The board received a letter of resignation from Dewey Colter, the
county's first coordinator of two-plus years, at last week's
meeting. Colter said in his letter that he would stay in his
position for as long as the board needed to make a decision and to
train a replacement. However, the matter was not on the agenda, so
the board could not discuss it that night.
When the board resumed
open meeting, chairman Dick Logan said that the focus of the meeting
was to discuss the county coordinator and the position of the zoning
officer, as the two are connected. The board needed to decide if
they would change it, continue with it or keep the zoning position
He added that he was given a note from Mr. Colter saying that
Feb. 28, 2007, would be his last day.
John Stewart asked Colter how he arrived at that date, five weeks
Colter replied that it was to allow transition time, and time for
the board to make a decision as well.
The board voted 11-1 to accept this date of Feb. 28 for his
leaving. Stewart was the one "no" vote.
Stewart made the next motion, for the county to issue a hiring
freeze of all personnel.
A hiring freeze was not on the agenda to discuss.
A back-and-forth discussion ensued on county finances, the budget
for the last year and the current unknown balance.
Stewart brought up that last year's budget was balanced on the
expectation of selling county property of estimated $100,000 worth
that didn't sell.
He also said that he didn't spend $86,000 that had been budgeted
to buildings and grounds, but he didn't know what the other
departments did that might have helped keep the county out of the
Board member Pat O'Neill asked if all departments would be
included in the hiring freeze. Bill Sahs said that it would not
include emergency personnel, such as the Emergency Management
Agency, 911 and the sheriff's department.
Vicki Hasprey said, "We should at least get someone in there for
that zoning position." She recalled that Colter has been providing
updates at planning and zoning meetings and that there have been a
number of building permits in various stages of processing.
Gloria Luster asked Colter if he knew just how many permits might
be in process.
Colter said that with what is out there we could end up with
permits being completed all the way through February. "But there is
no way to estimate what will be pending at what point in time," he
Stewart suggested approaching the Regional Planning Commission to
pay the employee they have in the zoning office to do the extra
work. Phil Mahler would be paid by the hour.
Former chairman Bob Farmer said, "Well, I think we need a
coordinator. It is very important." He recognized the budget
concern, "but I really do think we need to work one in," he said.
Pat O'Neill said that this year's budget was already passed with
a line item that included the county coordinator salary. This
wouldn't affect the budget. He asked: Why place the hiring freeze?
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Logan reminded him that when the budget was passed the current
balance was still unknown and that the budget would be subject to
change, including a hiring freeze. "We passed a budget, yes, but we
don't know if we have enough money to fulfill our budget," he said.
The finance chairman wanted to clarify for the board members that
the budget that was just completed will not be reflected when the
audit is completed. That audit is based on the 2004-2005 fiscal
year. The spending and saving or revenue that didn't come in as
expected last year, such as the $100,000 and the $86,000, were in
the 2005-2006 fiscal year and will not show in the audit that is
So, we still won't know the budget balance, Logan said: "It's
like writing a check without checking the balance."
A moment was taken to discuss the audit. There will be a meeting
Thursday afternoon with Tectura, the company working with the county
on getting the accounting entered into the computer system. There is
another unforeseen problem, but even with that it is expected that
the work would be completed and in the hands of the auditors on Feb.
Ruben said that from there the auditors, Crowe Chizek, would need
five to six weeks to complete the work.
The motion to issue a hiring freeze of all county personnel,
except emergency personnel, passed 10-2, with Ruben and Sahs voting
no. But that was not the end of it.
It was then recognized by questions from County Clerk Sally
Litterly, who would be sending the notices to the departments, that
a little more definition was needed as to just how far the hiring
freeze would extend.
State's Attorney Tim Huyett weighed in, saying that this would
not affect contractual, professional services that departments use.
That is in their budgets. The freeze would apply just to personnel
in the departments. He gave additional distinction: someone working
for the county drawing any benefits through the county.
Ruben shifted the discussion. He likened the need to protect
public health with the emergency services and said that the health
department personnel should be exempt also.
Stewart thought that half the health department's money came from
the county and half from grants, and that if they missed out on the
grant money due to the late audit it would put the county in a
Ruben corrected this information, saying that the 10-cent levy by
the county provides about $390,000 of the health department's
$2,200,000 budget. They have positions paid by state and federal
funding over and above grant money. He said, "I think we would put
them in a bind if someone quit in one of those programs."
The health department was added to the exemptions, with
Aylesworth, Sahs and Stewart opposed.
The final decision was to place a hiring freeze of all county
personnel until the completion of the 2005 audit, with exemption for
emergency personnel (911, EMA, sheriff's department) and the health
No resolution or further discussion about the county coordinator
position took place. The freeze implies that there will not be a new
coordinator for the time being.