County discusses changes to office hours around the holidays

MARSHALL – A proposal to change Lyon County government office hours around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays prompted some discussion for county commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday. Commissioners voted to approve adding two days to the list of county-observed holidays but not without some disagreement.

Lyon County Human Resources Director Carolyn McDonald presented commissioners with proposed amendments to the county holiday policies, which would add the Friday after Thanksgiving, and in some cases Dec. 24, to the list of county observed holidays. At previous meetings, commissioners had discussed the possibility of closing county offices on the day after Thanksgiving and Dec. 24. Some area counties do not keep their offices open on those days, and the Lyon County recorder and auditor’s offices have reported low customer activity on those days in past years.

Under the proposal, county employees would get the day after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday. Dec. 24 would also be a paid holiday when the 24th falls on a Monday, or a half-day if the 24th falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Eligible full-time county employees would also be granted one floating paid holiday a year, instead of the two currently granted each year.

If approved, the policy changes would take effect in 2014, McDonald said. However, commissioners also debated whether to close county offices on the day after Thanksgiving and Dec. 24 of this year.

“It was my understanding things were not going to change this year,” said Commissioner Steve Ritter. “I want to know how (the proposal) came back to the board this way.”

Lyon County Board Chairman Rick Anderson said the suggestion to close the office on the affected days this year came from discussions with the county policy committee and at county department head meetings. Anderson said even if the offices were closed those two days, the floating holiday changes would not go into effect until 2014.

“I think this building should be open the day after Thanksgiving,” Ritter said.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the holiday changes, with Ritter casting the vote against.

Later at Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners also revisited issues related to changes in medical benefits for county employees. Lyon County is one of a group of area counties that is moving toward providing self-insured medical benefits. Previously, commissioners had questioned whether there should be a provision for elected officials to be able to opt out of participating in county medical benefits. With the county ending its cafeteria plan for employee health benefits, McDonald said the board also needed to discuss whether the county will provide long-term disability and basic life insurance in 2014.

Commissioner Charlie Sanow said he still had concerns about county commissioners receiving county health benefits, although it didn’t look like it was going to be possible to make any changes on that issue yet. With the shift to self-insured benefits coming, commissioners agreed that adding an opt-out provision would make unnecessary complications. But at some point this winter, Sanow said, commissioners needed to talk about whether it was really necessary for them to get county health benefits.

“I’m just talking about five people,” not an opt-out for all elected officials, Sanow said. He said county commissioners weren’t the same as other county elected officials, whose positions are definitely full-time jobs.

Commissioners voted against allowing an opt-out provision for 2014. They also voted in favor of the county providing long term disability and basic life insurance benefits for county employees in 2014.

Commissioners heard a request from Bruce Knieff for a funding contribution to help bring the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall to Marshall in July. The wall, a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be in Marshall from July 10-14. Knieff said supporters anticipated about 4,000 to 5,000 people will visit the wall.

Knieff said he was working with the city of Marshall, as well as area organizations and businesses, to help cover the cost of things like tents, advertising and a commemorative booklet for the event. Area fire departments would also be helping to escort the wall as it is transported to Marshall.

Commissioners were supportive of the memorial wall event, but Anderson suggested that it might be better for Knieff to work with the county Veterans Services Office before requesting a donation from the board.

Knieff said he would meet with VSO staff and be in touch with commissioners.

Commissioners approved an agreement related to electronic waste disposal in the county. Lyon County Environmental Administrator Paul Henriksen said Universal Recycling Technologies, the company which provides e-waste disposal services to the county, was requesting a new agreement to dispose of cathode ray tubes, like those in older televisions and computer monitors. URT was imposing a fee of two cents per pound, plus package costs, to pick up CRTs, Henriksen said. The company currently doesn’t charge a fee, he said, but even with the new fee, URT was offering the best deal the county could get to collect e-waste.

Commissioners voted to approve the new agreement.

Henriksen also updated the board on the process of meeting with counties that bring waste to the Lyon County sanitary landfill. He said he had so far met with commissioners in Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Pipestone and Rock counties and discussed possible future plans for the landfill and its tipping fees.

“So far, it’s been going really well,” Henriksen said.