Fillmore County commissioners voted during the Tuesday, March 14, meeting to dispense with reimbursement for use of personal cell phones, as they determined by vote it is not necessary for county employees to receive reimbursement for their calling and data plans as they conduct county business.

The ongoing discussion was part of one that Human Resources officer Kristina Kohn broached during a meeting in late December when the matter came up due to a deadline.

Some of the county’s department heads have already waived their right to reimbursement for the $40 or $15 available to them. Among those waiving their reimbursement were county coordinator Bobbie Vickerman and interim auditor-treasurer Carrie Huffman. The board reviewed a pared-down list of employees being given stipends for their personal phone usage.

Commissioners Duane Bakke and Mitch Lentz suggested the only reason employees who claim the stipends offered on a two-tier usage plan might be justified in doing so is when they must buy a larger data plan to carry out their duties as county employees.

Commissioner Gary Peterson asked, “Are we sure we’re getting the right equipment into the right hands? We have to be sure what we’re doing results in an efficient operation.”

Chief Deputy Tony Webber registered his department’s concerns related to the elimination or decrease in stipends for use of private cell phones for the conducting of business, particularly because the sheriff’s office has come to rely on being able to contact its deputies and jailers directly by phone instead of by radio.

He pointed out, “Our people are using their own phones. If we’re not going to have a stipend, then we’re going to have to go back to phone booths.”

One of the commissioners offered that the deputies and jailers have radios, but Webber replied, “There’s a lot of stuff we don’t want to give out over the air.”

Bakke reiterated, “If it’s not costing them anything…my cell phone package is not going to change. If I drive somewhere to go to a conference or meeting, then it makes sense to be reimbursed. If the argument is that we should provide cell phones for people on the job, then their personal cell phones should stay in their personal vehicles or locked up in a locker.”

The commissioners came to the conclusion that the pared-down list of employees receiving cell phone stipends should be ratified.

Coordinator’s report

Vickerman said her original intent for her portion of the meeting was to discuss the structure of the auditor-treasurer’s office and to set forth a plan for the future. However, she noted interim auditor-treasurer Huffman was out of the office with medical issues and therefore could not participate. The discussion was postponed until Huffman could attend.

Next, she asked to be granted permission to attend the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust (MCIT) course in effective performance management in St. Cloud, including an overnight stay, on April 12. The commissioners approved her request.

Feedlot report

Feedlot officer Michael Frauenkron reviewed the 2016 feedlot program’s year-end report, as well as a letter from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the 2016 annual county feedlot officer and performance credit report.

The commissioners accepted all three, then heard his request for the purchase of a new vehicle for the feedlot office. He cited that his department has $26,003 that needs to be spent, or it will be returned to the entity that issued it to the county feedlot department. The bids he had received for a particular vehicle stood between $27,000 and $28,000.

Bakke pointed out that the highway department’s most recent purchase of a Chevrolet Equinox was made on a state bid of approximately $23,000 and he made a motion to allow Frauenkron to purchase an Equinox using the state bid, after which the remaining board members gave their approval.

Human Resources

Kohn presented a request to advertise for requests for proposals (RFPs) for a benefits consultant who can assist the county in streamlining its employee benefits package. She explained the county currently uses the services of four different consultants and aims to employ only as many as necessary.

The commissioners, particularly Bakke, expressed their appreciation of the potential for streamlined services and they voted in favor.

The board and Kohn thanked Social Services manager Neva Beier for her four years of service to the county after accepting her resignation, which will be effective April 13.

Advertisements will soon begin for her replacement. Kohn stated, “She has made a positive improvement in the county, and we’d like to thank her for her service.”

Highway report

Highway engineer Ron Gregg brought forward a resolution updating Fillmore County’s bridge priority replacement list, or the lineup of where the county’s highway crews will start next when it comes to replacing spans 10 feet or longer.

Gregg noted the list will likely need to be revised and updated by this coming fall for the commissioners’ review. The motion to update the list was approved unanimously.