County feels coroner status change to FT not possible

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A proposal to change the status of the Fayette County coroner from part-time to full-time appears to have been killed during a committee meeting on Tuesday night.
County Clerk and Recorder Vicky Conder told county board members at a meeting of the finance committee that Assistant State’s Attorney Brenda Mathis had presented a resolution on such a change to be considered by that committee.
Acting on the recommendation of its consultant, Bellwether, the county has begun asking all 14 board members to attend finance committee meetings, and 11 of the members were present for Tuesday’s meeting.
After the meeting, board Chairman Jeff Beckman said that the county’s coroner, Dave Harris, had told him that it was his idea to switch the office to full-time status.
Making the position full-time would allow for the reinstatement of health, dental and vision insurance, but board member Glenn Gurtner said that Harris told him that “he didn’t care about the health insurance.”
Beckman told board members present that he doesn’t think that the county can legally make the coroner position full-time at this time.
“I don’t think the legalities of that, that that can be changed,” Beckman said.
He said that in 2016, the board set the salaries for county officers elected in 2018, including a $28,000 salary for the coroner, and that “it can’t be altered in the middle of a term.”
Board member Bryce Kistler agreed. “I don’t think legally you can do it.”
Beckman said, “We bought a new vehicle (for the coroner) that belongs to the county, (and) in my mind, we’ve done all we can do.
“In my mind, it’s dead on arrival,” he said.
Gurtner said that the coroner is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but Beckman said, “But it is a part-time position.”
Also during the meeting, Cat Hart of Bellwether updated the committee on the plans to purchase a time clock.
She said that the cost of the equipment would include an initial investment of $22,739 and an annual maintenance fee of $3,750, with the county’s general fund and the Fayette County Health Department sharing the expense equally.
With the equipment, “we’ve got a lot of capabilities for department heads to decide how they want their employees to use it.
“It has a ton of reporting capabilities,” Hart said.
“It’s really in the best interest of the employer and the employees,” she said.
She said that the purchase of the equipment is not in the budget, so a budget amendment will be presented for the board’s approval.
Discussions on the purchase of time clock equipment began last year, and Hart said that the additions of some employees since that time have improved the cost and benefit.
“The more people we can get into it, the cheaper that it is overall,” Hart said.
Melissa Storck, administrator of the health department, said that the equipment will allow the FCHD to better track employees’ work hours on certain projects and overtime, and will also provide information that the department can use in applying for grants.
Employees can use the system to check their salary and benefit information, Storck said.
Hart said that with the time clock equipment, the county clerk’s portion of payroll work “will go a lot more smoothly.”
The issue will now go to the board for a vote at a regular meeting.
Also on Tuesday, Conder said that she had spoken with a representative of Governmental Business Systems about providing election services for the county.
She said that with GBS – whose services include election programming and coding, election software apps, voter registration systems, election day support, ballot printing and pollworker training – the county would be able to keep the equipment it currently has.
“What is happening is, instead of precincts as we know them, we are now going to voting centers,” Conder said. “When this is going to happen, we’re not sure.
“I know that probably within two years, this is what we are looking at,” she said.
Instead of 31 precincts, there would be four voting centers, Conder said.
And, while it’s not a certainty, “it is a very good possibility.”
Conder said that she has learned that problems with election tabulations in the past is due to computer chips not being installed in tabulators.
“I have been doing a lot of research on consolidation of precincts,” Conder said. “I don’t mean that we’re going to consolidate precinct 1 and precinct 2, for example.
“The only thing I would be changing is the (voting) location,” she said.
One possibility would having voters in all Vandalia precincts, for example, casting ballots at one location.
A contract would GBS would cost $6,000 a quarter, and Conder said she was assured that there would not be any additional costs.
In other action:
• Sheriff Chris Smith told board members that he is having a hard time finding a replacement for maintenance employee Greg Williams, who is currently due to step out of the position in March.
Smith said that he’s having problems because of the starting salary, $9.50 an hour. The qualifications include knowledge about plumbing and electrical.
Without someone in that position, Smith said, he will have to call in private businesses, “and that’s going to get expensive.”
• Conder told board members that the county has been asked to be a part of the historic home tours to be held during Vandalia’s Bicentennial Celebration in June.
She said the tour committee was to include the courthouse because it was constructed as a residence in 1859.
Those present agreed that tour groups would be taken through the hallways and courtrooms, but not into the individual offices.
The tours are planned for Friday and Saturday of Father’s Day weekend, and Conder agreed to assist tour groups on Saturday, when the courthouse is closed.