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Request to fill deputy position still on hold

WORTHINGTON -- With continued concerns about the 2011 budget, Nobles County Commissioners took no action Tuesday morning on a request by Sheriff Kent Wilkening to replace a deputy sheriff's position within the department.

Wilkening has been a deputy short of a 12-member staff since the end of May, when his night sergeant retired. Commissioners approved filling that position from within, and when Wilkening moved his full-time investigator into the slot, commissioners then allowed him to fill the investigator position from within.

With both of those transitions now complete, it leaves a patrol deputy position vacant.

"In my budget proposal, I did request this position for 2011," Wilkening told the board. "If this position isn't replaced, I need to start making changes in my schedule for the deputies. I'm also going to have to make arrangements to cover shifts with overtime because I'm not going to leave these guys out there by themselves."

Commissioner Chair Marv Zylstra reminded Wilkening of the continued hiring freeze in the county and said that while the budget is not yet finalized, at this point the money isn't available to fill the deputy position.

"I think we did allow in the budget for some additional overtime hours," Zylstra said, adding that the hiring freeze is in effect through at least the end of this year. "If we put the deputy in the budget, somewhere we're going to have to trim close to $100,000."

"If we had an emergency, overtime would definitely have to be there," said Commissioner Gene Foth. "The paycheck isn't there -- we just don't have that money."

Wilkening told commissioners that his staffing issue will be further strained in another four or five months, when one of his deputies goes on maternity leave.

"That's going to leave me short, so that's even a little worse -- that's going to leave me two people short," he added. "In previous discussions I've told you why I should have (the deputy position replaced), why it's important to us. I'm just here to request to replace that position and get me back to full staff."

In addition to overtime concerns if the position isn't replaced, Wilkening said there could be some union issues regarding scheduling.

"With the schedule changes, we're going to have coverage issues," he added. "There's just going to be less coverage in the county -- that's just what has to happen."

Commissioner David Benson asked Wilkening to return with his request after the election, or at the beginning of 2011, in the event that anything has changed and funding is available.

In other action, the board:

* Approved placing priority on a bridge replacement project in Section 18, Lorain Township. Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said an estimated $200,000 in state bonding money can be obtained for the project, with the township to pay approximately $10,000. Prioritizing the bridge will simply get it on the list of upcoming projects, he said, adding that work would realistically be completed in 2012 or 2013.

* Received an update on county road and bridge construction projects that are wrapping up.

* Approved a one-year contract with Lambert's Carpet Cleaning, Worthington, for custodial services in the Nobles County War Memorial Building and the Nobles County Public Works facility.