By KAREN LA PIERRE

klapierre@dailynews.net

In order to assist courthouse employees with the upcoming move, the Ellis County Commission approved a request to close the courthouse to the public Dec. 31.

Courthouse employees will be working to close out the year.

County Clerk Donna Maskus, County Treasurer Ann Pfeifer and IT Director Mike Leiker made the request.

"We have a little bit of concern with the move and us getting the end-of-the-year process completed," Pfeifer said. "Our recommendation/request is if we can make our last working day with the public be Dec. 30 and closed to the public on Dec. 31."

Her office needs to complete the bank deposit and begin on the end-of-the-year process so they can have that completed by Jan. 2.

They also want to ensure other offices have the beginning-of-the-year work processed timely.

"There has been some concern by employees in our offices and HR," she said.

The county is undergoing a significant construction project, including the courthouse.

The commissioners were in agreement that employee pay particularly could not be delayed during the holiday and that they wanted the process of relocation to be as smooth as possible.

In other business, Joel Younger of Flatlander Dirtworks LLC is requesting improvement of 1 mile of Bison Road and a half mile of 230th Avenue, which leads to his business. He said he has requested improvement on that road for five years.

The commissioners were appreciative of his efforts. However, they decided due to liability issues and quality control issues, the county should do the work. Commissioners directed Public Works Director Mike Graf to make efforts to have improvements done if possible by spring.

A proposal to upgrade the county phone system was presented by Leiker. The hosted PBX phone system from Nex-Tech would include the administrative center, health office, EMS station, public works and the law enforcement center and courts for a total monthly cost of $4,797.

Commissioners approved the measure.

Aerial photos

Lisa Ree, Ellis County appraiser, reported to commissioners she wanted to contract an aerial photo for the county in 2015. The last time it was done was 2007.

She has found new photo technology, which allows the map viewer to see the four sides of buildings. The photos are to scale, and appraisers can use the photos to accurately measure height and other dimensions.

"I'd like for that to be on schedule," of every six years because growth is happening quickly, Ree said.

In addition, inspection of property is done every six years.

The photos would have to be taken by mid-March when the leaves are off the trees, she said.

"It's very cool," she said.

Ree told the commissioners it would allow for appraisers to accurately measure the height and other dimensions of buildings.

"I could see other offices using it," she said, including law enforcement, emergency services and the fire department.

The aerial photography is expected to cost $77,000 for the first contract with aerial and obliques. It is integrated with the department's software.

The imagery used is dated, with new housing not included, Ree said.

Also, "if you zoom in to close, you get nothing but blurbs," the appraiser said.

Ree told the commission she has the funds for the project in her budget.

Commissioner Dean Haselhorst and Swede Holmgren were concerned about privacy issues.

"So at what point does it become an invasion of privacy," Haselhorst said.

"I don't think it should be used for law enforcement," Holmgren said.

Leiker told them there would be one shot only, and not streamed.

After some discussion, Haselhorst announced he would vote against the proposal.

In final business, the commission:

* Approved the scrap metal license for Kenneth W. Pfeifer doing business as Ken Pfeifer Salvage and Charles L. Kinderknecht doing business as C.S.K. Ent.

* Listened to an infectious disease report from Butch Schlyer.

* Had a brief Zoning Commission meeting, approving only the minutes of the previous meeting.

* Heard a report from Susan Schlichting on 4-H projects and public health.

* Heard work is progressing on the emergency services building, but it is behind schedule.

* Heard a proposal for county email.