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Some Westmoreland County part-timers earn more than $30K a year, work more hours than full-timers

| Sunday, July 21, 2013, 11:12 p.m.

Some part-time work for Westmoreland County is like a full-time job.

Twenty part-time county employees earned more than $30,000 last year and, in many cases, worked more hours than full-timers doing the same jobs.

“It's a balancing act,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said.

Westmoreland County has a workforce of nearly 2,000 employees. About 250 are listed as part time.

Of the part-time staff, 21 were on pace through June to earn more than $30,000 this year, according to payroll figures.

Commissioners, along with a consultant, have started to review the part-time workforce with an eye toward reducing it. The consultant could make recommendations later this year.

In many cases, part-timers are used to fill vacancies in the full-time staff resulting from retirements and resignations. Hourly workers also fill in for sick leaves, vacations and heavy workloads during traditionally busy times.

Of the 20 highest paid part-timers, 17 work as guards at Westmoreland County Prison.

Warden John Walton said the part-timers are essential to ensure the jail is sufficiently staffed.

“We need everybody we got just to make ends meet,” Walton said.

The jail relies on its staff of 75 full-time guards, who earn annual salaries of $39,500 to $43,500, and 41 part-timers to oversee nearly 600 inmates.

The jail must maintain staffing levels around the clock. The part-timers fill in coverage gaps to ensure a full complement, Walton said.

Part-timers earn $17 an hour, about $2 per hour less than full-time jail employees, the warden said.

Walton said although part-timers receive some sick and vacation benefits and are eligible for overtime pay, it still costs less to have a staff of hourly workers rather than bolster the full-time force.

Part-time workers don't receive medical insurance, a costly benefit, Walton said.

“There are additional costs for full-timers,” Walton said.

One of the top part-time earners at the jail last year was Walton's son, Joshua Walton, who earned more than $37,500 as a part-time jail guard.

Joshua Walton left the county's employ this year.

John Walton said he did not schedule his son's hours. Part-timers are assigned hours based on seniority.

The county's top part-time earner last year was Trisha Quinn, a staff nurse at Westmoreland Manor, which has 450 nursing and support staff jobs. Quinn earned more than $44,000 last year.

According to county payroll records, salaries for full-time nurses at the Manor ranged from $19,500 to $64,000.

Manor administrator Margaret Harper said despite Quinn's high level of compensation, the nursing home doesn't use a lot of part-timers throughout the year.

Nurse aides initially are assigned part-time status until they complete a 90-day training period, Harper said.

“We open up full-time slots on a rotating cycle,” she said.

At that point, nurses can transfer into any full-time position available.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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