Commission ‘okays’ search for planning and zoning position

The Marion County Commission unanimously approved adding a second part-time employee to the planning and zoning department at its meeting May 6.

Commission chairman Kent Becker said Sharon Omstead, director of planning and zoning, who was hired in mid-October of 2018, is experiencing additional work from the wind farm people in the south-central part of the county, as she continues to learn her position from the ground up.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said: “I personally don’t know about part-time (unless it’s worded) temporary. I like to see where full-time employees are heading, and the goals (Omstead) has in mind.

Becker said Omstead’s workload is difficult in that she’s trying to keep up with everything going on.

“(Omstead) really feels like her office needs more help,” he said.

Commissioner Dianne Novak asked county clerk Tina Spencer if any of the job responsibilities listed in Omstead’s department are new.

“No,” Spencer said, “but those (responsibilities) are expanding all the time, and with all the things coming in, it gets to be more than they can do. We have sometimes sent people over to help out and then that causes shortages in my office.”

Novak asked if Omstead’s department had money in its budget for an additional part-time person.

Spencer said this wasn’t budgeted in her personnel line item, but she has general funds similar to other departments which have asked for additional help and were granted money from that fund.

“The budget for that department really went up,” Novak said. “In 2017, it was $110,000; in 2018 the amount was $107,000, and for the 2019 proposed budget it’s at $144,000.”

Novak said one of the line items is contractual at $34,000, which she said was for consultant, building rent and utilities.

Dallke said he agreed with Novak that there wasn’t anything new on the list of responsibilities. He did say he thought because Omstead is a new supervisor, that was a lot of the reason for her needing help.

And, between the workload associated with wind farms, and banks and loan companies calling for flood plain evaluations, Dallke said he agreed the department is overloaded.

“The timing is a lot of it,” Becker said.

Dallke said he doesn’t know what Omstead’s capabilities are with only six months in the position.

“We haven’t heard a report on any of the employees or where the department is heading or what their value is to Marion County,” he said. “Until we decide the goals for employees, I don’t want to make (the part-time) permanent.”

Jo Ottensmeier, who was the register of deeds until retiring, is currently working part-time in planning and zoning, Spencer said. 

“Sharon was excited because (Jo) understands legal descriptions.”

The second part-time person would do more of the filing, copying, clerical duties, Spencer added.

Novak said maybe they should first ask Ottensmeier how much she is working to see if maybe she would want more hours or be able to agree to more.

Spencer said that Ottensmeier will be there, and so would a new hire.

Becker said that maybe in one or two years, they wouldn’t need the second part-time person.

Dallke suggested the need could be in as little as until the end of the year.

The commission, in other business:

– heard from Lisa Reeder, appraiser, regarding the pictometry contract. She said there were two contracts, the original at $35,175, and a second contract adding Peabody and Goessel for a difference in cost of $3,884 or $36,497 in quarterly payments. The commission approved the addition of the two cities. Novak said sometimes having the right tools can mean doing a job more efficiently, and she’s all for that. 

– agreed with Reeder that the Konica Minolta printer, which isn’t being used by her office anymore still has a maintenance agreement that’s costing $30-$33 a month. After asking the other departments if they want the printer, which is still working, she said, the commission authorized her to sell it on Purple Wave, along with an older model Crown Vic.

– approved a resolution defining and authorizing the operation of a utility task vehicle on the roadways within the Marion County Park and Lake with an annual registration fee of $50. However, the commission would also consider a dual annual registration with the city of Marion, but that needs to be ironed out.

– an executive session was called for 10 minutes to discuss a position in the road and bridge department. In returning to open session, the commission voted 3-0 to have Becker meet with the candidate.

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