Cost-cutting measures discussed by county

Marion County Commission and county department heads participated April 9 in a special work session to discuss options to cut costs.

Rising costs of benefits, fuel, and other expenses have caused the commission to look at the overall operation of each county department.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said each employee needed to be utilized more efficiently with sharing among departments. Commissioner Dan Holub said the county budget was tight.

Following are comments made by the department heads.

— County appraiser Cindy Magill said her department already was short-handed.

"We're operating below the recommended number of employees for the number of parcels," she said.

Magill continued that her deadlines are set by the state and the work load at these peaks cannot always be done during regular hours. She said she appreciated the option of sharing other employees for data entry and other office tasks.

— County treasurer Jeannine Bateman said she was setting up a program on the computer system which would allow monthly payments on real and personal property taxes. She added her office could use more personnel at the end of the month.

— Register of deeds Jo Ottensmeier said a "floating" employee would be beneficial, particularly someone who is knowledgeable of county department operations. A part-time employee is utilized in the deeds office since there are only a total of two employees in the office.

— Teresa Huffman, economic development director, said she could use office help. She added that she earns a significant amount of compensatory time because she attends meetings and other events in the evenings.

— The office staff at emergency medical services also is busy, director Steve Smith said. EMS volunteers also are at peak loads.

— Public health administrator Diedre Serene said established guidelines for handling leave without pay would be helpful. Her staff also is busy.

Her department has cut costs by eliminating out-of-house custodial services.

— Michele Abbott-Becker, emergency management and communications director, suggested the implementation of a program to charge city law enforcement and fire departments for services.

She also would like an administrative manual be developed for department heads. Abbott-Becker's office currently works with the appraiser's office by using night staff.

Abbott-Becker also suggested the minimum for procurement of items be raised to $1,000.

— County attorney Susan Robson said she isn't scheduling part-time office help as often.

— Remodeling of the sheriff's office has improved efficiency, reported sheriff Lee Becker.

The new cars also are more efficient and Becker has instructed deputies not to leave vehicles idling, except the drug dog unit, for any period of time.

He suggested the county consider more efficient windows.

— Sanitarian and zoning administrator Bobbi Strait she needed additional assistance. She also mentioned issues related to county purchasing cards and building repairs and utility expenses should be paid from the general fund.

— Rollin Schmidt, transfer station manager and noxious weed director, suggested county revenue could be increased with a construction and demolition landfill site.

Since winter months are slow for noxious weed department employees, Schmidt has implemented a tree removal program.

He also is using a program where employees will only spray major roads to conserve fuel. Schmidt agreed that cross-training is important.

— County clerk Carol Maggard said her office is absorbing the work load because of an open position. Register of deeds office staff also is assisting her office.

— Holub asked if it was possible for county employees to work as election poll workers. He noted that filling poll sites is difficult in some areas of the county.