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County approves intern to oversee garden at $22 per hour

MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners reversed course and will allow the public health director to hire an intern, making $22 per hour, to oversee a community garden program.

County Commissioners Frank Gordon and Herb Welch approved the hire, reversing a decision they had made last week with fellow Commissioner Wes Cormier that rejected the position as being too spendy. At $22 per hour, the intern is making more than many full-time county employees, including receptionists and a beginning probations officer.

Cormier still voted against the plan. Public Health Director Joan Brewster told the commissioners Monday morning that the intern position was needed to oversee youths putting together a community garden in the Aberdeen area. Brewster said she didn’t have the staff time necessary to devote to the project and the work wouldn’t get done without the help of an intern.

Brewster said she has already selected a woman at Grays Harbor College’s human services program to do the job. The position was never advertised. No one else had a chance to apply for it.

As an internship, Brewster said that an application process is not necessary. Brewster said the county’s union approved the hire already.

The job would only last 350 hours in the summer. At $22 per hour, it will earn the intern $7,700, funded by state and federal grants.

Brewster said the intern will be getting paid about what a community health educator position makes at the county. Brewster said she needed to find someone she could trust to oversee youths and she had already identified someone to do that.

The commissioners never asked her if she’d be willing to lower the salary.

Cormier re-iterated his position that the intern was making too much. If the county is hiring an intern, Cormier said, it should be to develop a skillset, not about the paycheck.

Commissioner Welch said that Brewster had made her case well to hire the position.

Commissioner Gordon said that the county doesn’t have the time to advertise for the position. By the time it was advertised, Gordon said the summer would be over.

Asked why the position wasn’t advertised when the county sought to hire youth summer crews for its Road and Public Works Departments, Gordon said that the grant funds came in too late.