Board backs use of interns to help staff

March 18, 2003 11:00 pm

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Calaveras County supervisors held a pair of study sessions Monday on steps that could lead to increased productivity in county departments.

In the first session, supervisors supported allowing department heads to hire student interns.

Interns could perform many tasks, said Francine Osborn, the county's director of Human Resources and Risk Management, including data analysis, clerical work, writing and presenting reports and participating in community service programs.

Interns are also a plus because they cost less than full-time employees, Osborn said.

County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell said last week that interns would be paid $8.15 hourly. By comparison, Mitchell said, the lowest-paid worker in the county administration office makes $12.44 per hour. The lowest Calaveras County employee salary is $8.77 per hour, Mitchell said.

Interns benefit by getting professional experience and high school or college credit.

"Every department would have to commit some time to that student," Osborn said. "They do need to be supervised."

Because the issue came up at a study session, supervisors could not vote — only make recommendations.

In another study session Monday, supervisors supported starting an employee assistance program — another way to increase productivity.

For $19,000 from the county general fund, the program would give each employee three visits to a counselor for any personal or work-related reason.

"With the economy and the war and everything else out there, people are feeling pressured," Osborn said.

Supervisors have said lately that they want to leave general fund money alone. However, they said Monday that an employee counseling benefit was worth dipping in.

"If we're going to bite the bullet, now is the time to do it," District 3 Supervisor Merita Callaway said.

The plan, once brought back to supervisors for a vote, could be made effective starting April 1, and last for two years.