January 25, 2021

Shepherd names civil clerk appointee, delays on chief deputy

Union County Sheriff Mark Shepherd spoke to the Union County Board of Supervisors regarding open positions in his department during its weekly meeting in the Union County Courthouse.

Shepherd had previously named a chief deputy at the Dec. 28 supervisors meeting but has since retracted that statement citing conflicts which he did not explain. Shepherd told the supervisors he is not ready to move forward with appointing a chief deputy at this time.

The supervisors approved Shepherd’s recommendation of Jenny Wheeler as civil clerk. He said he offered the position to Wheeler, and she has accepted. Wheeler is currently the Union County Deputy Treasurer. Shepherd said she is aware that the pay rate for the civil clerk is lower than her current pay rate and is a “bargained” pay rate with the union.

“She knows it would involve some pay cut,” Shepherd said. “She also knows we’re starting our bargaining session with our bargained employees’ wages and I have given absolutely zero guarantees as to what’s going to occur there because we don’t know.”

Supervisor Dennis Brown said the board does not usually start out a new hire at the previous employee’s wage if they do not have experience in the position.

Shepherd said the salary has been bargained with the union for that position.

Due to Wheeler’s current position, Shepherd was unsure when she would be able to begin working as the civil clerk. He said Wheeler would need to discuss that with Kelly Busch, Union County Treasurer.

There were 13 total applicants for the civil clerk position, some of whom did not make the deadline to apply and/or follow the guidelines of the application. Shepherd said there were three qualified candidates in the first tier of interviews — which he was not involved in. After the final interviews, Shepherd said there were two candidates he considered good. He praised Wheeler’s experience and long term commitment to Union County.

In the absence of a civil clerk, Ringgold County clerk Liz Mederos has been coming to Union County half days. Mederos will continue to work with Union County to train Wheeler and then the two counties will support each other as needed, Shepherd said.

Shepherd said Ringgold County Sheriff Rob Haley would like to submit a bill for the cost of Mederos’ salary for the time she has spent working for Union County. Friday asked if this would include mileage. Shepherd said as far as he knew currently it would not.

COVID-19 leave policy

The Union County Board of Supervisors discussed changing the county’s coronavirus sick leave policy during its weekly meeting Monday at the Union County Courthouse.

The state guidelines, which called for 14 days of paid leave for employees who were quarantined on government order, through the advice of a physician or because they were exhibiting symptoms and 14 days of two-thirds pay for employees who needed to take care of an affected family member, expired Dec. 31.

Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell said some Iowa counties have decided to continue the special leave policy until the end of January or March and other counties let it expire with the state guidelines.

The supervisors discussed shortening the two week period to line up with the new Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation of seven or 10 days of quarantine.

“If it expired, maybe we should go to the 10 days instead of 14,” Supervisor Rick Friday said.

However, after discussing the fact that the guideline of testing on day five after exposure and quarantining until seven to 10 days after a negative test adds up to nearly 14 days, the supervisors decided not to change the policy for the moment and invite Union County Public Health Nurse Robin Sevier to their next meeting to better explain the CDC’s current guidelines.

COVID-19 update

Union County Emergency Managment Director Jo Anne Duckworth said the county is in the process of giving the 400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers. She said they have encountered some difficulty as the vaccine is only good for six hours after the vial is opened. No vaccine has been wasted, she said. It is a matter of coordinating to have all of the recipients scheduled and then to make sure they keep their appointments.

Duckworth had no timeline for the vaccine being available to the public. Those who are waiting for it should keep an eye on the radio, newspaper and the county’s social media pages where details will be given as soon as any information is available.

Courtroom technology

Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon spoke to the supervisors regarding an opportunity from the state to bring enhanced technology to the courtrooms.

“Over the last several months, the state judicial branch has been working on some programs for what they call a full courtroom conferencing system,” he said. “The ability to have ... video availability for a courtroom.”

Kenyon said the state would bear most of the cost with the county responsible for some electric items including cabling and covers.

The program that covers the cost of this technology focuses mainly on larger counties with a few small counties included. Kenyon said Union County’s acceptance of the technology will help keep it relevant in the years to come. If the state ever decides to reduce the number of courtrooms in use, counties with the higher level of technology are more likely to be chosen as a regional hub.

Townline and Osage

After the Jan. 4 supervisors’ meeting, Union County Road Superintendent Al Hysell spoke with Adair County Engineer Nick Kauffman, who is helping Union County in the absence of a county engineer, to discuss the intersection of East Townline Road and North Osage Street. A concerned citizen had noted the danger of an accident at the intersection due to its configuration.

Currently, the intersection is a three-way stop where the traffic moving east on East Townline Road is uncontrolled. Al Hysell said the problem with the intersection lies in drivers who have stopped at the stop sign on the northbound side of North Osage Street and then proceed after assuming the traffic on East Townline will turn south. He said it would help if all drivers used their turn signals.

Al Hysell said the majority of the traffic does turn south. A traffic study showed 1270 vehicles out of 1750 turned south while 150 vehicles continued straight during the study. There have been no accidents with combined damage over $1,500 since 2010.

“I think that’s enough of a problem ... to me we want to watch cost but if we can make it safer, I would personally be willing to go the extra cost,” Supervisor Ron Riley said.

Riley added to Al Hysell’s previous suggestion of a yield sign on East Townline by suggesting a flashing yield sign. Hysell will check to see if there are any applicable laws regarding flashing signs before returning to the board with a recommendation. The City of Creston had responded by email saying it had no objection to the county’s possible plan to add signage at the intersection.

Union County Attorney

According to unofficial sources, Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon submitted a request to Union County Auditor Sandy Hysell to add his resignation to the Jan. 18 board meeting agenda. Sandy Hysell confirmed receipt of the request but said it was not officially presented to the board. In a phone call with the Creston News Advertiser Managing Editor this morning, Kenyon confirmed he would be retiring effective Feb. 17.

The Union County Board of Supervisors meets weekly 9 a.m. Monday at the Union County Courthouse, 300 N. Pine St. The supervisors are still meeting in person at this time, but the public is encouraged to submit comments for public forum by mail, email or telephone to help limit the gathering to 10 participants.

REGINA SMITH

Reporter, columnist, teacher, children's book author, book store owner - Regina Smith has a wide range of experience in writing and education. She combines those interests and experiences to cover city and county government and human interest stories as well as writing a biweekly column in her home town of Creston, Iowa.