As the July 13 Board of Supervisors meeting was called to order, noticing the two visitors in attendance it was decided to move the public comments from the end of the meeting to the beginning. This was done in an effort to keep the numbers down in the Supervisor’s meeting office to help with social distancing efforts.
Public guest Gary Bennett noted he was present as he has heard several comments regarding the courthouse operations recently and wanted to attend to ask firsthand which offices are currently open to public and which are open by appointment only.
“I haven’t been in since paying my taxes in March, a few days before this corona stuff broke out and I was at a board meeting this summer in the community and I was surprised the number one topic, and I didn’t even know this was going on, but the number one topic was what’s going on in our courthouse,” Bennett began. “I’m just here to see what is going on because the rumors are that you couldn’t pay your taxes, you couldn’t get your driver’s license, you had 100 people in line before you to get your driver’s license and on and on.”
“There’s also another rumor that a lot of money is going to be spent on remodeling some parts [within the courthouse] and I don’t know what that is as there’s been bits and pieces in the paper from the supervisor’s meetings, but there is concerns about that going on too,” Bennett also stated. “I think people are just worried with the economic stress wondering how this is going to work and if we are going to get in a bind a few months down the road and if this is the time, like I say this is a rumor, but is this the time to be spending money on courthouse updates?”
Currently the courthouse is open to the public with all offices running as normal with the exception of the treasurer’s office operating by appointment only.
“They are taking appointments and if you see them running up and down the hall that is what they are doing as most of the treasurer’s offices across the state are operating by appointment only,” said Supervisor Tom Swearingin. “The deal with the tarp [the tarp hanging at the window of the treasurer’s office] is for HIPAA violation. We pay a company called CAROSH over $16,000 a year for their advice and that was their advice to hang those up until we can remodel and give people more privacy because of medical statements and so on. If we are going to pay these people $16,000 a year we probably better go by what they say.”
“Also DOT has said we are in HIPAA violation and I have a letter from [County Attorney] Alan Wilson that says we are in HIPAA violation,” Swearingin continued. “It is not the county that comes first as far as being in violation, it is the treasurer. There is also some concerns with the coronavirus as she has an at-risk employee in there.”
Swearingin noted the courthouse has not had any renovations or updates since it was built in the 1960’s.
“We just authorized at the end of last year and the beginning of this year $80,000 for radios for the sheriff’s office and I don’t want to tell one office they are more valuable than the other, do you?” Swearingin stated. “We also approved of turning a part-time employee into a fulltime employee which the yearly cost of that will cost more than the entire remodel.”
“I did talk to Roger [with CAROSH] and I was the one that suggested we isolate the entire DOT office,” said Supervisor Don Seams.
“How do you do that?” Swearingin asked. “The moral of the story is if she doesn’t get HIPAA compliant she is going to give up doing driver’s licenses.”
“So Michelle [Dooley, County Aduitor] would you say the treasurer’s office needs more room?” asked Nick Sulser, who joined the meeting just after it began.
“I would say they need more room definitely because I feel for those girls they’ve been in that space for a very long time and if you ever walk through that office they are utilizing every inch possible of their desk space,” responded Dooley. “And when they are working on projects they are pulling out drawers to lay binders or other papers on because they don’t have the luxory of having a workspace that can accomodate them. That’s them personally and then there is no privacy.”
“The shield hanging in front in my opinion is for COVID as they are trying to make the system work the best they know how and keep the public safe and keep their employees safe and the courthouse is open, every office is open,” Dooley continued. “To be honest with you, they cannot operate with nothing up there because people are still going to be coming to them and their workday is still going to be interrupted.”
“The objection I am hearing from the county is the cost of remodeling,” said Seams. “This economy is not going to get any better.”
“I guess if we are trying to do things as cheap as possible then why did we authorize a part-time employee to go to fulltime employee,” said Swearingin.
Supervisor Dave Dotts stated, “What’s going on over there has nothing to do with here.”
“I am talking about an elected official’s office, all of them are elected,” Swearingin responded. “How can we tell one office it’s worth more than another? It looks to me like you’re looking at a male/female deal where these offices are run by females and that office is run by a male and we never question a word.”
“Just because you got $80,000 spent over there doesn’t mean we have to spend $80,000 here,” said Seams.
“You already authorized the furniture for that office,” Swearingin added. “You signed a claim for it.”
“She did, she had that allocated, now you already did this other thing down at the engineer’s office,” Seams began. “There was a policy that went through that actually looks like that they were worth more than the employees over here.”
“Don, you still don’t understand that policy,” Swearingin stated. “We took away from those people, we didn’t give them more.”
There were no motions made following the discussion although it was noted the treasurer has $10,000 that has been allocated for the remodel along with an additional $5,000 from the previous fiscal year for any renovations.
In other business the board approved the purchase of a shed from former employee Dan Coffey for $1800 to store lawnmowers. The board also approved the purchase of a permanent stainless steel dropbox to be placed on the outside of the courthouse.
The next Board of Supervisor’s meeting will be held on Monday, July 27 at 9 a.m.