Vernon County General Government Committee tackling a number of large issues in two separate meetings this week

VIROQUA, Wis. – The Vernon County Board of Supervisors went through some major reorganization over the last couple of years, the board reduced the number of supervisors from 29 to 19, they hired an administrator (and later switched back to a coordinator) and the combined a number of key committees.

In July of 2021 the county legal affairs committee agreed to consolidate most of its standing committees, going from 16 committees down to six. The next month the full board of supervisors approved those changes in six separate resolutions. Here is a list of those changes.

Law Enforcement and Emergency Management Committees was consolidated under the Public Safety Committee.
Human Services and Veterans Services Committees were consolidated under the Human Services Committee.
Tourism and Economic Development and Economic Development Loan Committees were consolidated under the Tourism and Economic Development Committee (Later changed to Economic Development).
Administration, Legal Affairs/Land Sales, Personnel, Information Technology and Buildings and Facilities Committees were consolidated under the Administration Committee (now the General Government Committee).
Highway, Zoning and Solid Waste Committees were consolidated under the Infrastructure Committee.
University of Wisconsin – Extension and Land Conservation Committees were consolidated under the Conservation and Education Committee.

The work the General Government Committee has been taking on was handled by five committees before the consolidation and a lot of the complex issues county government has been taking on have landed in the lap of the General Government Committee. Issues like wage adjustments to stop the huge numbers of employees leaving county employment, reorganization of top management positions including a new fiance department and switching from a county administrator back to an administrative coordinator. In fact the issues have been so involved and complex that the committees meetngs have been running longer, sometimes hours and has resulted in having to push issues off the agenda for future meetings. In fact this months meeting is broken up over two days and there is an agenda item on Wednesday, item 4(c), that is a discussion on whether the committee should be restructured or possibly broken up.

Here are some the topics that will be discussed over the next two days and a general description of what they are about.

Under Human Resources there is an item to discuss the pay for the sheriffs department chief deputy position. Last month the Public Safety Committee voted to bring the chief deputy pay back into line with what the ordinance creating the position said it should be, which is 90% of what the sheriff is making. Beacause that position was placed on the regular employee pay scale it has had regular step increases and is now more than the sheriff’s salary. You can read our story on that meeting and pay adjustment here. It is likely the General Government Committee may have to sign off on that pay change since they oversee Human Resources.

Chief Deputy Nate Campbell has also faced disciplinary actions so the Public Safety Committee is also considering adjusting that positions job description. You can read more about that issue in our previous story here. And here.

Under the IT department the committee will discuss the purchase of computers for the board members. This issue has been through various committees and come back to the board last month. The board previous issues county laptops to all board members. Very few members used them and they were not very high quality. The new County IT Director Conner Simon presented several the board with several options last month, including board members using their own devices, buying devices for all board members or a hybrid option. The board decided to buy devices for supervisors that wanted them.

Under buildings and facilities there is an item to discuss a plan for the “county farm”. Land that Vernon County owns and rents to area farmers. The committee has been discussing changing lease agreements to ask farmers renting that land to follow specific conservation practices. The committee asked the County Conservationist Ben Wojahn to work on putting conservation requirements into those leases.

Under legal affairs there is an item to discuss who is able to sign county contracts and a policy for reviewing contracts. This is an item county corporation counsel has been working on for several months. With the changes happening in upper management at the county there has been discussion about who has signing authority and the chain of command when it comes to reviewing and signing county contracts.

On the Wednesday agenda there is an item under buildings and faculties to talk about leasing or purchasing fleet vehicles for the county. Various county departments have traditionally handled their own vehicles and the county has been pursing a proposal to handle vehicles in a centralized way as a cost saving measure. Building and facilities is also pursuing some storage buildings to offset the lost storage from the sale of the county highway shop in downtown Viroqua to a housing developer.

Item 4(b) under Human Resources is a discussion of taking another look at the pay scale for some positions. The county did a wage study that adjusted the county pay scale in the last couple of years and some of the adjustments have caused some disparities that departments have brought forward. The suggestion was made last month to reexamine some of those positions.

Item five day two is a closed session to discuss the counties contract with Abt, Swayne law firm to provide corporation counsel services to the county.

We will be livestreaming these meetings on our VernonReporter Facebook page.

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