The main topic of conversation at the Marion County Board of Commissioners weekly meeting was roads. Due to the rain over the past week, more issues have become clear and frustrating for both residents and the county.
The Monday meeting started out with public comments from residents who were upset. Due to the rain last week, the county was called and asked to please put some rock on a quarter-mile stretch of Yarrow Road, north of Highway 150.
Due to the severity of the road issues, the county went out and laid some crushed concrete, which ended up having many pieces of metal in it.
The residents expressed frustration that their road has been difficult to drive in poor weather in spite of promises to improve it, and now, the road is even more difficult to travel due to the metal.
County Engineer Brice Goebel explained that the Road and Bridge Department can go back over with a truck with magnets to remove the metal. He explained that, when laying the crushed concrete, it is difficult to tell how much metal there is.
Several residents mentioned putting sand over it, but Goebel explained that, with the current road conditions and ongoing weather, this would make a bigger mess and not address the issue at this time.
Goebel apologized for the inconvenience and reminded all of how hard he and his department are working.
“Again, we take these issues seriously and are trying to find the best alternatives to use. I specifically take them personally, as I know we are trying to work on all the roads at once,” Goebel said.
The commissioners agreed that there has been progress and offered support to Goebel as he works to repair the damage that the recent rain has caused on top of already existing issues.
Goebel explained to the commissioners that he has been in further talks with FEMA regarding the flooding in June of 2019. He reported that they are closer to getting it all wrapped up.
He also shared that parts of the county received so much rain in the past week that areas began flooding. He said his department will be keeping track of it all and the locations, since there may be a state of disaster declared, and areas could qualify for financial assistance for repairs.
The commissioners and Goebel discussed some other roads, including some that have been used by another company to take rock out from Marion County to Morrison County. After speaking with Attorney Brad Jantz, it was decided that Goebel would reach out and brainstorm some solutions regarding the road repairs. Goebel will report back and update the county.
In another item, the commissioners discussed the one-year pay plan that they are hoping to implement in order to bring the budgets and salaries in the county departments up to where they should be.
Comissioner David Mueller provided some background.
“A wage study was conducted by McGrath Human Resources Group in 2018, comparing Marion County employee and elected positions to comparable positions in similar-sized, surrounding counties. The result was that nearly 70% of positions were under the market. The county commission at that time took no action,” Mueller said.
He went on to say that the current county commission had McGrath update the study earlier this year, and the board implemented their recommendations for county employees and elected officials, excluding the commission.
“McGrath updated changes in positions and took into consideration issues like differing job responsibilities, etc. They worked with the county clerk and department heads to make sure positions were classified correctly,” Mueller said.
Mueller and Commissioner Jonah Gehring pushed for the pay plan to be effective on July 1, asking for full implementation rather than have it phased out over a period of years.
“This will impact some employees but not all. It will primarily benefit employees who are below the starting level of the new proposed pay grades/levels. The estimated implementation cost provided by the consultants was just over $172,000 for a full year. Doing the implementation effective July 1 basically cuts that number in half for the current year to reduce the budget impact,”County Clerk Tina Spencer said.
Spencer also explained that this is considered a pay correction.
“It does raise the base wages, and so it is a long-term impact to the budget. And it is designed to where, if allocated, employees should receive some sort of increase (either COLA or step increase) each year in order to keep moving forward and keeping pace in the market,” Spencer said.
Gehring explained to Commissioner Kent Becker that his idea to keep the general fund built up and go with a two-year plan will cause the county to be “behind the eight ball and just keep kicking the can down the road.”
Commissioner David Mueller agreed and said, “At a minimum, this will bring us up to competitive with other counties. We have to do something and can’t just keep giving the message that our employees don’t deserve to be paid a fair wage.”
The board passed the plan to implement the pay plan beginning July 1.
In other business, the board:
n met in executive session multiple times to discuss personnel performance
n heard the COVID-19 county update from a written report from the health department. There are currently four active cases, one hospitalization, and 24 vital death statistics. Last week, the approval was given for COVID-19 vaccinations for ages 12 to 15, so those vaccinations are now available to the public.
Please see the Marion County Health Department website for further information and to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations.