ABINGDON, Va. — The Washington County Service Authority employed 90 employees whose collective salaries totaled approximately $3.5 million during the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Of the 90 employees, 75 were full-time, seven part-time and eight were board members. Seventy-one men and 19 women worked at the service authority during the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
The Washington County News obtained the salaries of the service authority employees through the Freedom of Information Act on Oct. 31.
A water and wastewater utility, the service authority serves 21,000 water and 2,300 wastewater connections, General Manager Robert Cornett, said. However, it is not the only provider for Washington County.
“To meet our customers’ needs, we operate two water treatment plants, one spring [and] one well and purchase water from three neighboring utilities,” Cornett said.
The water is distributed through 900 miles of pipeline, covering approximately 300 square miles.
Additionally “due to the mountainous region” the service authority operates two wastewater plants, 28 water pumping stations, 26 water storage and 50 pressure reducing valves, Cornett said.
Wastewater is collected and conveyed through 100 miles of pipelines and requires 29 pumping stations, Cornett said. To operate and maintain those systems, 57 employees of the 75 fulltime staff work in operations and maintenance. The remaining 18 staff members [of the 75] work in engineering, accounting, administration and customer service.
There are certain licensing requirements and “other things of that nature” that operator employees need to achieve over time, Cornett said. Additionally, for the maintenance department there are certifications anywhere from commercial license to erosion and sentiment control that can be earned.
“Employees may start out as a trainee but can move up when they become fully competent in the position,” Cornett said.
The service authority has a seven-person board of commissioners. In 2016 the board had eight members due to one of the commissioner’s term expiring in June. There are never more than seven members serving at one time.
The board approves compensation for each of the employees and considers bonuses and merit- or performance-based increases.
Merit and performance raises are “given out accordingly,” said Cornett. The board sets aside an amount of money for the raises.
Bonuses are not included in the annual salary and neither is overtime, Cornett said.
Commissioners also specifically set the general manager’s salary.
The board also considers cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for all employees when handling raises.
To determine COLAs, the board “generally looks at inflation to be the guide,” Cornett said.
Over the last several years, the COLAs have ranged anywhere from zero percent to the highest being 2.5 or 2.6 percent.