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David Palmer, county engineer

Commissioners explain split vote regarding county engineer’s contract renewal

As the Franklin County Commission begins the hiring process for a new assistant engineer, commissioners have shed a little more light on the split-vote decision to extend Franklin County Engineer David Palmer’s contract another two years.

Commissioners David Hester and Chris Wallace voted in favor of the two-year contract for Palmer, but Commissioners Jason Miller and Joseph Baldwin voted in opposition. This left Franklin County Probate Judge Moore as the tie-breaking vote, with Moore voting in favor of the contract.

“I voted on it as a two-year extension for David where we hire an assistant engineer during that time to get him or her trained to move into that position,” Moore said.

Palmer, who has been the county engineer since 1991, typically has a contract of at least four years. This two-year contract gives Palmer time to hire and train an assistant engineer prior to retiring.

Miller said his nay vote was not against Palmer or the job he has done but rather the salary amount, which Miller voted against previously.

“I wanted us to revisit that issue before renewing his contract since that was something many citizens seemed to be concerned about the last time this came up,” Miller said. “My job is to represent my constituents.”

Miller said since the issue of salary amount was not revisited, he felt it would be the responsible thing to vote against the contract.

The new contract retains Palmer’s current $169,000 annual salary, reached from three different annual raises included in his contract approved in 2017. The new contract does not include an annual raise.

Hester said he thought Palmer’s contract was fair because of Palmer’s experience and how highly recommended he is as an engineer.

“I think Mr. Palmer has done a lot of things for our county with the connections he has and the knowledge that he has,” Hester said. “I think it was worth giving him an extra two years in his contract, especially in terms of hiring an assistant. David is going to be a hard one to replace because of his experience and the great job he does.”

Palmer said he is familiar with having to make difficult decisions through his role as a Russellville city councilman, and he said his feelings do not get hurt by the decisions made.

“Everyone has to take the information they have been given and make the best decision they can for the people they represent with the information they have,” Palmer said.

Baldwin said he voted against the contract after hearing both sides and thinking about what the people would want.

“I voted the way I did because I felt like that’s what my constituents brought me in to do, and I represent those people,” Baldwin said.

Wallace said he voted in favor of the contract because he felt it was worth it to keep Palmer as county engineer an additional two years to train an assistant engineer.

“If he were to retire now and leave us without an assistant, we’d be in a mess,” Wallace said. “We have to have somebody trained up, so it was a no-brainer why we needed him here.”

Palmer will spend the first part of his two-year contract looking to hire an assistant engineer. This position must be filled by the end of April.

After the assistant engineer is hired, he or she will spend the next two years learning about budgets and grant writing before taking over when Palmer’s contract runs out Jan. 31, 2023.

“I’m not getting any younger, and there’s things I’d like to do outside of this job, so I figured it was time,” Palmer said.

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