The Ellis County Commission on Monday unanimously approved staff changes in the treasurer’s office and spending economic development money for corridor improvements northwest of Hays.

Ellis County Treasurer Lisa Schlegel requested revisions to job descriptions, titles and pay grades for several positions within her office. The revisions have been in the works since before Schlegel took office, she told commissioners, but the resignation of the accounting manager, effective May 18, presented the opportunity to make the changes now.

The changes reflect cross-training and duplication of responsibilities in the back office and will reduce salary costs by $3,200 annually.

The main changes are the title of the motor vehicle/tax collection administrator to motor vehicle administrator and a reclassification of the pay grade for Treasury Operations Manager Casey Hammond.

Hammond will see a pay increase of $1.47 an hour, while the accounting manager position to be hired will be $18.40 an hour, a decrease from $21.45 an hour from the previous accounting manager.

The job description revisions and cross training will help ensure all the duties of the office are covered in staff absences and to make sure staff members are not checking their own work, Schlegel said.

“We have within the treasury a certain … separation of duties that provides a check, so the person performing motor vehicle functions cannot check their own work, so to speak, when they’re functioning as the accounting manager,” she said.

The commissioners also voted to use $23,775 in economic development funds for professional services to update plans for development northwest of Hays.

The funds come from almost $48,000 that was designated in the 2018 budget for the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development, County Administrator Philip Smith-Hanes said.

The area north of Interstate 70 that includes Feedlot Road, 230th Avenue, Hyacinth Avenue and 55th Street has seen development in recent years, Smith-Hanes said.

“We’ve had a lot of development in that area with Midwest Energy, Celebration Community Church, Hess Services, Pertl Feeders and other business, and so we have been investigating transportation improvements in that area for more than five years,” Smith-Hanes said.

The downturn in the oil industry put a damper on the county’s ability to finance improvements, however, Smith-Hanes said.

The $23,775 will be used to hire professionals such as an engineer to update the five-year-old cost estimates and a consultant to assist with application processes with the Kansas Department of Transportation and bond counsel for county funding.

Real estate developer Doug Williams spoke in favor of the measure.

“I think anything we can do to encourage development in that part of the county is definitely something we need to be working on,” he said.