Commissioners give county employee handbook first update since 1993

Twelve years have passed since the county employee handbook was thoroughly reviewed. One area was revised in 1999, but overall it has been left as is.

For the past several months Haakon County Commissioners and county departments have worked to update the employee handbook.

Director of Equalization Rita Merrill was instrumental in the update. She has approached the commissioners a number of times with proposals from the county employees.

The main area of contention has been sick leave. Commissioner Mel Smith has been emphatic in his stand against some of the changes. He noted the area of sick leave has been abused a lot in the past.

Two proposals brought forth by Merrill were that the employees could accumulate 480 hours, which takes five years, and if in the sixth year they did not use any sick leave they would receive a bonus pay worth three days. The second proposal was for the employees to bank sick leave in a common pool.

The commissioners all disagreed with the banking of sick leave. Commissioner Rita O’Connell noted she understood the incentive element of the first plan. On a vote for the first plan, Don Eymer and O’Connell did not cast a vote and Smith’s vote was against the plan.

They did work out a plan, however; that allowed the 480 hours of accumulated sick leave, up from 360 hours, and employees can donate up to 40 hours of sick leave to a fellow employee. This will give employees with an illness a chance to take additional sick leave if needed.

A new addition to the handbook is funeral leave of three days. Before, employees had to use sick leave or annual leave for time off for funerals of immediate family members.

An area that employees wanted added was the automatic day off following Thanksgiving and other holidays that may land on a Thursday. The commissioners nixed that idea and will consider the days on a case-by-case basis.

Kenny Neville, Highway Superintendent, noted the need to get bids let out for gravel. He stated he had $100,000 budgeted for the gravel. He asked if he could be approved for another $100,000. This would give the county a better chance for a cheaper bid. The commissioners approved a bid let for 60,000 ton of gravel in three pits.

The commissioners received two bids for a Dodge extended cab pickup that was surplused. One bid was from B & B Sales, Philip, for $450. The other bid was from Steve Reddy (Reddy Construction), Wounded Knee in the amount of $1,100. The board approved the acceptance of Reddy’s bid.

In other business, the commissioners:

•approved the minutes from January 4 and 14 and payment of claims;

•approved an abatement for John (Jack) V. Hansen due to an in-house error;

•approved highway department employees to attend a safety meeting in Rapid City;

•approved to surplus for disposal old radios from the highway department;

•reviewed the Community Health Nurse quarterly report from Lynn Buchholz;

•approved a petty cash request from Register of Deeds Karyl Sandal, as per state auditor’s notation;

•set the 15th of the following month as the latest date which the Haakon County Register of Deeds can submit previous month's funds to the treasurer;

•Sheriff Larry Hanes discussed deputy applications and set up an interview date with the commissioners; and

•approved the purchase of a satellite radio and lifetime membership for Marty Hansen as payment for his past services.