County board approves contract for computerized payroll system

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

Houston County will be entering the 21st century when it comes to keeping track of county employees’ hours worked, vacation time and sick leave.

The Houston County Board approved a contract with Data Financial, Inc. of Mequon, Wis. for a computerized employee payroll bookkeeping system.

Currently, the approximately 200 full-time, part-time, 67-day temps and seasonal employees have been utilizing timecards, which must be processed by hand.

The cost of the new system is a one-time payment of $7,250, which includes all equipment, computer software, installation and training and an annual service contract of $750.

“This new system will provide for a lot of savings in bookkeeping time” HR Director Tess Arrick-Kruger told the board. “Supervisors will be able to check the time records of each of the persons in their departments. Vacation and sick leave will also be monitored, so there won’t be any confusion with those issues.”

Benefits of the new system include:

• Staff will be able to enter their hours via a biometric date collection device, a browser and telephone.

• Supervisors will be offered effective shortcuts to review exceptions and modify and approve time cards without undue delay.

• All transactions are reflected on the timecard in real time. A supervisor will see the effect of any adjustments immediately and can quickly approve any/all timecards.

• Staff can view their own timecards and leave balances using an employee self service kiosk.

• Historical trends can be spotted easily using the advanced archiving and reporting features.

Board Chairman Jack Miller felt the new system would be a good purchase for the county. He then asked Kruger where the money would come from to make the purchase.

Kruger explained that the county has a technical fund that was created a number of years ago for purchases like this. The fund was originally created when the county went from a self-insurance workman’s compensation program to going through the League of Minnesota Counties in 1997. That fund currently has approximately $60,000 in it, earmarked for technical purchases.

Commissioner Justin Zmyewski agreed with Miller and added that he felt the system would pay for itself within a few years, due to savings with bookkeeping costs.

A motion by Zymewski and seconded by Commissioner Teresa Walter to approve the contract with Data Financial was unanimously approved.

In other board action:

Server room AC issue

Kruger informed the board that Schneider Plumbing and Heating of La Crosse will be installing the new air conditioning unit in the computer system server room in the courthouse. The cost for the new system was $9,582, which was less than anticipated.

Several weeks ago County IT Director Andy Milde and Kruger informed the board that improvements in the climate control system in the server room needed to be made very soon.

The massive server computers that connect many of the 200-some county computers produce a tremendous amount of heat. The server room not only needs to remain at a certain temperature, but also at a certain humidity level. Too much humidity is bad for the system and too little humidity causes static electricity.

At the present time cold air from the unheated attic is being vented into the server room. But three humidifiers are needed to maintain the cold, dry air at 40 to 50 percent humidity.

At the Jan. 24 meeting, the board had approved a motion allowing Kruger to move forward with the lowest and most workable bid.

Installation of the new system should be taking place this week.

Code Red system

Emergency Services Director Kurt Kuhlers recommended that the board approve the contract for the Code Red emergency alert system. For the past three years the county has utilized the Code Red system for providing Houston County residents with emergency weather warnings through the telephone system.

The contract, which costs the county $10,000 a year provides up to 30,000 minutes of telephone time.

Kuhlers said the county utilized the system once for the flooding issue at Shore Acres in La Crescent and twice for severe storm weather alerts.

“There might be some systems out there that may cost less now,” Kuhlers said. “But we would have to install a new system then. We are very happy with the current system.”

Kuhlers added that Code Red now allows text messages and emails to be sent out to some of the more secluded locations in the county, including campgrounds.

A motion made by Commissioner Tom Bjerke and seconded by Zmyewski to approve the contract was unanimously approved.