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February 18, 2020

12/21/2019 7:30:00 AM
Oneida County committee approves UW-Extension agent contract
Kayla Houp
Of the Lakeland Times

On a 3-1 vote, the Oneida County board's labor relations and employee services committee approved the UW-Extension agent contract Wednesday, with committee member Billy Fried voting in opposition.

Committee member Scott Holewinski was absent.

Despite Holewinski's absence, human resources director Lisa Charbarneau provided the board with Holewinski's comments on the contract so his response would be reflected in the minutes.

According to Charbarneau, Holewinski's suggestion was to reduce the contract to one full-time agent position and to house the individual in the courthouse to avoid additional expenses of rent at either the airport or Nicolet College.

"I have concerns, but maybe this is something that should be tabled and discussed at another time," committee member Billy Fried said. "In my understanding, there's still a lot of unanswered questions that we're trying to pursue. Some of those questions could have financial impact on the county that weren't realized in the budget."

While Fried couldn't say whether that financial impact was certain, he felt it would be "wise" to get answers to those questions prior to approving a contract.

Fried directed the committee to the second page of the contract and highlighted a concern he had with expenses that he felt hadn't been identified.

Oneida County corporation counsel Brian Desmond and county finance director have both reviewed the contract.

Board supervisor Robb Jensen joined the conversation to provide background from the Conservation and UW-Extension Education Committee.

"We went through the budgeting process, in the budgeting process we approved, in my understanding, UW-Extension. This is for the educator contracts," Jensen said.

Jensen said he didn't see the connection between UW-Extension's potential move to Nicolet College and the educator contracts before the committee.

Should the move to Nicolet College not work out, Jensen stated the educators could stay at the airport and continue their operations.

"I believe I made the motion at finance," committee chair Ted Cushing said. "That motion was to OK it with the provision that they investigate Nicolet, and if it makes sense, to move. I brought up my concern that the airport needs every penny we can possibly funnel their way, and without it, we don't have any economic development."

Cushing added that he had "no issues" with approving the contract as it was agreed on in the budget.



'We wouldn't be having this conversation'

Committee member Sonny Paszak asked how the administration committee voted on UW-Extension.

Cushing explained the admin committee hadn't had the budget itself in front of them because it came to the labor relations committee.

"During our budget process, the full county board approved the relationship," committee member Dave Hintz said.

"Correction," Fried interjected. "Not the full county board. The majority that were still present."

Fried said it was a "very close vote" regarding the future of the UW-Extension program in Oneida County at the county board's meeting Nov. 12, where a motion by Holewinski to reduce the UW-Extension budget to zero failed 7-8.

At the time of the vote, six supervisors; Mike Timmons, Lance Krolczyk, Russ Fisher, Tom Kelly, Ted Cushing, and Bob Metropulos, were absent.

"I think if we had a full county board, we wouldn't even be having a conversation today about this contract," Fried said.

Hintz said the board did debate, and approve, UW-Extension's budget.

"I think it would be irresponsible to pass this contract at this point," Fried said. "There's questions to be answered. Ones that have financial impact ... we need to be responsible to our budget, and I mean responsible to where we can save money or where we might have to pull back."

"I understand the issue with moving to Nicolet is still being worked, and that's really separate from this contract," Hintz said.

"I don't think it's fair to the county to approve a contract with those questions, and others, still out there," Fried said.



Lateral entry program

The committee last week also approved a memorandum of agreement between Oneida County and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and Law Enforcement Employee Relations (Oneida County Deputy Sheriffs Association) for a lateral entry program.

"We went to public safety last week and discussed this and it was voted to send it to your committee," Oneida County sheriff Grady Hartman. "Basically, we've been talking with the union. For the last couple of years we've been talking about potentially entering a lateral entry program."

According to Hartman, the sheriff's office had been reluctant in the past to pursue an entry level program, but that it had become "obvious" the sheriff's office had an in issue with hiring.

"It's changed dramatically in the past couple of years and I think now's the appropriate time to talk about doing a lateral program," Hartman said.

The agreement would allow select deputies meeting the Lateral Entry Program minimum qualifications to be eligible to enhanced compensation and benefits.

"I would say most - and I haven't done any research on it - but most agencies in Wisconsin are doing something like this already," Hartman said.

Hartman reminded the committee that because it was a deal with the union, the agreement had to be in writing.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at kaylah@lakelandtimes.com.





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