Board votes to uphold overtime policies

MARSHALL – Lyon County commissioners said it was a matter of policy, while county employees said it was a matter of fairness. At stake was certain county employees’ eligibility to receive overtime pay.

The commissioners’ decision to uphold county policy at their regular board meeting Tuesday meant that overtime is now gone for employees like the county road and bridge superintendent and deputy sergeants in the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department. However, commissioners didn’t leave out the possibility of revising the policies in the future.

At their regular board meeting Tuesday, commissioners revisited questions raised by new county pay scales brought before the board in December. County employees had expressed concerns that several positions would no longer be eligible to receive overtime pay.

Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg reviewed the findings of the pay scale study and the county policy manual. The manual says administrative and managerial positions are considered to be exempt from the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and are not eligible to receive overtime or compensatory time, he said. Several county positions that received overtime pay in the past, including landfill supervisor, road and bridge superintendent and sergeant deputy, are not eligible under county policy, Stomberg said.

The affected positions “have evolved throughout the years” to become more managerial, he said, but it appears county policies were not enforced as job duties changed. Stomberg said he also learned that some employees in the county attorney’s office have logged compensatory time when the policies say they’re not eligible.

“This is not really a question about money. It’s a policy question,” Stomberg said.

Both county department heads and Commissioner Rodney Stensrud said it didn’t seem fair for employees in those positions to lose overtime eligibility, especially considering the responsibilities they have. The affected employees are ones who may work long hours, or who are called in during emergencies, Stensrud said.

Sheriff Mark Mather said the deputy sergeants have also taken on additional responsibilities in the sheriff’s department instead of hiring a chief deputy – a move made to cut costs.

“Are you not going to compensate them?” Mather said.

“I don’t know why it’s exempt now, when it never was before,” said county highway superintendent Jim Thomasson.

Commissioner Steve Ritter moved that the county follow existing policies on overtime eligibility.

“We’ve got to decide if we’re going to deviate from the policy manual,” uphold it, or change the policy, Ritter said. By not following its own policies, the county was opening itself to the risk of legal action, commissioners said.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of the motion, with commissioners Stensrud and Rick Anderson casting the votes against it.

Although he voted to uphold current county policies, Commissioner Mark Goodenow said he also thought county staff should look at updating them. Board members directed Stomberg to speak with county department heads on the matter.

In other business, Lyon County Public Works Administrator Suhail Kanwar presented the board with a draft plan for construction of segments of a bike trail connecting the cities of Marshall and Lynd with Camden State Park. The plan was divided into three project phases. The first phase, Kanwar said, would be locally funded and include environmental assessments and other requirements to enter a contract with the Department of Natural Resources. Kanwar estimated this phase of the project would cost about $5,500.

The design and construction phases would be reimbursed by Legacy grant money. Kanwar said bids for the last two phases could be submitted separately, or for both phases together.

Kanwar said he needed commissioners’ approval to begin with the predesign phase of the project and issue a request for proposals for the second and third phases. Board members voted to have Kanwar come back with quotes for the predesign phase at the next regular county board meeting.