BACKUS - Two longtime Cass County department heads will retire by next spring, as will a longtime contract service provider.
Health, Human and Veterans Service Director Dorothy Opheim began her employment with the county in 1977. She plans to retire March 27.
Building and Grounds Supervisor Tom Emery started working for Cass County in 1974. He plans to retire the end of this year.
Dolly Johnson, who has contracted with the county to operate the Walker-Hackensack solid waste transfer station, will retire Dec. 31.
Tuesday, the county board voted to make exceptions to its hiring freeze, so the staff supervisory positions can be filled. The county will advertise statewide for a new Health, Human and Veterans Service director, to be hired about March 1 to enable a one-month transition.
The board voted to combine the building and grounds department with management information systems department and Tuesday named current MIS Director Tim Richardson to mange the newly named central services department.
Richardson told the board he does not expect to make any significant changes within the MIS division, which oversees all the county main frame and personal computer operations for the county.
He does plan to reorganize the building and grounds division into maintenance and custodial sections and implement two overlapping shifts to provide 12 hours of coverage for those services, he said.
Richardson said he will recommend upgrading the county's 1993 building operations software for about a $15,000 to $20,000 cost to make the heating and cooling systems more energy-efficient and to more fully automate the building security systems.
The board declined to accept a state grant to convert the emergency services director to a full-time position. Doing so would have meant increasing county taxes $15,000 to $35,000 over the next three years.
Currently, the emergency services director also works part time as a sheriff's dispatcher. Despite a state request to have the position made full time, county commissioners indicated they believe Cass' current emergency services director is fulfilling requirements of his job during part-time hours.
The sheriff's budget will allow enough funding to permit the sheriff to add more part-time dispatching staff if the emergency services director does find he needs to spend more hours on emergency services.
With Johnson's retirement, the county board voted to make the Walker-Hackensack operation consistent with the contract the county has to operate the May Township transfer station. The county pays all expenses, then guarantees the operator at least $500 per month. The operator reports all receipts to the county.
If less than $500 is collected monthly from people dumping garbage, the county pays the operator the difference.
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