Oneida County board to review major change proposal
With his term coming to a close at last Tuesday’s monthly Oneida County board meeting, Supervisor Jerry Shidell left his fellow board members with two resolutions he drafted, hoping they would get some consideration in the upcoming months.
One resolution stated “it is in the best interest of Oneida County to hire a county administrator” and the second resolution pertained to reducing the number of supervisors on the board from 21 to nine.
“I know these are drastic steps for this board to take,” Shidell said. “Do I expect these resolutions to pass today? Absolutely not but I would like to see these issues kicked back to a committee formed to look into these resolutions.”
According to the resolution to hire a county administrator, the county has a $50 million a year budget and 285 employees.
“I defy you to find any company like this that doesn’t have a CEO,” he said. “Hiring an administrator would provide accountability for decisions the board makes. An administrator would have to delve into the issues with more vigor and depth.”
Shidell then lambasted the board for decisions they had made in the past.
“Look at the WPS building,” he said. “You agreed to purchase it with no appraisal. Look at the industrial park, which right now has no proper access. These are the types of situations I’m talking about. An administrator would also bring continuity to this government. We have an aging work force here and an administrator could help make new employee transitions easier when these people retire. There is also the new wage study being implemented. Someone needs to oversee that. Board members can shirk their responsibilities but an administrator would have to have accountability or the job would be on the line.”
Trimming the county board to nine supervisors instead of 21 is an issue that has been brought up in previous meetings but was always voted down.
“I’m always fascinated by the procrastination of this board,” Shidell said. “I doubt these resolutions will ever come back before the new board.”
Supervisor Dave Hintz, thought the resolutions were worth investigating though, but he felt “they couldn’t be taken lightly.”
“We have to find out about the costs and impacts,” Hintz said. “This could be very significant for this board.”
With an election the first of April, next month the Oneida County board could see a turnover in supervisors of 30 to 50 per cent depending on poll numbers. Shidell did not run for another term and he felt in his absence the board would ignore his resolutions. He then made an amendment that the administration committee would bring the issues back to the board no later than August.
“There needs to be a self imposed deadline,” Shidell said, “otherwise nothing will come of this.”
The board voted to look into both issues.
In other business the board agreed to sell the WPS building for $185,000 to Midwest Lease LLC. The county purchased the building in 2007 for $525,000 with the idea of moving the Department on Aging and the Health Department into it, however those two departments were moved to the former Northern Advantage Job Center, when the board decided that was a better fit.
Midwest Lease placed a $185,000 bid for the structure last month and the Lands and Records Committee countered with a $225,000 offer which was rejected by the company stating that “$185,000 is the most we can offer based on the amount of work needed to improve the building.”
The board also approved wage schedules for the next four years for two elected county employees that included Brenda Behrle, clerk of court and Grady Hartman, Oneida County Sheriff. While Harman did not protest his across the board wage of $89,483 until 2018, Behrle requested a 1.5 percent increase in her wages. Her proposed wage schedule was $60,748 for 2015 and 2016, $61,659 for 2017 and $62,584 for 2018.
“I have a staff of seven and there is $2 to $3 million dollars that comes through my department every year,” said Behrle. “Elected officials were not included in the wage study but regular county workers will receive a 2.6 annual wage. I’m just looking for something fair and equitable for the next four years.”
Shidell thought the request was inappropriate. “If you don’t like the wages, don’t run for the office,” he quipped.
The board rejected the request with 11 supervisors voting no and seven approving it.