Inclement weather and snow removal top county discussion

Snow and inclement weather were on the minds of the Cavalier County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning in the first meeting of the year under new board chairman Rich Flanders.

Posted on 1/11/14

By Lee Coleman

The Board sought to clarify the pay grades of full time snow plow drivers versus ‘replacement’ drivers.

“If we are paying a replacement, does he get the same salary as the main driver?” asked Flanders.

Currently, replacement drivers are paid $20.34 per hour while full time plowers are paid with a salary.

“We have to set a policy for the replacement of seasoned drivers,” commissioner Elsie Magnus added.

The commission concurred.

If a replacement driver is working or is on-call for a full time driver, the county will pay up to 24 consecutive hours at the hourly rate.

If the replacement continues to work for the full-timer beyond 24 hours, that pay will be deducted from the salary of the full time employee and those hours shown as vacation days.

Sick days may not be used unless the full-timer is verified out with an illness.

A motion was made to approve the new policy and passed unanimously.

Last October, the subject of inclement weather and the closing of the courthouse were on the county agenda and then-chairperson Magnus fought hard to pass a measure allowing for the closing of the courthouse during bad weather to go hand-in-hand and mirror the decisions made by the Langdon Area School Board in closing the schools due to bad weather.

“We need a policy on closing,” she said then. “I think it is a good idea to follow the school closings. If they are closed, we are closed. If they are delaying opening, we would delay opening.

“I like doing what the schools are doing. It would create a standard.”

Flanders described his heartburn with the October proposal.

“I don’t like the idea of school closings dictating what county government does,” he said. “If Langdon and Munich schools dictate when county government is closed, there is something wrong with that.”

The subject was revisited on Tuesday as winter weather has a firm grip on the area. The schools were closed Monday but the courthouse remained open as temperatures dove to 55 degrees below zero with wind chills factored in.

“Who decides if the courthouse is closed or not?” asked commissioner Tom Borgen. “The sheriff is on the road all the time and he makes the early call-in to the state transportation center about conditions and the visibility.”

Ultimately, county employees should have the decision to make or not, Borgen explained.

“Either way, they would not be paid benefits for the day they’re out.”

County auditor Dawn Roppel reminded the Board that an employee can’t use a sick day for bad weather unless they are sick.

“It would be unethical,” Magnus said. “We can’t suggest someone use a sick day unless they are sick. We need to have a decision maker.”

Citing the first weather assessment as coming from the sheriff’s department and the second assessment coming from the county commissioners, Flanders said he thought that decision should come from the sheriff’s office.

The Board agreed to get some feedback from Sheriff Dave Zeis before taking a vote on the issue, otherwise, only a small adjustment on dual county employees and bad weather was brought for a vote.

Passing unanimously, the measure outlined dual employees having the option to take a vacation day if their hometown courthouse was closed and Cavalier County remained open.

In other commission news, Brian Hardy, the third applicant for the board opening on the Cavalier County Water Resource Board, had his interview for the opening in front of the full commission.

Hardy joined Van Howatt and Kevin Lill in seeking the vacated seat created by the retirement of Bill Hardy.

After a silent, handwritten vote was taken and counted, Howatt garnered four of five votes to fill the seat.

In other Water Board business, Ken Nelson of Osnabrock has become the new chairman of the board.