FILE PHOTO – Cache Valley Visitors Center / Historic Cache County Courthouse
CACHE COUNTY – During their regular meeting Tuesday, the members of the Cache County Council approved the immediate hiring of a new grant writer/manager for the county, but turned thumbs down on a similar request for a chief deputy in the County Recorder’s Office.
After several previous visits to council meetings to discuss the issue, Cache County Finance Director Cameron Jensen appeared Tuesday to obtain final approval for the hiring of a county grant writer/manager.
Once again, Jensen emphasized that part of the new hire’s responsibilities would be to identify and apply for state and federal grants that would benefit county residents and potentially defray at least a portion of the cost of the new employee’s salary and benefits.
The finance director added that, in the role of grant manager, the new employee would also provide oversight to ensure appropriate spending of existing grant funds.
County Executive David Zook said that those existing grants include about $25 million that the county is due to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
“We’re still waiting for the final rules from the federal government on how those funds can be used,” Zook explained. “We have some initial rules and the legislation itself, but it seems like final rules for those grant funds won’t be available until the fall. We have several years to use those funds, so we’re not too worried about that delay at this point.”
The members of the county council unanimously approved the hiring of the grant writer/manager, but deadlocked over an appeal from County Recorder Devron Andersen to hire a qualified deputy recorder.
Under state law, the responsibilities of the county recorder’s office include issuing and maintaining documents related to real estate transactions such as deeds, mortgages, liens and maps.
The recorder’s office also maintains plats that are used in the process of assessing and collecting property taxes.
Due to a local housing boom and a hot real estate market, Andersen said that his office’s workload has increased by 66 percent over the past 14 months, resulting in a backlog of unfinished plat work.
But his attempts to hire a deputy recorder have been stymied by a county policy capping the salary he can offer at $74,000 annually.
Despite their concern over the impact of that plat backlog, council members on Tuesday balked at Andersen’s request for an exception to policy that would allow him to offer a prospective highly-qualified deputy candidate an annual salary of $88,000, plus some vacation time concessions.
Andersen’s request was strongly opposed by council members Nolan P. Gunnell and David L. Erickson.
Gunnell took exception to the idea of waiving the county salary cap policy because that action might result in resentment on the part of other county employees.
Erickson expressed doubt that the addition of a single employee would resolve the plat backlog in the recorder’s office. He moved instead that Andersen bring in qualified local hires – including former county recorder Mike Gleed – on a temporary and contract basis to address that concern.
Councilmember Karl B. Ward countered with an “all hands on deck” approach to the problems of the recorder’s office. He suggested that Andersen’s request for the exception to salary policy be granted, that local hires also be brought in and that other county employees be trained to complete necessary plat work.
With Gordon A. Zilles absent from Tuesday’s meeting, the council members eventually split their votes 3 to 3 on two different motions, leaving Andersen’s request unfulfilled and the plat backlog in the recorder’s office unresolved.
The next regular meeting of the Cache County Council is slated for Aug. 10.