CORRECTION: This story mentions that Janis Riege will be leaving her post as the district court clerk. It should have said that Janene Bennett is leaving her post as County Clerk. Bennett, not Riege, was the official who had helped the commissioners with the budget process.
After an extensive discussion, the members of the Otoe County Board of Commission voted to approve a two percentacross the board pay increase for elected officials and their deputies for the period of 2019 through 2022 during the regular meeting of the governing body on Tuesday at the Otoe County Courthouse.
County Attorney David Partsch opened the discussion by telling the commissioners that action on the salary increase should be approved before Jan. 15 and is a customary practice so that candidates filing for election in 2018 will know what their salary will be for the term of their service.
Partsch said the two percent number was arrived at by comparing Otoe County to other counties of comparable size and by using numbers provided by the National Association of Counties or NACO.
Commissioner Jerad Sornson said in going through research, it was found that some entities chose to have a one percent raise while others went with three percent. Sornson said it was felt that the two percent was a “happy medium” between the two.
Commissioner James Parson brought up a couple of issues that he felt should be discussed. After having conversations with other elected officials, Parson said some were concerned that some officials were being compensated more for what were seen as additional duties.
He also brought to the floor that a salary raise for non-full time officials should be given further consideration.
On the first point, Parsons pointed to the 2011-15 salary agreement approved by the board as an example. That provision included extra funds for the district clerk for election duties and for budgetary responsibilities.
Parsons said he was glad to see that the current agreement didn’t allow for extra money for election duties but noted that $5,000 was alloted in budget authority to be given to a qualified individual to help with the county budget process.
Janis Riege is not seeking re-election for the district clerk post, which leaves the county seeking another party to perform the duties.
Parsons said he feels like the county can save money for help with the budgetary process by hiring a certified public accountant to do the work. In any case, Parsons expressed concern that funds were being given for extra duties.
“I don’t know that I buy into the argument that it’s extra work. I am sure every elected official has extra duties in their office,” Parsons said. “How do you decide who is compensated for what? How is that fair across the board?”
In another matter of concern, Parson noted that, for instance, County Attorney Partsch was going to receive a two percent raise in spite of not being a full time employee.
Parsons said treating part time employees as full time might create a precedent that wouldn’t be advantageous for the county going forward.
Parsons wanted to reinterate that his concerns were not meant to be an attack on any office but that these discussions were brought up by constituents and should be addressed.
Through discussions, Parsons said it was his understanding that Partsch would not be taking a raise this year because a deputy attorney was added to his office this year.
Partsch noted that, while a deputy has been added, an increased work load including child support enforcement was also put into place, and, Partsch said, by having an extra deputy, he is able to give voice to county concerns at state wide meetings that he might have otherwise been unable to attend.
The discussion concluded and an affirmative vote was taken.
In other business, the commissioners told a local area businessman that they would be interested in buying rock from him if he decides to purchase a quarry near Union. Commissioners would be able to save on rock costs and noted that, since there is not a quarry in Otoe County, they were not obligated to buy rock at any one place. The possible price for rock was quoted at $12 per ton as opposed to the $12.98 which is currently being paid. In a transaction for 100,000 tons of rock, that one dollar would make a big difference.
Bids were opened for a 2018 Dodge truck which will be purchased from Larson Motors for $17,981 after a trade in. A bid for a 2018 Dodge Charger was opened, also from Larson Motors. The cost of that vehicle would be $22,200 after trade in. The Dodge truck and car are replacing high mileage vehicles in the fleet of the Otoe County Sheriff. Both winning bids represented significant savings for the county over other potential deals.
The commissioners voted to cleared up some right away issues for bridge projects on Goose Hill Road and heard about culvert work that would facilitate a safe detour for the bridge project.
The commissioners designated a welder and a compressor as surpluss and will seak a buyer for both. Sornson said the compressor, valued in the range of $10K has not been used and that funds from a sale would be reallocated to other county needs. The welder, Sornson said, is simply worn out.