Marion County Commissioners at their meeting Oct. 24 approved a wellness pilot program for employees that will begin in January and be revisited six months after its implementation.
The proposal, presented by Gayla Ratzlaff, coordinator of Department on Aging, Diedre Serene, administrator of the health department, and Renae Riedy, extension agent, will include lunch and a guest speaker talking about a specific health issue.
“The benefits of a wellness program,” Ratzlaff said, “is it can reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, improve (being present doing their job), reduce injuries and improve employee morale and retention.”
Commissioner Randy Dallke said he was concerned about trying to maintain a business, an open office and thinking about how all employees could have a chance to go.
“We are probably not going to get every employee to go to this,” Ratzlaff said.
Serene added that if the employees had a list of presentations, some might choose a specific topic over another.
“We talked about this, too (if every employee in an office wanted to go),” Serene said.
Dallke said he did like the idea because happier employees are better working employees. Commissioner Lori Lalouette said she also liked the proposal.
“There are a lot of companies doing this and exactly for the reasons you brought up,” she said. “Maybe try it and see.”
Ratzlaff said if five or less people were interested that month, they wouldn’t have it.
Insurance rates could also play a factor, similar to screenings and discounts, Lalouette said.
Commissioner Dan Holub said he didn’t want to see people left out.
“There is no way you are going to get a road grader employee here from north of Tampa to participate,” he said. “Those people are going to be left out and I have a bit of a problem.”
Holub was concerned about the public sector.
“What if someone in the public wanted to come?” he said.
Before deciding on whether to move forward, commissioners reviewed the written plan. Ratzlaff said the program would be offered once a month at the Marion County lake house.
Each employee participating would have a 90-minute lunch instead of an hour with the additional 30 minutes paid by the county, she said.
Presentations could be made by local doctors, therapists, chiropractors, dentists optometrists and Ratzlaff, Serene and Riedy, according to the written plan.
Outlined in the written plan were possible presentations ranging from vices, goal setting and dental care to diabetes, stress management and humor.
The meal cost, Ratzlaff said, would be $5 with the county contributing $3 and the employee $2.
An additional $500, she said, would be used for paper products, copies, free giveaways and the guest speaker’s mileage.
In order for employees to receive the additional 30 minutes as part of the 90-minute lunch, the proposal stated a sign-in/out sheet could be used.
The budget proposal also included a total of five hours needed for Ratzlaff, Serene and Riedy to shop, meal preparation, set up and tear down.
Holub said that without knowing how many people will attend, the cost is still in “generalities.”
Holub said he had two issues with the proposal.
“I would want to make sure all employees had some way to participate,” he said, “and there was a way to monitor the program for participation.”
Ratzlaff said if involvement dropped or become non-existent, the program would stop.
Rails to Trails
Holub said the county needs to pay attention to a non-profit group with a mission of creating trails from former rail lines.
“In a nutshell,” Holub said, “railroads wouldn’t get rid of old rail lines, but after talking to their congressmen, the surface right-of-ways were turned over to conservancy groups.”
The concern, he said, is that by turning these right-of ways over to non-profit groups, it saved the railroads from cleaning up gravel and returning land to its natural state.
“I attended a meeting (in McPherson) where landowners were taken to court by Central Kansas Conservancy,” he said. “The landowners now need to restore the land to gravel because it was converted to farmland.”
The meeting was a “very hostile situation,” Holub said.
“Landowners also need to pay for survey and layout where the tracks used to be even though they might not have been the ones to take it down,” he said.
Some of the short rail lines in Marion County that Holub said could be “up for grabs” include Chingawassa Springs, one from Lost Springs going toward Burdick and Florence to the quarry. CKC has liability for people walking on the trail, he said, but only on the trail itself.
“If (someone) goes on a farmer’s land and pets the nice bull, the farmer faces liability,” he said. “(CKC) also refuses to do anything with noxious weeds, but they don’t know what the landowner’s problem is.”
In McPherson, there is a 60 foot right-of-way, he said. Marion County has a 100-foot right-of-way, at 20-plus miles.
“That’s a lot of acreage, and it could directly affect land,” Holub said.
In other business, Bud Druse, director of noxious weeds, said he has been getting calls about musk-thistle weeds.