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Employment Matters Handled By Supervisors

By Staff | Apr 2, 2009

A pair of hirings, a resignation and the assignment of duties for an employee were all discussed by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors during its weekly session on March 31. The board also voted to cancel its April 7 meeting and discussed some upcoming budget amendments.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz updated the supervisors on a pair of hirings for part-time employees in the Secondary Road Department, and also informed the board members of the resignation of a 19-year veteran employee.

“We have completed the interview process and have hired Jeff Hoffman of Graettinger and Tom Fuchs of Emmetsburg for the two part-time positions,” Fantz noted. “But, we also now need to address another vacancy, as Joey Wirtz has resigned after 19 years with the department.”

According to Fantz, Wirtz has decided to start his own excavating firm. “We are very, very sorry to lose Joey,” Fantz told the board. “He’s been a good operator and a good worker for the county for 19 years. He will be missed, that’s for sure.”

According to Fantz, the opening created at the Mallard shed by Wirtz’s resignation will first be offered to any current employee who might want to transfer to Mallard. After that, Fantz noted that a pool of applicants already exists for a full time position, and he felt that there were suitable candidates available in that group of applicants. Supervisor Jerry Hofstad, who sat in on the interview process, agreed with Fantz’s observation.

In other matters, Fantz presented two construction permits for overhead electrical lines from Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative. The first permit was for work in Sections 14 and23 of Lost Island Township, crossing 300 Street, and the second permit was for work in Section 32 of Lost Island Township, crossing County Road N20. Both permits were approved on unanimous votes of the board.

With several budget amendments looming on the horizon, supervisors asked Fantz about the amendments that are slated on Secondary Roads and Engineering budgets.

“One of the biggest will be for the gravel crushing,” Fantz noted. “We had that budgeted last year, but couldn’t get the crusher in here, so that money will be transferred to this year’s budget.”

An amendment for fuel was also discussed, along with the expense of a new Geographic Information System for the Engineer’s Office to do survey work with. In each case, funds were allocated in the previous year’s budget, and can be moved to this year’s budget, meaning no additional tax dollars are required. However, the transfers must be accounted for as amendments to meet state Code.

Chief Deputy Todd Suhr also appeared before the board to discuss amendments for the Sheriff’s Office budgets. There are three primary budget areas requiring amendments for the sheriff’s office, primarily in the jail and communications center budgets.

The Integrated Service Pathways program, or ISP, was not budgeted last year, and when state funding was cut, the sheriff’s office and county’s Mental Health fund split the costs of the program.

The largest amendment deals with pay for employees in the jail and communications center, due primarily to extended illnesses and new employee training.

“We have to cover 26,280 hours a year,” Suhr told the Supervisors. “That’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Now, the courthouse is open from 8 to 4, five days a week, 52 weeks out of the year. The deputies, jailers and dispatchers have to be there, regardless if it’s a holiday or bad weather.”

Suhr went on to note that last year, two employees were out on extended sick leaves, and three dispatchers left positions in the past year. Training replacements requires double pay, pay for the trainee and the person doing the training for the job. “We have had to hire people to fill in for these absences, and every year since Denny (Goeders) took office, we have had an employee out on extended sick leave.”

Suhr concluded by telling the board, “Anytime you try to project a budget for a 24/7 operation, it’s just a big guessing game.”

In a final item of business, the board met with County Attorney Peter C. Hart and his Administrative Assistant/Office Manager Dawn Jensen, to discuss the county’s status with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. Currently, there is no county coordinator for the HIPAA program, following the resignation of Sheree Huberty earlier this year. After discussing the HIPAA program and requirements, Supervisor Jerry Hofstad moved to appoint Dawn Jensen as the county’s HIPAA coordinator, for the sake of consistency in the program.

Though Jensen indicated she would rather not take on the responsibility, she agreed to accept the assignment if those were the wishes of the Board.

“We’d like it if you would,” Supervisor Ron Graettinger replied, and Jensen accepted the duties.