County to seek full-time emergency management directorWORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to hire a full-time emergency management director to serve as a department head.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to hire a full-time emergency management director to serve as a department head.
With the vote comes the understanding the position will be housed in the Nobles County Government Center, with the option for the new individual to relocate the office in Prairie Justice Center (PJC) eventually, if there is substantial reason to do so.
Commissioner Marv Zylstra voted against the measure, saying he would like to see the office moved out to the PJC before the new emergency management director begins. He attempted to amend the motion to state that, but it died for lack of a second.
Board chairman David Benson said commissioners had ample time to consider the future of the emergency management position after Sheriff Kent Wilkening made the request last month to house the position at PJC.
Benson said Tuesday he would like to see the EM director assist with certain public health obligations, such as working with public health preparedness or nuisance complaints.
“Public health emergency preparedness is not a job for emergency management,” Wilkening responded during the meeting. “That needs to be taken care of by public health. Everyone I’ve talked to said the emergency manager doesn’t have time to do that plan. Public health has to do that plan.”
In his proposal, Wilkening suggested one of his deputies may be able to fill the role of emergency manager and then, to keep the position full-time, provide courtroom security.
Zylstra cited concerns with that idea, however, saying the person hired would need to be a licensed peace officer in order to provide security.
“If we do that scenario, are we sure we’re getting the best person to be the emergency management director?” Zylstra asked.
Wilkening said an official from the Minnesota office of the Department of Homeland Security met with his department last month and explained the role of the emergency management director. Wilkening didn’t know if anyone was interested in that job, but said he would be expanding courtroom security in April, regardless of what commissioners decided to do with emergency management.
Also, Wilkening said he had the support from other communities, Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh, fire chiefs and Sanford Regional Hospital Worthington to move the emergency management director to his office and under his supervision.
“I do know that emergency management in itself can be a full-time job,” Wilkening said. “There’s a lot of schooling they have to go to. In a lot of places, they just do emergency management and that’s it.”
When former EM director Emily Cenzano was fired last month, all correspondence was to go through Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert. At the start of Tuesday’s county commissioners’ meeting, it was announced that Ruppert announced his retirement, effective immediately.
Later Tuesday, Benson told the Daily Globe Wilkening has been asked to fill in as interim emergency management director. Formal action will be taken during a special meeting of the Nobles County Board on April 10.
Benson said the current “time of transition” in Nobles County will allow for board members and departments to work better together.
“There’s no question we have been lax in that area and maybe in some other areas,” he said. “We will be taking the administration of Nobles County and its governance very seriously.”
In other action, the board:
* Heard an annual update from the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District, which included a request for additional staffing for the agency. SWCD Administrator Ed Lenz said their current staff is 2.8 fulltime equivalent employees, but they have enough workload to support at least four full-time employees.
* Denied a request for noise reduction along the new U.S. 59/Minnesota 60 detour route through Rushmore. Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the detour is anticipated to remain in place only through the end of April.
* Approved a contract with Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership to handle nuisance complaints for Nobles County from April 1 through Dec. 31.
* Approved a request to hire a full-time office support specialist for Nobles County Community Services, to work specifically in the public health office.
* Approved a legal service agreement with Joel Wiltrout to assist the Nobles County Attorney’s office with the caseload. County Attorney Kathleen Kusz said Wiltrout will work primarily on minor cases as needed. The agreement states Wiltrout will be compensated at $150 per hour.
* Approved a request for a landowner to install tile line in Seward Township, only if there be a written record that the tile line will not connect to the county system.
* Conducted a closed session to discuss union negotiations.
* Approved a change to the county’s personnel policy, instating a casual Friday jeans policy. Department heads will decide if they want the employees in their department to be able to wear jeans on Fridays. The jeans must be neat, clean and free of rips, tears and patches.
* Was introduced to new child and families social service supervisor Heather Kirchner; offered a farewell to Nobles County Community Services director Nicole Names, whose last day with the county is Thursday; and welcomed Stacie Golombiecki as the new Community Services interim director, effective Friday. Pipestone County also approved of Golombiecki’s new role.
* Commissioners conducted a public hearing on the redistricting lines, but made no decision on which plan they wanted to move forward with. They will make a decision at the April 17 meeting.