Weekly Edition Watson not reappointed

Watson not reappointed

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OSAGE COUNTY COMMISSION

Bailey elected chair, county drops eco devo director

Catherine Faimon | Publisher

LYNDON — The Osage County Commission on Monday elected Jay Bailey to serve as chairman for 2021 and Fred Diver to serve as vice chairman. The action followed a swearing-in ceremony 9 a.m. Monday on the courthouse lawn for county officials elected in the November general election.

Bailey, elected to represent county commission district 3, and Heather Kuder, elected to represent district 2, took an oath administered by Chief Judge Taylor Wine. Other county officials taking the oath were Sheriff Chris Wells, Undersheriff Scott Brenner, County Attorney Jack Hobbs, Register of Deeds Linda Massey and County Clerk Rhonda Beets.

The board got right to the work of reorganizing for the year, with the biggest surprise coming when Stephanie Watson, Osage County Economic Development Director and General Transportation Director, was not re-appointed. She has served as the economic development director for more than 13 years.

Prior to the vote, a five-minute executive session to discuss matters related to non-elected personnel was held with the board and County Counselor Pat Walsh, which was followed by a 10-minute executive session for the same purpose, with Watson present.

Later in the meeting, the board asked Tammy Fager, Osage County Senior Center director, if she would be an “interim overseer” of the public transportation department until a replacement could be hired, to which she agreed. The county will pay her $700 to take on the added responsibility until Jan. 29, and will seek applicants by advertising both open positions. The department will continue to utilize its dispatchers and drivers, and patrons can expect “business as usual” when scheduling rides.

The board asked that Beets contact the county’s auditor, Scot Loyd, with Swindoll, Hawk, Loyd & Janzen, to request that an audit be performed on the departments Watson oversaw.

Senior center board member Jan Ogleby told commissioners the senior center is “very interested in the public transportation coming back to the senior center if that’s even an option,” she said.

Public Works Director Glen Tyson met with the board to give his weekly update, with most of the discussion centering on the Burlingame Road project. The project won’t move forward until funding has been secured, with options continuing to be researched. Tyson said he has verbal agreements with landowners but nothing in writing as it pertains to costs of purchasing land.

Also, it was learned that one of the landowners associated with the watershed project (which was to have some coordination with the Burlingame Road project) offered to sell his dirt for $0.50/yard, a significant savings from the contractors’ bids on the Burlingame Road project, with prices estimated at $4.50-$7/yard.

After some discussion, the board tabled the topic and, at Walsh’s recommendation, asked that an engineer be present at the commission meeting next week to provide guidance on whether the project should be re-bid.

Tyson will seek bids to replace two garage doors at the recycling center. Bailey asked that the bid solicitation be placed on the county’s website and in the county newspaper, and contact vendors directly to obtain several bids.

Following a lunch break, the board continued business into the afternoon, tackling several issues related to the county’s policy manual. The board approved sending a memo to all department heads as a reminder that all offices are to be open to the public as the policy manual states, unless a change is made by the health department or county commission.

The board agreed it needs to meet in somewhat regularly scheduled work sessions throughout the year where changes to the policy manual can be discussed and changes made. The most pressing issue appears to be the county’s employee sick leave and vacation policy, with the topic being discussed at length in previous months.

At Bailey’s request, Beets provided a report showing current accrued discretionary hours and vacation hours for all county employees. The document will be used to work toward the goal of paying employees what the county owes in accrued time, and then changing the policy and having it be enforced by all departments. The board will discuss options with auditor Scot Loyd, CPA, at a future meeting.

Bailey has the goal of updating the county’s purchasing policy to allow for discretion among in-county businesses submitting bids, with Diver and Kuder in agreement. Walsh will work on it and provide a draft at a future meeting. He would also like to have commission meetings be available to watch live, in addition to having the meetings posted for viewing at a later time. Several ideas were discussed, as were liability issues, and the board will continue talks on the idea.

Kuder requested a county cell phone with its own phone number, a county email address and county laptop so she can keep county business separate from her personal and small business records. Beets will work on these requests.

Garrett Nordstrom, Governmental Assistance Services, joined the meeting on speaker phone to provide an update on CARES Act allocations, including the latest ones to in-county licensed childcare providers. He was to meet the next day with Beets to finalize payments and prepare to close out paperwork required by the state recovery office, with a possible March 1 deadline.

Nordstrom said he believes there is enough money to cover a request for a new refrigerator at the senior center. Tammy Fager asked earlier in the day to replace the fridge, as the compressor just went out on the one that serves the nutrition site meals.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved two applications for emergency vehicle designation, one from Dillon Filkins, who requests it for his personal vehicle when responding to emergencies on behalf of Osage County EMS and Osage County Fire Dist. No. 2; and one from Bret Lewis for his personal vehicle when he responds to emergencies dispatched to Osage County Fire Dist. No. 5.
  • Approved a request by Sheriff Wells to change dispatchers to an 86-hour, two-week pay period, which was approved.
  • Approved the appointment of Kevin Bayless as Scranton Township trustee and Jeff Wells as Scranton Township treasurer, effective immediately. The appointments came after Paul Schmidt and Ed Hug were elected to the positions by write-in votes, but declined to accept the positions. Wells was serving as township clerk, but with his appointment to treasurer, a vacancy will occur, with plans to fill it in the near future.
  • Received thank-you letters from Arvonia Historical Society and from Kim Hallgren, thanking the board for CARES Act funds.
  • Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the board will meet again in regular session 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the commission chambers on the second floor of the courthouse.

 

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