Hiring policy focus of talk

ESCANABA – Concerns over hiring policies and procedures for county employees were big topics of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Delta County Board of Commissioners.

When reviewing the administrator’s report, Delta County Administrator Nora Viau noted that nine candidates had been interviewed for the assistant airport manager position following a recent resignation of assistant airport manager Becka Holm. A new assistant airport manager has since been hired.

Commissioner Dave Rivard questioned the procedure as no board meeting was held to hire her replacement.

“We don’t sit here when we have a retiree that could have been here for 10 or 20 years and then assume that that is the OK to hire a replacement…,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us at this point, as this board, to find out whether we want to maintain those positions, what the costs are, or any other thing about it. We were not given that opportunity.”

Rivard said the board is elected to make these decisions and that did not happen.

“Unfortunately this has been happening regularly and it’s got to come to an end. It will come to an end,” he said.

Rivard asked whether the decision was made between Viau and Board Chairman Tom Elegeert, and said as administrator, Viau should have notified the board of the vacancy and the chairman should have placed the item on the agenda.

According to Viau, the board recommended approval of hiring an assistant airport manager as a committee of the whole on May 2, with full board approval on May 7.

“We did not name an individual and it was filling a position within the board guidelines that were set,” explained Viau, of the process. “We have done that and without the board giving direction that I was not supposed to do that. I will continue to do whatever the board had authorized until I receive something from the county board that says I cannot.”

Commissioner Dave Moyle said he did not want to get involved in micromanaging of how the airport is run, but suggested reviewing the hiring procedures moving forward.

“If something’s going to be brought up and the integrity of process or the integrity of an individual is questioned, I think we need to follow through with that,” said Moyle.

The board agreed to have Rivard and Elegeert meet with the county’s attorney to review the hiring process.

Following the meeting, Viau said the name of the new assistant airport manager is not being made public at this time as the employee may need to give their two weeks’ notice at a current job. She indicated the urgency in filling the position was to get the new employee certified and hired so the county abides by Federal Aviation Administration regulations and does not face any fines.

The board also heard a presentation by Bay College President Laura Coleman regarding the college’s services and importance to the community. On Nov. 5, Delta County residents will vote on a millage renewal for the college.

If approved, the millage rate of 1 mill (or $1 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) will be renewed for 20 years, 2015 to 2034, inclusive, to be used for capital improvements and for paying the principal and interest on outstanding indebtedness of the community college district.

“I cannot begin to say how important this renewal millage is,” said Coleman. “It’s not going to cost anybody any more money than they’re already spending. This has been on the books for 20 years and we really, really need this to continue…The people in this county support us in a very big way.”

The county millage currently makes up 19 percent of Bay College’s budget, up from 15 percent in 2000-2001 as funding sources continue to shift.

“This is pennies per day that people pay so that we are able to deliver a really good, quality education at Bay,” she said.

In other business, the board:

approved a finance committee recommendation to allow the sheriff’s department to utilize increased hours for part-time employees as long as the costs do not exceed the current budget. The approval is for the following sheriff’s department divisions: road patrol, marine, and front desk personnel.

In July, the county approved temporarily allowing part-time corrections officers to work more than the 29 hours per week maximum set for part-time employees in anticipation of the Affordable Care Act.

approved a committee of the whole recommendation to allocate $100,000 to Michigan State University Extension ($55,000 of which would be used for rent, and the remainder a $45,000 allocation). Rivard noted the allocation is contingent upon whether the funds are available.

approved Prein&Newhof of Grand Rapids as engineering consultant at the Delta County Airport for the next five years, regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration’s current requirement for the airport to enter into a selection process on a regular five-year basis.

approved a request for an unpaid leave of absence for an airport operations employee.

approved sending a secondary road patrol grant application for grant money, routine action approved at this time of year.

adopted a resolution at the request of Huron County in support of Michigan Senate Bill 395 to clarify certain requirements of Public Act 152 of 2011.

The bill would amend the Publicly Funded Insurance Contribution Act.

Some of the proposed amendments would: clarify that payments in lieu of insurance benefits are excluded from the dollar and percentage limits on a public employer’s total contributions, clarify that contributions into a fund solely for health care benefits are also excluded, and set realistic hard caps for individual-and-spouse coverage.