County procedures on inclement weather unchanged by supervisors
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors has decided to leave its inclement weather procedures unchanged.
At the regular meeting Jan. 24, the procedures were brought up by supervisors chairman Mike Olson, who said the subject had been a hot topic in many courthouses around the area.
“There’s been questions about how we go about closing or handling inclement weather. I think our handbook states the courthouse and other buildings will not close, but it’s up to each department head to handle their employees,” Olson said. “But if everyone leaves the courthouse, or public health, then those buildings would be closed.”
Olson sought comments from the other supervisors on the topic. Robinson discussed the procedures used during the most recent snow event on Jan. 17.
“Business was conducted as usual at the beginning of the day, and then by midday a declaration was sent out,” said Robinson.
County Auditor Jill Ozuna confirmed that a memo was sent out when ice was coming down that if any of the employees wished to go home, they could. Olson was in favor of that part of the procedure, especially in the case of employees like IT director Sonia Morrison, who lived out of town.
“That’s what the procedure says as stated, and that’s how we’ve handled it in the past,” commented Olson.
Ozuna said issues came into play when the courthouse was closed for non-essential workers, but still was open to foot traffic.
“Basically, the department heads have to be there, because if the employees are told they can stay home and use vacation time or comp time, employees that don’t have that or don’t wish to use it have to stay, which further keeps the department heads from leaving. Personally, I think the policy needs some verbiage added that the courthouse can close upon the supervisors’ discretion,” advised Ozuna.
Olson was under the impression that the policy already allowed for the supervisors to close the courthouse in the event of a major snowstorm or severe weather event.
“When power’s out and when people can’t get around, that’s a different deal, but like the snow we got on Jan. 17, that would be more the department heads discretion. I would assume that if we close the county, it would be everything but secondary roads, the sheriff’s office, and maintenance supervisor Dan Wright . My question is if they’d still be paid if we closed all buildings,” stated Olson.
Ozuna said staff were also wanting clarified who was essential. Ozuna felt it was common knowledge that the essential personnel were at the secondary roads department, sheriff’s office, and Dan Wright.
Robinson clarified that didn’t mean the rest of the staff and their duties were not important. But essential services had to do with safety during a storm.
“It boils down to keeping the roads cleared, keeping the roads safe, and having the maintenance director on site to make sure the courthouse is taken care of and keep the sidewalks clear,” Robinson commented.
Olson felt that the county could leave the policy that way, and Olson would make the call for closure as supervisor’s chairman. He also stated that there were questions why the courthouse wasn’t closed on Jan. 17. Olson explained his position, and said while other entities did close, a number of them didn’t, such as the Red Oak Community School District.
Robinson defended Olson and said if the county was hit with a massive storm, the necessary precautions would be taken.
“We are as concerned with protecting our employees as anybody. It’s a situation where we deal with it as it comes. We have a policy in place, and we may have to tweak something one way or another at that time. None of us are in the city limits, so we understand the travel implications and what needs to be done,” Robinson advised.
Olson was in agreement and said he was against making any closing decisions based on the forecast alone.
“Closing on the forecast has become laughable. Bill Randby apologized to his entire viewing audience after the last storm. Then they thought we wouldn’t get any snow to speak of, and we got two inches. The last forecast was four to six inches with 30 mph winds which borders on being a weather event, but that didn’t happen. If the temperature had been a few degrees colder, we’d have had six inches of snow and drifts, but we didn’t,” Olson stated.
No further discussion took place regarding the county’s inclement weather policy.
In other business, the supervisors:
• Appointed Brittany Bergren and Stephanie Jensen, both employees of Houghton State Bank, to the eminent domain board.
• Approved the treasurer’s semi-annual report for December 2022, in the amount of $12,450,400.