Taylor County Board Has Full Agenda
The Taylor County board room included at least 2 dozen spectators for an emotional start to the board meeting. The board voted unanimously to approve a resolution commending officer Chad Kowalczyk for his bravery and professional response. Sheriff Bruce Daniels became emotional when he read from the resolution that officer Kowalczyk was shot twice while in the line of duty on September 8th. Daniels said the officers are in fact his “second family” and they believe in what they do. Kowalczyk was awarded a medal which enrolled him in the “Police Legion Of The Purple Heart”. Following a standing ovation, Officer Kowalczyk told the group he was strengthened by the prayers and support which he received from people he didn’t know. Next the board approved a resolution commending Detective Steven Bowers for his actions at the incident. Bowers negotiated with the defendant resulting in an arrest and no further injuries. Accepting his “Outstanding Commendation Award” Detective Bowers indicated he felt it was a group effort. Families and friends of the officers shared their appreciation in the courthouse hallway following the presentation.
As the board was expressing thanks to the Westboro and Rib Lake fire departments for their assistance with traffic control following the September 8th shooting incident, supervisor Rollie Thums took the floor. Mr. Thums expressed his frustration with the county’s new digital radio communication system. He indicated that as assistant chief of the Rib Lake fire department, the new system isn’t working and is possibly putting emergency responders in harm’s way.
Sheriff Daniels spoke up indicating that a consultant had been hired to deal with the shortfalls of the system. Supervisor Bob Lee asked, didn’t we spend $1.3 million to upgrade from analog to digital?
Currently, due to certain frequencies not functioning properly, the sheriff’s department is simulcasting on the fire frequency. Daniels told the board that some issues are related to the weather sirens. Daniels concluded saying that the radio system today on the fire frequency is better than several years ago.
The county board expressed appreciation to Steven Oberle for his years of service as County Conservationist.
They approved the 2014 Highway Department Equipment Schedule, the 2013 Bridge aid expenses, and appointed Jess Sakmann as highway commissioner.
Medical examiner Scott Perrin and Corporate Counsel Ken Schmiege were reappointed.
The board approved a resolution requesting powerline impact fees of up to $20,000 for half of the expenses to renovate the Westboro Area Senior Citizens Center over the next 2 years.
The bulk of time was spent on implementation of a new job classification and compensation plan for Taylor County positions. Carlson Dettman Consulting prepared a new job classification system for county employees. The county currently has 73 pay grades. Under the new system that will drop to 18. Anybody under the new plan would to the step which provides a pay raise. Future pay raises would increase by a 2.5% step. For employees who feel they were not classified fairly they must approach their supervisor who in turn would contact H.R. supervisor Marie Koerner. Appeals would then be handled by the Carlson Dettman firm beginning next week.
One big change in the county compensation plan is the health insurance. The county hired a consultant who put the plan out on bids. The result was a $260,000 savings with premiums reduced by 10%. However, the out of pocket expense for family plans for health insurance will increase from $4,600 to $7,500 per year. Prior to employees receiving pay raises they will need to have a satisfactory job performance review. The new job classification procedure will cost just over $100,000 to implement. Pay back for the county will be realized by lower pay raise steps and lower minimum wage for future new hires.
The 2014 budget which calls for just over $25 million in expenditures, saw considerable discussion on a request to quadruple wages for county fair officials. The original budget called for $2500. Fair committee member Chuck Zenner requested doubling the wage for the fair secretary and establishing a per diem for board members. Zenner indicated he didn’t think it was right that board members were paying some expenses out of their pocket.
Supervisor Lewis indicated all surrounding counties pay in excess of $10,000 to support their fairs. Supervisor Mildebrand said he could support increasing the amount to $5,000 but not quadrupling it to $10,000. Supervisor Krug echoed those sentiments saying that doubling the secretary’s wage and adding per diem wouldn’t solve any problems.
Supervisor Bizer said he took the capitalist approach. If the fair makes a profit, perhaps the fair board could keep a portion of the profits. Rollie Thums asked if they really needed to pay volunteers. Zenner responded they were having a hard time finding volunteers.
The vote to increase funding to the fair to $10,000 failed on a 5 yes and 11 no vote.
The amended vote to increase spending to $5,000 passed on a 15 yes and 1 no vote.
The board gave a unanimous approval to the amended 2014 budget. The tax rate will be $8.17, compared to $8.11 in 2012. This will result in a 6 cent increase per $1,000 of full equalized value of property. The budget levy of $10,281,679 is an increase of $270,170 or 2.6%.