Houston County Board plays catch up
By Emily Bialkowski
After a two-week hiatus, the Houston County Board was back in its chambers Aug. 6 and taking action on several items.
Human Resources Director Tess Arrick-Kruger presented a list of personnel items to address, all of which were expected.
First, she asked the board to approve hiring Carl Eberle as a half-time jailer and dispatcher to fill the last of three vacancies. The other two halftime positions were filled with internal candidates. The request received a unanimous nod.
Second, she asked the board to approve hiring several 67-day temporary jailer and dispatchers.
“Some have moved on and some have moved up,” Arrick-Kruger said. The following candidates were approved: Samantha Hancock, Karen Rislov, Michael Meredith and Jessica Siminski.
Third, Arrick-Kruger asked that Marcia Bauer be appointed the probationary home care coordinator for the public health department. Bauer is a veteran of the county and has been fulfilling the role on an interim basis. Completing a probationary run will be the last step to her fully securing the title. The item received unanimous approval.
In a semi-related matter, the board was informed that one of the home health aides will be retiring this month and that Public Health Director Deb Rock believes the department can manage without replacing the outgoing aide.
And finally, Arrick-Kruger requested that Linda Bahr be taken off probationary status as the human services director and be given regular status.
Bahr had been the interim director for a year before completing a six-month probationary run in the position. The board unanimously approved the request.
From a quantitative standpoint, the county has seen significant savings during Bahr’s tenure, including a one-time salary savings of approximately $64,000; an ongoing $16,000 by the loss of part of a managerial position; and increased reimbursement rates to the tune of $45,000.
“This goes a long way to pay for the director. I would add that up in addition to the qualitative work Bahr has done,” Arrick-Kruger said.
Buildings and grounds
The board was presented bids on two upcoming projects, including the airport runway and apron rehabilitation project and the roof repair project at the highway department.
The airport project garnered just one bid, from Mathy Construction, at a rate of $419,027. The engineer’s estimate had been well over $500,000, so the bid, though significant, was welcome and approved.
The highway department roof repair project did not receive the same warm reception. The board is still researching options on how to address enormous deficiencies at the shop. They have considered purchasing an existing building from a private individual, remodeling the current facility, building an entirely new facility or building a small structure to house a mechanics shop. Research is ongoing on all these ideas while the roof on the existing structure continues to leak.
“We’re going to be married to that place for a couple years for sure. A roof is absolutely critical,” Commissioner Steve Schuldt said.
The low bid came in at $21,750 from Stemper Construction and was approved but only after everyone agreed that it was something they had to do – not wanted to do.
Rick Howden, on behalf of the Houston County Economic Development Authority, brought forth a recommendation to recognize the resignation of two EDA members, including Kelly Meyer and Julia Crawford. The two have not attended the past four regular meetings. The item was approved.
Finally, Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan shared July’s building permits as granted by the Houston County Plan Commission (see chart) and requested approval of one new conditional use permit and one new exhibition permit. He also presented information on extending two existing conditional use permits.
The new conditional use permit request came from Chris and Denise Schaffer, of Hokah Township, for property they own off County 7. The couple is looking to stabilize a bluff impact zone.
“They have issues with the bluff falling down and eroding,” Scanlan explained.
The commission recommended approval of the permit with three conditions, including:
• Follow all federal, state and local regulations.
• Existing material must stay on site.
• Applicant must work with the local conservation office to create a plan to abate future erosion.
The exhibition request came from James Gray, of Spring Grove Township, to host a theatrical performance in his barn once a year. The annual community production has been held in his barn for the past 35 years. The item received a nod from the Plan Commission on the condition that the production maintains its once-per-year frequency and follows all federal, state and local regulations.
Both items got the go-ahead from the board.
On the conditional use permit renewals, Curt Roverud received a five-year renewal for mineral extraction on his property west of Spring Grove, and Tim and John Welscher received a one-year extension on their permit to sell topsoil from property they own near the Houston County Airport.