Archive for Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Commission’s closed-door sessions OK, AG’s office says

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

December 2, 2008

According to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, the Board of County Commissioners did not violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act when discussing the 2009 budget and the reduction in force in executive session.

David Van Parys, the county counselor, recently received a letter from Assistant Attorney General Michael Smith, clearing the commission of any wrongdoing.

“It is my opinion no violation of KOMA have taken place,” Smith wrote in the letter. “The facts of the situation demonstrate one of the internal tensions within KOMA. On the one hand, government must operate in an open fashion so the public may understand not only the decision, but the reasoning behind the decision. On the other hand, KOMA allows for protection of personal privacy of employees who provide the public service. When a decision impacts both the public’s right and the need to know and an employee’s future, a balance must be struck. In this case, the Leavenworth County stayed within both the spirit and letter of KOMA in order to make a difficult decision.”

On Sept. 5, the Leavenworth Times made a complaint to the County Attorney’s Office to investigate the matter. The county attorney forwarded the complaint to the attorney general’s office because of a conflict of interest.

When the commissioners learned about the complaint, they too wanted an investigation and on Sept. 18, requested a review of the events that led to the complaint.

In other business the commission:

• Listened to a presentation from Diane Collins, the county’s human resources director, on reasons not to disband the human resources department.

There are currently three full-time employees in the department, but in January, the office will reduce to two employees. It would also change the director’s title and reduce the pay for the position. The department itself would also be split up and moved to other county departments.

Collins said her department was already behind after one of the employees had an extended absence and it would be difficult for only two people to do the job.

“You make this permanent situation and we’re not going to be able to keep up and that’s the bottom line,” Collins said.

Also at the meeting were Linda Scheer, the county clerk, and Janet Klasinski, the deputy county clerk. Scheer explained that payroll was once done out of the clerk’s office, but was given to Collins’ office in 2004.

“That was to better service to the employees of the county with no extra cost,” Scheer said.

“I think it is more productive for that office if they were to stay together. I think it provides a better service for the county and the employees.

This brought up the question of who could backup the remaining employees if they were to go on vacation or something were to happen to them.

Heather Morgan, county administrator, said they could develop a plan to train other county employees for such a case.

Another possibility would be to automate the payroll system. Commissioner J.C. Tellefson said it could cost the county $60,000 to start an automated system, but it may save the county money in the future.

Morgan said she has worked in other municipalities that started an automated payroll system, but it was about six months before the system was running smoothly.

There was a consensus that the office shouldn’t be disbanded, but the question of who would be a backup to the department employees and if there should be a part-time employee added to the department’s staff was not decided.

• Unanimously voted to proclaim November as pulmonary hypertension awareness month.

• Met in executive session for 10 minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken.

Tuesday’s meeting

In business Tuesday, the county commission:

• Tabled a request for additional funds for the Leavenworth County Health Departments Immunization Action Plan Award until Thursday so Donna Martin, the department’s director, could attend the meeting.

• Tabled a request from Jason Auvil, the solid waste department director, and John Forslund, of the public works department, for $7,400 to install new lighting and raise an electric conduit to protect it from being damaged by trucks at the transfer station.

Auvil said the current light levels at the transfer station do not provide for the safest working conditions in the early mornings or evenings in the winter when the sun goes down sooner. He said currently two lights have been damaged for more than a year and have not been replaced. These lights were damaged over time by the trucks going into the transfer station.

Commissioner Oroke said he couldn’t believe that it has taken so long for this topic to finally be addressed.

Construction on the new Leavenworth County EMS station continues about a month behind schedule.

On Nov. 20, Leavenworth County Commissioners heard an update from Don Pruitt, of Horst, Terrill & Karst Architects, and John Chapman of Trickle Construction. The new deadline for construction is set for the end of December, after the original Oct. 26 deadline and after the Nov. 3 extension deadline.

“I know you’re not interested in how we got to this point,” Pruitt said. “It has been frustrating on our part. It seems like every progress meeting you would always ask for a construction schedule update and it would always continue to slip.”

Pruitt said he thought they were close enough to a completion that the new date should be pretty accurate.

But as the county awaits the completion, it is incurring additional cost from the project having gone past its original completion date.

Additionally the new EMS vehicles the county purchased will need to find a temporary home until the new station is built. The old EMS station is not big enough for the new EMS vehicles scheduled for delivery Sunday. Even if Trickle were to finish the ambulance bays before the end of December, Jamie Miller, EMS director said he could not staff anyone to work in a partially completed building.

The commission also unanimously voted to extend Trickle’s sales tax exemption until the end of the year.

In other business from the Nov. 20 meeting, the commission:

• Unanimously voted to change the county’s e-mail policy to no longer archive countywide e-mails, but to have each department handle its own archiving. The county will now only keep e-mails for 30 days.

• Listened to a monthly update from the public works department.

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