McLennan County leaders debated the use of a countywide timekeeping system Tuesday.

Commissioners also adopted a new policy to prevent a repeat of an apparent error that resulted in a department head giving himself an unapproved raise last year.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Kelly Snell said a committee reviewed several time systems. There are multiple programs and tools available, including allowing employees to clock in on a computer or a cell phone, Snell said. The cell phone program can be customized to receive GPS data from the phone to ensure the employees are where they say they are.

The system gives managers another tool to streamline the time sheet processes and manage hours, Snell said.

But not everyone agreed it is worth the cost.

County Auditor Stan Chambers said at some point commissioners must have confidence in supervisors. Chambers said he’s not against the idea of a new time keeping system, but the proposed costs are too high. He said his employees use a time clock he bought for $100.

The committee’s recommendation includes a three-year phase-in period. The system would cost $123,839, plus $75,725 for 25 time clocks.

Employees now hand write their hours with no safeguard to prevent employees lying, Snell said.

Chambers said the county does have a safeguard.

“Not only does the employee sign off, but it’s signed off by the supervisor,” he said. “What are you really going to gain with the amount of money this costs?”

Snell said the proposed system would make review easier, including when department heads are seeking new employees.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said if department heads are not willing to use the equipment, the purchase isn’t worth the effort.

“If we can get a consensus on a majority of the county to use it, it has its perks,” Perry said.

Commissioners plan to continue the discussion at later meetings.

Payroll

They also updated a policy in the county handbook during Tuesday’s meeting.

It updates the process for payroll status forms and comes as a reaction to a department head giving himself a $14,000 raise.

County building maintenance director Herschel Miller paid the county back $5,784.21 in June after the error was discovered. Several officials said Miller made an honest mistake.

At the time, department heads filled out payroll forms by hand for themselves and the rest of their department. Those forms are sent to the county auditor’s office, which passes along payroll information to the treasurer’s office to issue the checks. The new policy requires the commissioners court to fill out the paperwork for department heads and send it to the auditor’s office.

Unemployment

Due to a McGregor’s company’s inability to find employees in McLennan County, commissioners agreed to amend an incentive program.

Nebraska-based Behlen Manufacturing Co. opened on U.S. Highway 84 in McGregor in 2013. Under an incentive project agreement with the county, the company was required to fill 85 full-time positions with McLennan County residents, said Kris Collins, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for economic development.

To date, the company has filled 49 of those positions, Collins said. However, because of the company’s location and the county’s low 4 percent unemployment rate, Behlen has not been able to fill the remaining positions with McLennan County residents, especially welder positions, Collins said.

The amended agreement will reduce the incentive pay and will reduce the required number of full-time employees residing in McLennan County from 85 to 49.

Low unemployment rates might seem like a good thing, but companies considering a move to the area often worry whether they will be able to fill positions, Felton said.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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