11/14/2017 7:30:00 AM Oneida highway department may eliminate superintendent position Reorganization would also affect some county policy if carried out
Evan J. Pretzer/Lakeland Times
Oneida County public works committee members, from left, Sonny Paszak, Robb Jensen, Michael Timmons and Scott Holewinski discuss Oneida County highway commissioner Bruce Stefoneks department restructuring proposal.
On Nov. 9, the Oneida County Public Works Committee discussed highway commissioner Bruce Stefonek's money saving proposal to eliminate the position of county highway superintendent and replace it with two lower-paid assistant workers.
Since the committee's last meeting in October, the supervisory position has been vacant due to its last holder moving outside of the area in Wisconsin for different work.
In the time between this gathering and the one on Nov. 9, Stefonek had been researching how the proposed restructuring would work in the county budget and what rules followed by the Oneida County Highway Department would be changed, if any.
During last week's meeting, he had an answer for the committee on the latter of the two.
If the county superintendent position was eliminated and two assistant workers were brought on to assume the roles of the original job, they would not enjoy the same privileges current county employees in the highway department receive with vehicles.
Right now, the county code allows the head of a department to let employees take a government vehicle home if, in the judgement of the department head, it is essential to. Under the restructuring, employees in the future could only do so if they are on-call.
For committee member Mike Timmons, giving workers a county vehicle when they are not consistently working during a day and could use a private one made little sense.
"Last weekend, we had a worker who was on-call and I know where he was during each day," he said. "He wasn't at this end of the county and was at a swim meet in Minocqua. He had his cellphone with him, but what's the use of giving someone a car in this scenario? What good does it honestly do when they could easily use their own?"
In response, committee chairman Robb Jensen refuted this point. In his view, it didn't matter if a worker was in Minocqua while on-call. If someone was working for the county and needed a strong vehicle in adverse weather, they should have it at their disposal. Even if they end up leaving their house for some personal matters now and again.
"They should have a truck. Their backup, too," Jensen said. "I don't think any of us expect somebody who is on-call to never leave their house and totally focus on work."
Ultimately, after a short debate, the public works committee directed Stefonek to come back with more financial numbers at their next meeting, and, if the reorganization is approved, to document when he allows county vehicles to go on-call in the future.
According to Jensen, he is hoping for the changes to get instituted.
"This is a great idea," he said. "It will absolutely make a difference in our budget with two lower positions and will save some fuel costs if they can only take a car when on-call. But we've got a long way to go in committees and at the county board as well."
Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.