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Supervisors hire interim county engineer

County attorney blasts procedure

April 8, 2014
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer (mtidemann@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

With an April 15 deadline hovering overhead, the biggest item on Tuesday's Emmet County Board of Supervisors agenda appeared to be hiring an interim county engineer.

Board chair Alan Madden prefaced Tuesday's meeting, saying he had contacted Nicole Fox, Iowa Department of Transportation engineer, whose duties include ensuring every county has a qualified engineer. He said Fox had indicated that either Rick Hopper or Scott Brunsvold, both principals and engineers with Jacobson-Westergard & Associates, would suffice as an interim appointment. Madden said a specific name - rather than a firm - needed to be appointed.

"Everything has moved along," said Madden.

Assistant to the county engineer, Dan Burton, said a Ringsted project to be let this December would require a permanent engineer.

For this summer's projects, though, an interim will work. Madden said the interim engineer would be paid hourly and that Fox agreed that was the procedure by which it was often done.

Brunsvold said the county would be billed $105 an hour, billable down to the half hour.

Supervisor Jon Martyr asked whether there was an issue with not opening up the position.

Madden said he was basing the hiring procedure on information provided by the Iowa DOT. Then he asked county attorney Doug Hansen for his opinion.

"There are some competitive bidding requirements. Whether this falls under that, I don't know. No one's contacted me," Hansen said.

"This is the rules that you follow," said Madden. "DOT is directing it."

"Is that a legal issue?" asked Hansen. "I was never contacted about it. You're serving then as your own attorney today then, because I was never contacted."

"We'll take your comments into consideration but we're going to take care of this today," said Madden.

Supervisor Bev Juhl moved and supervisor Tim Schumacher seconded approval, and they, Madden and supervisor Ron Smith voted to hire Brunsvold.

Supervisor Jon Martyr voted against the hire. While supportive of Jacobson-Westergard, Martyr said at even 20 hours a week, the cost would be more than former county engineer Roger Patocka's salary.

"This goes back to the questionable termination of our county engineer," said Martyr, citing poor planning by the rest of the board. "The four of you shouldn't have taken off on your own and done this."

After that portion of the board meeting, when asked about the legality of the board's procedure, Hansen said the board had entered into a contract - something with legal ramifications - without asking his advice. He said they didn't ask him because they didn't want his opinion.

"They're so dysfunctional now I'm embarrassed to be part of the county government," Hansen said.

 
 
 

 

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