An emergency was declared for the replacement of the phone system which serves the Otoe County Courthouse during the Board of Commissioners meeting in the County Courtroom on Tuesday.
Commissioners discussed the fact that the phone system was failing in a number of areas. A fix had been sought, but, due to the age of the phone system, support for it is unavailable.
Not having the phone system can cause major issues.
Without a working system, those on probation might not be able to find out when they are due for a court-mandated drug test.
Also, attorneys might not be able to speak with their clients in the Otoe County jail. And those are just two examples.
Because of those issues, a vote was taken and approval was gained to declare an emergency and to expedite the process of replacing the phone system.
Although not an emergency, Commissioner James Parsons led a discussion that had similarity to the phone discussion.
Parsons said, like the antiquated phone system, the county needed to look at replacing its payroll system and practices. Currently, county employees are paid once per month. Parsons said a bi-weekly pay period would be beneficial for county employees.
He also noted that such a move would bring Otoe County into agreement with the practices of neighboring counties which employ a bi-weekly pay schedule.
A number of county employees were on hand at the meeting to express their support for the change.
Mike Holland of the Otoe County Sheriff’s Department spoke to the commissioners and noted that the department had lost employees, both those who quit and those who decided against taking a job offer, because of the payroll system.
Having to wait for a month before receiving a check can be tough on new employees, Holland said.

Juvenile Program
Vanessa Sherman and Lisa Chaney with Partners for Otoe County approached the board to discuss programs for juvenile offenders.
Sherman said word had been received that Heartland Family Service for Crisis Response and Mediation were asking to terminate its relationship to the county.
Sherman said the juvenile justice team was “disheartened” to hear the news. She said that Heartland had informed the county that they were simply not getting enough referrals to go forward with their arrangement with the county.
Board members then voted to approve Heartland’s early termination of the contract agreement.
Sherman said there is already a plan to move forward.
“We still do have the availability of crisis response type services in the region,” Sherman said. noting that options are being explored.
In another agenda item, Chaney and Sherman presented the three-year Comprehensive Juvenile Services Plan, which details organizational structure and places an emphasis on keeping juveniles out of detention situations.
“Detaining youth, unless absolutely necessary, isn’t going to be effective for most kids,” Sherman said.
County Attorney David Partsch thanked Sherman and Chaney for working hard to create a three-year plan for juvenile services.
“Every three years, we have a really good plan that puts us in good position to seek grants that help our families in the county,” Partsch said. “I just want to thank them for all of their work.”

District 1 Probation
Chief Probation Officer Jody York appeared before the board to talk about the upcoming change in districts. Otoe County was in District 2 with its District Court but is now moving to District 1.
York said probation services will also be switching from District 2 to District 1.
The county court will remain in District 2.
York expressed appreciation for her time in working with Otoe County and, in turn received thanks from the commissioners for the work that she has done.
Jeremy Behrends, the probation officer for District 1, was on hand at the board meeting to meet board members and to begin building a relationship with Otoe County.
Behrends said that York’s work has been exemplary and that he plans to build upon and to continue what is already being done here.

Mutual Aid
Mike Holland of the Otoe County Sheriff’s Department appeared before the board to discuss an interlocal agreement for mutual aid with Lancaster County. Holland said the agreement formalizes the mutual aid relationship that already exists between the two counties.
Holland said Otoe County does all it can to help its neighbors out. This interlocal agreement will be the first for Otoe County, but Holland said he expects that the county will enter into nearly identical agreements with the other counties going forward and said that the interlocal agreement with Lancaster will provide a template for construction of future agreements.

Public hearings were conducted before board approval on four different matters. Those were as follows:
A conditional use permit to allow Farmers Co-op to install two 30,000 gallon propane storage tanks to better serve customers.
A plat map for the DeRoe Subdivision located at 1319 S. 14th Road.
A plat map for the D&H Teten-Wellsandt Subdivision at 5121 N Road.
And amendments to zoning regulations.