Plan for part-time coordinator tabled; grant requests due
The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday tabled a plan to reduce the full-time county Housing coordinator position to half-time following the retirement in June of former coordinator Ronald Crummell.
County planner Trudy Galla, who oversees the position, suggested the reduced hours along with plans to move the county out of the business of building low-priced homes and selling them to the disadvantaged through low-interest loan programs funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Commissioners have sought to stop the new home program. Galla, in addressing them last week, said she does not plan to request more HUD grants for new construction. However, a parttime housing coordinator is needed to process and distribute loans to low-income residents for home improvements.
Lautner, a critic of the new home program, said she supported the home improvement efforts. However, she suggested that the county may be better off hiring an independent contractor to administer the program rather than retaining a union position eligible for benefits.
“There may be some challenges with that ... we would have to change the complete scope of the (union) contract to do that,” said Janik. He spoke last week at the Executive Committee meeting of the County Board, at which commissioners voted 5-0 to keep but reduce the position to part-time.
Lautner also said the program has been running in the red. Galla disagreed on the fiscal condition of the housing program, saying by law its books must balance.
Galla said she did not have enough time to oversee the home improvement projects, and Janik agreed. He had filled in for Galla while she was on vacation.
“I can’t tell you how many hours I spent visiting the house, and talking to the contractor, and that was only one project,” he said.
Janik said county fiscal policy allows him to spend up to $5,000 and Galla as a department head to spend up to $2,000 without board approval. He suggested that he may spend some of that discretionary money to get past the next month when grant applications are due and project decisions must be made.
In other personnel matters, the County Board:
• Took no action on a plea for commissioners to become involved in a request by a former court worker to change county records or policy to make her eligible for a pension.
The request was made in person at the County Board’s executive committee meeting held Aug. 14 by Dottie Bridges, who now resides in Elmwood Township. Commissioners took no action last week, and retained that stand Tuesday at their monthly board meeting.
Bridges said she was hired to work under former county Probate judge Betty Weaver in 1977, and continued working for the court for 10 years, 6 months. The minimum number of years required for a pension is 10.
However, in a letter dated Nov. 16, 2010, sent to Bridges, county clerk Michelle Crocker went into her employment status during those years.
“I have found that on April 11, 1977, you were hired as an ‘unclassifi ed’ employee. The ‘unclassified’ position did not entitle you to paid benefits, such as health insurance or pension plan,” wrote Crocker. A “classifi ed” position was created by a former County Board on April 12, 1983.
Bridges had also taken her appeal to county administrator Chet Janik, who replied with much of the same information.
Bridges spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, during which commissioners generally refrain from speaking. The subject was brought up at the end of the meeting, at which time no commissioners stated that the county should change its stance.
“I will basically give her the same information that I gave her in my correspondence in the spring, and the letter sent by the clerk in 2010,” said Janik.
Bridges spoke of the success of the program she headed, and the determination of Weaver to straighten out kids in trouble at an early age.
“Judge Weaver was known as the hanging judge back them,” recalled Bridges, forcing young offenders to stay in court “until they realized that why they were in the courtroom — not their family, not their friends,” she said.
Bridges organized volunteers, 60 at their peak, who were honored annually in a recognition dinner funded through private contributions.
• Tabled a request by county 911 director Tom Skowronski to change the personnel policy for dispatchers to provide compensation for unused personal time. At one time, dispatchers were compensated, and consequently did not use all of their personal time in a year. Since that benefit has ended, however, dispatchers have spent more time on leave — resulting in scheduling problems and overtime pay for dispatchers needed to fill in.