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County takes engineer to task

Approves 1 of 2
midyear hires

Staff writer

Requests coming in the middle of a budget year to add two full-time employees to the county payroll were met with mixed reaction Monday.

Planning, zoning and environmental health sought an additional employee to focus on environmental health, especially well issues.

“Each separate thing we do in our office takes a lot of paperwork and follow-up,” administrator Sharon Omstead said.

Commissioners adjourned behind closed doors for 10 minutes at the request of commissioner Randy Dallke, then emerged and voted 4-1, with Dallke opposed, to approve the request.

Engineer Brice Goebel’s request to add a full-time position to his office, which will be receiving money from Sunflower Wind Farm to do just that or hire an outside consultant, didn’t fare as well.

“I think there’s some efficiencies that could b

e found in your office that could help you more,” commissioner Kent Becker said. “Anything else, we’d need to talk about in executive session.”

Becker questioned the composition of Goebel’s staff.

“The people you’ve got in the office — do we have the right people there to do it?” he said. “I think we’d be doing you a service if we could get you out in the field more — with people you can trust that would get the work done down there in the office.”

Commissioners noted that Goebel’s contract anticipated that he spend more time in the field.

“That whole thing is different than when you started working,” Becker said.

Goebel suggested that the alternative to hiring would be to employ a consultant, as was done for work with Diamond Vista wind farm in the northwest corner of the county.

Commissioners seemed unwilling to repeat the Diamond Vista experience but suggested that hiring simply to hire would be a bad option.

“If you can’t hire a person with all of the skills, if you have to spend a bunch of time training, we’ve defeated the purpose,” Becker said. “With all the challenges out there, this is a position that needs to hit the road running.”

The challenges “out there” appear to include an expansive plan to pay for major upgrades to paved roads with 10-year bonds approved without a referendum.

Goebel’s plan for what to do on which roads fell under fire Monday from one commissioner.

“Here we go again,” said Dallke, who represents southern portions of the county. “We’re not doing it down south but we are up here. We’re not spending money because you say it’s not needed.”

Goebel countered, saying: “I can do whatever you guys want. I can go to other pavement people and ask them to give you a recommendation.”

Dallke expressed concern about recent work on Nighthawk Rd.

“I would like to invite anybody to drive what we did on Nighthawk last year,” Dallke said. “If we come out with something like this again, I don’t know that I’m proud of it. That bouncing up and down is what the public’s talking about.

“I want to provide a good road for everybody, but I don’t want to go through a bond issue and see three or four years from now what happens to a road that we don’t do a good job on.”

Priorities and work standards have to be clear before the county commits to paying for a project over 10 years, he said.

“We’ll all be gone in 10 years except for Jonah,” he said, referring to Jonah Goering, the only commissioner not approaching or beyond retirement age, “and he’ll be sitting here, paying for it.”

Becker agreed.

“It’s got to be a 10- or 15-year road,” he told Goebel. “I don’t have the answer to that. You’re supposed to.”

Last modified April 27, 2022

 

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