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Should an intern oversee a community garden at $22 per hour?

MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners shut down a request from the public health director to hire an intern to oversee a community garden program because the intern would have been making $22 an hour.

Budget records on file with the county show that the proposed hourly wage would have been more than a full-time receptionist at the courts, making $17.61 per hour, or even a courthouse security officer charged with protecting the public in the wake of attacks at the courthouse making $14.71.

The hiring documents provided by Brewster to the commissioners indicate that the proposed intern position would not have been open to anyone and would only be hired from a pool of candidates related to Grays Harbor College’s Human Services program. That means anyone enrolled at The Evergreen State College or South Puget Sound Community College, for instance, wouldn’t qualify. The position would also not have been advertised for the general public to apply.

Grays Harbor Public Health recently received grant funds to start a community garden in the Aberdeen area, which Brewster says in her job pitch, “will have intense needs during the summer months.”

“The garden project is new and exciting,” the pitch states. “To assure success, it is important that there be adequate supervision and support throughout the busy summer months.”

“Will provide assistance in organizing garden tasks, guiding youth doing work, helping with distribution of produce and talking with youth in discussions groups that are a planned part of the program,” the job description states.

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

A beginning probation officer overseeing convicted youth criminals at the county’s Juvenile Detention Center would be making less than an intern overseeing youth at the garden. The probation officer at the county makes $21.85, according to the county budget.

County Commissioner Wes Cormier advocated for his fellow commissioners to deny the request.

“You know what that is is almost like a scholarship,” Commissioner Frank Gordon said.

“But you’re not bringing a skill set forward,” Cormier rebutted. “It’s not an internship. An internship is something you do to gain something. This is a job. This is a temporary job is what it is at $22 an hour. You go do an internship with a media corporation and you’re doing it without pay. The purpose of an internship is to go learn and gain a skill set. It’s not to make $22 an hour.”

Gordon says he doesn’t mind paying an intern. The county has college-age help already with the road crew.

“My problem with this is it’s too high,” Gordon said. “If this had come in at $10 to $11 per hour, I would have been thrilled to help this individual. .. It’s a little excessive.”

Commissioner Herb Welch said he would have just preferred postponing the discussion because Brewster was unavailable, but he joined Gordon and Welch in denying the request.

Brewster was out of town and didn’t return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.