Nobles County hires despite hiring freezeWORTHINGTON — Though still under a hiring freeze, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday approved requests to fill two vacancies for full-time positions, including a deputy registrar and maintenance supervisor.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Though still under a hiring freeze, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday approved requests to fill two vacancies for full-time positions, including a deputy registrar and maintenance supervisor.
The first request was made by Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Balster, who sought to fill a deputy registrar position in the license center due to a recent retirement. In her request, Balster presented information to the board about the work of the registrar and a 10-year history of annual transactions and income handled by the registrar’s office.
In 2010, the office collected nearly $175,000 in fees for motor vehicle, snowmobile and boat registrations, as well as driver’s license sales. The registrar’s office assists people in new registrations, title transfers, license plates, vehicle tab renewals, DNR transactions for watercraft, snowmobiles, ATVs, off-road bikes and pro-rate registration service for the trucking industry.
Commissioner Vern Leistico asked if the department could do without the position based on the county’s economic situation.
“I would like to see us wait a couple of months and see how they work out with two (employees),” Leistico said.
Balster said doing without the additional person would be difficult.
“It’s really hard to run an office with three people when people are sick or they are on lunch,” she said.
Deputy Registrar Louise Naumann, also in attendance, said there are certain times of the day and week when the office experiences a bottleneck of people wanting to get licenses or other services — especially on Tuesdays, when driving tests are conducted, and on Friday afternoons.
Balster said a lot of truckers come in for renewals in February, and handling those cases can take up to an hour or more.
“I don’t know how they’re going to do it with two people,” Balster said.
Commissioner Diane Thier said the position was in the county’s budget for 2011.
“As long as the numbers are positive — we’re generating $20,000 (in net profit),” added Commissioner Marv Zylstra. “If we don’t staff it adequately, frustration is going to go up.”
Zylstra said if people have to wait longer in lines because of a staffing shortage, more may turn to the Internet to purchase their license tabs — and that could cut into the county’s revenue stream. For each license tab fee sold at the registrar’s office, the county gets $4.50. If residents renew them over the Internet, 100 percent of the fee stays with the state.
The request to fill the deputy registrar position was approved on a unanimous vote.
Also approved on Tuesday was the replacement of a full-time maintenance supervisor position. At the end of December, the county cut a full-time maintenance worker position from the budget, and Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert said it “hoped to look for efficiencies.”
“Due to the vacancy and the layoff in that area, we believe it is a necessary position,” Ruppert told the board.
The request was approved unanimously.
In other employment information, Ruppert reported that three individuals had been interviewed for the vacant three-fifth’s time emergency management position. An offer had been extended to a candidate, who rejected it because it was not a full-time position. He said an offer would be extended to one of the other candidates.
In other action, the board:
* Received an update on discussions by the Worthington traffic and safety committee regarding safety issues near the Worthington Middle School.
Nobles County Public Works director Stephen Schnieder explained proposed changes, including creation of a left-turn lane, rather than using a bypass lane that is currently in place. The project will require some road widening and paving, along with restriping the area. Additional signs will be put in place for the crosswalk, and a reduced speed during specific school hours will be put in place.
The board approved of the project, which is estimated to cost $50,000. The work is expected to be completed in the 2011 construction season.
* Approved the final pay request to Mathiowetz Construction for completion of the CSAH 11 bridge replacement north of Ellsworth. The final payment amount was $16,567.29. The total cost of the bridge replacement was $319,518.31.
* Approved the replacement of an electronic hot water booster heater in the kitchen of the Prairie Justice Center, due to a leak. The heater will be replaced with a gas heater at a cost of $28,260. Money was allocated from the building fund for the purchase of energy saving items, and the switch from electric to gas is estimated to save the county more than $3,000.
* Approved the Family Services Management Agreement with Pipestone County for the shared director position. The agreement will cost Nobles county $4,810 per month for 2011, and increase to $4,927 per month for 2012. The costs cover approximately 86 hours per month of management services.
* Approved a request from Tom Soderholm to relocate and widen an existing driveway and create an additional driveway to a parcel along CSAH 7 in Elk Township.
* Approved a conditional use permit for Jessica Behnke, Rural Rock Inc. of Worthington, to construct a 60- by 90-foot machine storage shed and operate a landscape supply business in the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 16, Lorain Township.
The permit was approved without conditions by the planning commission in late January, and since then several commissioners had received letters from a neighbor, Mike Ahlers, who made a request at the planning commission for dust control measures to be implemented on the gravel road.
“I would feel more comfortable with the good neighbor policy attached and make a condition that takes it from a handshake to a signed contract,” said Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. “(Some planning commission members) had it in their mind, they just didn’t put it in the permit.”
After some discussion about the number of vehicles that will use the road for the business, along with the alternative route that can be used that wouldn’t take vehicles past the Ahlers property, the board approved the request as submitted on a 4-1 vote, with Demuth opposed.
* Approved a conditional use permit for Son-D-Farms, Adrian, to construct a 74- by 142-foot total confinement barn with concrete pit below in the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 27, Olney Township.
* Approved the 2011 solid waste and recycling hauling permits.
* Approved several interpreter contracts for the Family Service Agency at a rate of $20 per hour.
* Reappointed Jim Gruye to the county’s planning commission.
* Received a report from Darci Goedtke on adult service programs within the Nobles County Family Service Agency.