The Custer County Board of Supervisors voted to move forward with Zelle Resource Solutions, an HR firm out of Lincoln, following a decision on Tuesday, April 26 during their regular meeting.
While the board voted to approve a contract with Zelle, it accompanied extensive debate on if the firm was needed, how long the contract should be, and if Zelle was the right option. The Supervisors have been working on finding different firms that would be able to give the county what it needs to move forward with the handbook, but to also give direction on issues the board does not have enough experience in.
Custer County Treasurer Sheri Bryant said HR can be used to help with damage control, but they are also there to prevent issues through trainings. She noted there are inconstancies in policies between departments and when she has questions on legalities there is really no one that they are able to turn to for an easy answer.
District 3 Supervisor Barry Fox said that in his opinion the board lacks true knowledge of ‘workplace law’ and remarked that there has never been consistency on the board. He stated that and HR firm could help prevent issues and noted the county has been fortunate to not have been sued in recent history.
Custer County Attorney Steve Bowers said he believes the county needs an HR firm, specifically when in comes to the handbook. He stated having a third party look at the handbook with expertise in that area, could help prevent possible issues.
While the Supervisors had different opinions regarding specifics of the contract and how much the firm would be used, District 7 Supervisor Doug Stunkel was the lone Supervisor completely against hiring anyone. He said the elected officials and department leads should be in charge of their departments and not someone from the outside. He continued that if there was issues in a department, this was where the Supervisors should step in and address the issue.
Supervisor Fox argued the board has very little control when it comes to elected officials outside of budget control. It was discussed that if there are issues within the department, an HR firm would have a better understanding about the steps that can be taken. It would also allow a third party a chance to see if there are possibilities of places to improve in each department.
Custer County Clerk Connie Gracey noted the departments used to work together all the time, but now the offices act individually and don’t work together.
“We need this,” said Gracey. “Specifically, the handbook is horrible.”
The first motion made was for a one-year contract at $5,000/ month for Zelle HR. The motion failed 3-3 (Barry Fox, Lynn Longmore, Bobby Myers voted “Yes”; Dwain Bryner, Don Olson, Doug Stunkel voted “No”; Tammy Kleeb was absent). The second motion was for a six-month contract, also for Zelle HR, at $5,000/ month which passed 5-1 (Stunkel was the lone “No” vote). The contract would be approved unless the Custer County legal department finds any issues.
Two votes were also held regarding the USDA/APHIS contract for predator and varmint control. Wayne Homan, who is contracted by USDA/APHIS, said the new contracts were much higher than when the County agreed to the contract three years ago. He said the new contract structure was $39,332/ year for three years, $35,757/ year for two years, or $32,506 for a one-year contract.
The Supervisors were extremely displeased with the increased amount and were confused about why it would cost more to go into an extended contract. The contract was $29,551 when agreed on three years ago. According to state statute, animal damage control must be available to all and in order to support cost, each county is required to match funds up to $1,000.
There was some confusion if the county needed to have a program specifically for this or if they could reimburse a landowner if they hired someone else. Wayne said 75 names were on the list of those who requested services in the past three years. He noted that none of the names were listed twice, but some required services year after year. For the most part, the Supervisors agreed the amount paid to USDA/APHIS was way more than what the county would pay out in a year.
The Supervisors voted 4-1 (Don Olson was the lone “No” vote) to reject the offer from USDA/APHIS. Supervisor Olson then made a motion to offer a contract for $32,000/ year for three-years which failed 3-3 (Don Olson, Bobby Myers, Barry Fox voted “Yes”; Lynn Longmore, Dwain Bryner, and Doug Stunkel voted “No”). Supervisor Fox and Attorney Bowers stated they would look further into the requirements of the county regarding the damage control and what the county is required to do.
The Supervisors also approved a repurposed housing program work write up, voting for Alma Beland onto the Nebraska Regional Interoperability Network Board, offering supplemental life insurance to county workers that would cover their families, approved the Nebraska Department of Agriculture report on the Custer County Weed Superintendant Tim Conover’s work in the county, and extending compensation time build-up for the Custer County Sheriff’s Office to two weeks.
The next Custer County Board of Supervisors meeting will be held at 9 AM on May 10.