

“We find ourselves without a county health nurse,” Gaff said. “I’m looking to change the offer and accommodations.”

By going with the contract route, the county can speed up the hiring process considerably.

Normally, new hires’ salary adjustments have to go through the Noble County Council. The council doesn’t meet again until March 1, only two weeks before Brown will leave. If the council had any questions or required a committee meeting, the hiring could have been pushed back significantly.

All in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“I need this,” Gaff said. “This is an exceptional situation. It is a challenge. I’m losing sleep over this.”

“We’ll work with you,” Commissioner Justin Stump said. “Don’t lose sleep.”

Gaff sought the changes, he said, because the two qualified candidates he has already spoken with have balked at the pay package and other normal restrictions placed on new county hires.

Brown’s salary was $52,000, but that wasn’t enough to woo anyone with good qualifications.

“It’s better than it was, but it was below the market,” Gaff said.

Gaff provided data to the commissioners that showed the average nursing salary in this area is approximately $30 per hour.

He also stated nurses average another $11,000 per year in overtime.

The county health nurse position is exempt from overtime.

The commissioners agreed to Gaff’s request for a salary of $58,500 per year to start.

They also agreed that it would be appropriate to wave the 10% cut in pay for the first 90 days. This is done for county employees as they train in their new position.

Gaff said both candidates are already well trained.

The county also agreed to alter its vacation policy. The new health nurse, according to the terms of the contract, would receive one week of vacation for every five years of nursing experience. Most employees’ vacation time is based on their time as a Noble County employee, not their previous years’ experience.

Gaff said he had intended to take the matter up with the Noble County Council and had already spoken to two members of that board.

County Coordinator Jackie Knafel suggested the commissioners take the contract route because of the need to fill the position quickly.

Gaff also announced that he would like to retire from his position in June.

“I am willing to stay longer,” he said.

“We understand you’ve been under a lot of pressure,” Commissioner Gary Leatherman said. “We appreciate all you’ve done.”

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