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Blazek retained as Union County Weed Commissioner

Union County Board of Supervisors discuss weeds, insurance and parking

Teasel is an invasive weed that can grow up to 8-foot tall and crowds out native plant species, leaving tough woody stems after it flowers.
Teasel is an invasive weed that can grow up to 8-foot tall and crowds out native plant species, leaving tough woody stems after it flowers.

Teasal and Canadian thistles have been the most problematic weeds addressed by Noxious weed commissioner Gary “Jake” Blazek this year, he said as he gave the annual noxious weed report to the Union County Board of Supervisors Monday at the Union County Courthouse.

Teasel is an invasive weed that crowds out native species of grasses. Blazek said the advance of the weed into Union County is likely due to seeds carried on mowing equipment and from birds.

Blazek also reported that the water filling system he uses in Creston is aging and he would like a hydrant installed instead. He said that a new hydrant would cost approximately the same as repairing the current tank.

“That tank sits outside all year round so you know what kind of deterioration it’s starting to get on top,” Blazek said. “It’s plastic. One of these days we’re going to come in there and it’s going to be busted all over.”

Union County Engineer Zach Gunsolley said that a new hydrant can be looked at when preparing next year’s budget.

Blazek said he would like the county to return to the practice of coordinating spraying with mowing.

“I’d know where they’re at, so they don’t mow what I spray that day,” Blazek said. “If you give me three days [after] spraying, then they could mow it.”

This is the first year that Blazek has tackled the noxious weeds and trees alone. He reported that it went well with only one claim against the city that was proven to be unrelated to any spraying activity. Gunsolley said he had previously told the board that Blazek handled the situation well. Supervisor Ron Riley said it reflects well on Blazek to have such a good record.

The board unanimously approved reappointing Blazek as weed commissioner for 2020.

Election results

The board approved the second tier of city/school election results. Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell explained that the second tier is needed to give time for the results to be tabulated in cases where the votes cross county lines, for example residents of other counties who are entitled to vote in the Southwestern Community College Board election.

County benefits

Skip Lowe of Bernie Lowe and Associates gave the annual report on medical benefits offered to Union County employees. He said he expects to see an 8 to 10 % increase in costs for next year.

This is one reason Lowe is looking at the possibility that changing providers would save money for the county. He said the low claim rate from county employees and the addition of some new benefits available make it possible for the county to get a better package from a new insurance company for the next year.

“They would build you the exact experience that you have today,” Lowe said. “You guys are definitely looking like you would be very competitive for them ... This is not going to be a ‘one year Charlie’ where they buy your business and then turn around and raise your rates.”

He said he is looking at Health Partners, which currently covers groups such as Hy-Vee, Target and Southwestern Community College. Greater Regional Health is in the process of switching to them as well. Lowe suggested the board contact GRH after the first of the year to ask if they had any difficulties with their switchover.

Lowe addressed the problem brought before the board of lack of access to chiropractors. Hysell responded there are two local chiropractors accepted by the plan. Lowe said the change to a new company would help as it accepts a wider group of chiropractors.

Lowe also spoke of the telemedicine benefit for employees. He said it is a cost effective way for patients to receive care when they cannot get an appointment, during the hours when the urgent care center is closed or when traveling. The telemedicine system can also provide mental health care. Lowe suggested the county prepare a flyer to remind employees of the benefits of telemedicine.

In other business:

• the board discussed a draft parking ordinance to alleviate the parking complaints on Commerce Road. No decisions were made.

• the certified engineer technician’s wage increase was approved by the board. The board had previously requested that the technician accumulate more experience and receive additional training before implementing the $1.50 per hour raise. This brings the wage to $26.20 per hour.

The Union County Board of Supervisors meets weekly 9 a.m. Monday in the Union County Courthouse.

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