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401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Taxpayers pay big for planning hire

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Dear Editor:

Amid her own employment controversy, Delta County director of community and economic development Elyse Casselberry has hired long-time planning consultant Kelly Yeager as a permanent employee. Yeager, who had been contracted by the county for the past four years, was quietly hired on Feb. 1 as the county's new "current planning manager" at an annual salary of $92,000-plus-mileage and benefits.

Despite his fancy and bizarre title, Yeager's work assignments with the county will be similar to those he performed as a contract planner where he earned more than $100,000 per year in contract fees. He will have no supervisory responsibility, but additional tasks have been added to the job description in a contrived attempt to justify the salary.

To put this into perspective, David Rice, a degreed planner, last held the Delta County senior planning position and earned a top salary of $65,556 annually as a full-time employee with a supervisory role. Gunnison County pays its long-time planner $81,000/year and San Miguel County pays $62,000. Further, a 2018 county salary survey done by County Technical Services, Inc., lists the average annual salary for a planner at $59,405 for counties with comparable budgets to that of Delta County.

At $92,000 a year, Yeager joins the top 10 percent of county employees making the highest salaries while other department managers earn much lower wages including the human services public health director at $73,905; top police sergeant at $59,449; engineering coordinator (top engineering position) at $60,953; GIS analyst/coordinator (top GIS position) at $57,079; and the child welfare manager at $59,820.

Flipping the coin, every other top-level employee heads a department, manages several people and is responsible for important county assets. The county attorney, for example, earned $93,840 in 2018 and heads up the county's legal team with huge responsibilities requiring the highest levels of expertise and education.

With the addition of the cost of benefits, Casselberry's $95,000/year salary -- also higher than others in comparable counties -- and Yeager's $92,000/year salary adds up to almost $225,000 in taxpayer funds. Much less seems to be the norm.

So, you have to ask yourself why our county commissioners and county administrator agreed to pay Yeager this totally out of whack sum. Then ask the same of Casselberry who is also moonlighting at another $90,000/year job, and then wonder why both of these scandals find themselves in the county's planning department.

JoAnn Kalenak

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