By Meg Dickens
Comparable wages is a serious issue in Johnson County and was only a matter of time before it reached the Mountain City Council for discussion on Tuesday, January 7. City Hall was packed, while the council’s only missing member was City Mayor Kevin Parsons. Vice Mayor Bud Crosswhite lead the meeting in his stead.
According to 2017 data from Data USA, Johnson County’s median annual income fell at nearly half of the United States’ median and approximately $15,000 under the Tennessee median. The most common household bracket was less than $10,000. All county students receive free lunch and breakfast at school because of this. Thanks to current events such as Mayor Parsons’ $750,000 lawsuit against the county and several members of the community, the timing to discuss comparable wages and wage increase is particularly bad.
Of course, the concern that Johnson County, and the county seat Mountain City, are both losing employees to “headhunters” is by no means a new issue. Many outside areas can pay employees more for their work. The sanitation department is one example. City Water Collection and Distribution Superintendent Chris Hook requested to hire an employee after losing one to headhunters. Several employees have reported being contacted, and the number of offers is unknown.
“Other people are calling our people, our employees,” said Hook. “I don’t blame him for taking a better offer. We should have to work so we give our families a better opportunity.”
City Police Chief Denver Church spoke to the council about possible raises for his officers. Alderman Bob Morrison pointed out the cost invested in each officer trained, and he suggested applying the raise before hiring any new employees as an incentive.
“We’re losing people. You get a better job, someone that’s going to pay more money, I can’t blame you,” said Morrison. “What I’m concerned with now is the fact that we have employees that are receiving training and then they’re going back to a job because of the money. I think our rates need to be comparable to that. All we’re doing is losing employees. We have a lot of money invested in these officers.”
The topic of discussion comes in a particularly bad timing with current events such as Mayor Parsons’ $750,000 lawsuit against the county, and several members of the community. For reference, council members estimate several thousand dollars would be enough to fortify the city police department. Losing three-quarters of a million dollars would put more stress on the local economy.