GOSHEN — The department in charge of upkeep at Elkhart County’s public buildings, including the courthouse and jail, could lose more than half of its maintenance workers to retirement within the next three years.
Matt Grubb, director of the Elkhart County Building and Grounds Department, told county officials this week that seven of his 11 maintenance employees will qualify for retirement before 2017.
“I have one major problem with my maintenance staff,” he told Elkhart County Council members at a hearing for the 2014 budget. “They’re not spring chickens anymore.”
Before the employees retire, Grubb said he needs to “plan an exit strategy.”
“These buildings are too complex and too unique to throw somebody in there cold turkey, especially at that jail complex,” he said. “We need to get some young blood in my department to pass the torch or the knowledge that my gentlemen have.”
Grubb wants to hire one person annually for the next two or three years to begin training them for the job. To pay for these positions, he may need some support from the county, but he hopes to primarily fund the salaries through utility savings.
“We have had major success in the last couple of years,” he said.
The courthouse’s expenses for utilities have dropped over the past three years, according to records provided by Grubb. For example, the electric bill was $4,932 in January 2010 and just $2,676 in January 2013. Grubb hopes to continue saving on utilities by installing long-lasting, efficient LED lights at the courthouse by the end of 2013.
“This building is 150 years old, and I hope by the end of the year it might be the most electrically efficient building in the entire county,” he said.
The Elkhart County Council has wrapped up budget hearings with department heads and in two weeks plans to have two readings of the 2014 spending plan. The first reading will be Oct. 1, with the adoption of the budget on Oct. 2. Both readings will be at 5 p.m. in room 104 at the Elkhart County Administration Building, 117 N. Second St. in Goshen.