County approves wages study, construction contract
By RANDY GONZALES
By a split vote, Ellis County commissioners approved a wage and benefits study at Monday's meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse.
Chairwoman Barbara Wasinger favored the study but needed at least one other commissioner to agree with her for its approval. Commissioner Dean Haselhorst, although he questioned both the cost and effectiveness of the study, not only voted with Wasinger but provided the second to her motion to put it to a vote.
"I wasn't expecting it, coming from that direction," Wasinger said as she looked at Haselhorst after his second.
Commissioner Swede Holmgren voted against the motion. With its passage, Evergreen Solutions LLC -- the second-lowest of four bidders -- was approved to conduct a study at a cost not to exceed $37,500.
"It really costs that much to do a wage and benefit study?" Haselhorst wondered before the vote. "I'd like to know how it does."
"There's a lot of time involved," Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said.
Wasinger said the study could prove helpful during contract negotiations with county employees.
"There's a purpose behind this," Wasinger said. "There's been discussions about union negotiations that we know that this is a tool that both the union and commission need to use in order to be fair and get things up to speed.
"I have no problem with discussing how to deal with salaries as opposed to benefits, and we'll see what happens when we get to those negotiations. I can't get into any more detail than that. But I fully intend to do what I can to use it. We also can't answer for what the union will decide to do, either."
In other business:
* Seven subsidized organizations went before commissioners to request funding for 2015: Ellis Alliance asked for $5,000; Ellis County Council on Aging requested an increase of $2,460 from 2014, to $141,074; Ellis County Conservation District is seeking a direct subsidy of $67,600 and continuation of the Cost Share Program; Ellis County Fair Board requested the same amount as this year, $180,406; Hays Arts Council asked for $5,000; Ellis County Extension Service requested $323,500, an increase of $48,500; Criminal Defense/Child in Need of Care Legal Services requested a rate increase to $1,500 per month for the four contracted legal firms and doubling the conflict-attorney contract to $1,200 per month. The annual increase would be $79,200, or $317,400.
* Commissioners approved three motions concerning the lease at 718 Main. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas was released from the final month of its lease of office space on the second floor, as it plans to move to another location. Brad Schumacher and SIA Inc. will relocate to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield space, and Adams Brown Beran and Ball will take over Schumacher's space.
* Commissioners approved three terms to the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission, effective July 1. Rob Soneson of rural Ellis County and Nathan Leiker and Marcy McClelland, both of Hays, each will have three-year terms.
* Commissioners approved the construction contract for remodeling of the future administrative center at 718 Main by Paul-Wertenbeger Construction, Hays, at a cost not to exceed $709,000.
* Commissioners rejected bids for the stormwater project at 601 Main. The bids were higher than expected.
* Commissioners will have bids opened for the EMS/rural fire construction project at 2 p.m. June 18 at the courthouse.
* Commissioners went into executive session for 15 minutes with Sund and county counselor Bill Jeter to discuss non-elected employee issues and attorney-client privilege. No action was taken.
* Commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. today at the courthouse to discuss renovation plans for the courthouse and jail with the architect.