Due to a design flaw, county will spend $5,152 to move transformer

By Charlie Warner

Argus Editor

Due to a design flaw when the County Justice Center (CJC) was being built, Houston County will have to spend $5,152 to have some electric current transformers moved so that they can be accessed.

Caledonia City Electrician Matt Blocker explained the situation to the commissioners during the May 22 Houston County Board meeting.

When a transfer switch system (which was part of the CJC project)  was installed in the existing courthouse, it blocked access to electric current transformers in the basement of the courthouse.

The issue wasn’t discovered until Blocker and his crew began preparations for the on-going city electric upgrade. Part of this year’s upgrade will include work near the courthouse campus. And to conduct the work, city crews must be able to access the current transformers.

Blocker went on to explain that the current transformers will be relocated outside the courthouse and adjacent to the main transformer unit. That way workers will always be able to access the current transformers whenever they need to.

“How did this happen?” asked Commissioner Tom Bjerke.

“I don’t know how it happened, or why, but I do know that when I realized this was the situation, it was too late,” Blocker replied.

“But who’s to blame?” Board Chair Jack Miller pressed.

Head Custodian Tim Lange said that was the way the architects designed it. He added that leaving the current transformers where they are would be more of a safety issue than anything else. “It would be dangerous trying to work on the CTs right next to that transformer.”

Bjerke said it appears as if it would be tough to blame any one person for the design snafu and that it sounded as if it was something that needed to be done.

The county received three bids for the work. They were: Hoskins Electric- $5,152, Becker & Stemper- $5,462.32 and Brad’s Electric- $6,000.

A motion by Commissioner Steve Schuldt and seconded by Bjerke to accept the low bid of $5,152 submitted by Hoskins Electric of Caledonia was unanimously approved.

In other board action:

Close session

The board went into closed session to consider allegations and charges filed against Mark Hiser, who worked for the county as a jailer/dispatcher.

Following the closed session the board agreed to accept Hiser’s retirement as of May 31 with severance pay in the amount of $7,534.22 and whatever collective bargaining rights he might have.

A motion by Schuldt and seconded by Commissioner Teresa Walter to do so was unanimously approved.

Employment status change

The board unanimously approved a motion to change the employment status of jailer/dispatcher Jason Quandahl from .5 FTE to 1.0 FTE.

County HR Director Tess Arrick Kruger made the recommendation to help fill the void with Hiser’s retirement.

Search initiated

Kruger also recommended that the county begin a search to hire two .5 FTE jailer/dispatcher positions.

Miller asked why the county was going to basically added 1.5 FTE when one person retired.

Kruger explained that the county has been using 67-day temporary employees to fill in when full time jailer/dispatchers take leaves or vacations.

According to Jail Administrator Mark Schiltz the county has used up most of the hours of one 67-day temp and many of the others have been utilized numerous times.

Sheriff Doug Ely added that they have been working short staffed at the jail for some time. Full time employees are eligible for paid time off, just like anyone else, be it a medical leave or vacation. But the jail must still be staffed.

Kruger also recommended that the county initiate a search to add more 67-day temps for the jailer/dispatcher roster. She said this would give more flexibility, should reduce comp time and alleviate staff shortages during emergency issues or situations.

Both recommendations were unanimously approved by the board.

One K-9 officer

The board approved a one-year lease with Lt. Tracey Erickson and his K-9 dog Ike. The county had two K-9 dogs on staff for a portion of the past 12 months, but the county board felt one dog was all the county needed.

The other dog, Chance, was leased from former Lt. Luke Sass. Sass was recently promoted to captain/chief investigator. With the promotion, he can’t be a K-9 officer. So the contract with Sass was not renewed.

Seal coat bids

County Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought two bids to the board for summer seal coating projects. His department plans to do about 14 miles of seal coating on County Roads 249 and 17.

The bids came in about $50,000 higher than anticipated due to increased petroleum costs.

The low bid was from Fahrner Asphalt Sealers, Inc. of Plover, Wis. at $251,114.38.

Pogodzinski said the savings his department realized by less sand and salt used due to the mild winter and cutting out a couple of pipe replacement projects for this year would cover the $50,000 increase in seal coating.

A motion made by Walter and seconded by Schuldt to approve the bid was unanimously approved.

Give old console away

Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter asked the county board if it would be possible to donate the old Sheriff’s Department dispatch console to a Third World country.

Yeiter explained that there is no trade-in value in the old console, which is still situated in the old jail, and it would cost the county money to dispose of it. The state Sheriff’s Association has been gathering up old, out-dated radio equipment and finding other uses for it.

The consensus of the board was for Yeiter to move forward with donating it to whomever could use it.

Lapham promoted

Following a recommendation by Kruger, the board agreed to change the appointment status of interim Financial Director Carol Lapham to probationary with a mid-range placement of step 5 at a salary of $75,233.60.

The change would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012. Kruger also recommended that the time Lapham served as interim director be credited towards completion of the one-year probationary period. Lapham was appointed interim financial director last October when former Financial Director Casey Bradley resigned.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]