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Commission decides justice center employees officially part of county

By Sun Advocate

The Carbon County Commission met in a regular meeting on Oct. 2 and decided that the employees who work at the Children’s Justice Center will officially become employees of the county, but that any funding problems that may come up with the positions are still dependent on state and federal money.
The issue came up as the commission prepared to approve the yearly contract for the center, which designates the county as the one that administers the money for the center.
“I guess I have always wondered,” said Terri Willis, Justice Center director. “Are we county employees or not?”
The commissioners got into a discussion about the situation. Commissioner Tom Mathews said he thought the employees were and Bill Krompel always saw the center as a quasi-state-county situation.
Willis told the commission that every time someone is hired they fill out county paperwork, when they interview county human resources director Dennis Dooley comes over and that employees must follow all county policies.
“Yet we don’t feel like county employees,” said Willis.
Commissioner Mike Milovich had at least part of the answer as to why it had been that way.
“We operate this way because when the program was set up during the Jan Graham administration (previous state attorney general) that is the way they wanted us to administrate it,” he told the assembled group. “The county doesn’t contribute any money to the program they just administrate it.”
Willis then brought up the fact that she also was concerned because above her there was really no one in charge of the program either.
“I always took it that Gene Strate (the county attorney) was who my supervisor was, but there has never really been anything official,” she said. “But there is really no one taking responsibility for my actions. No one even seems to have the power of hiring and firing over me.”
The commissioners considered the situation, but there were some basic concerns they needed to deal with.
“If we make people at the center county employees then budgets and budget increases become a problem,” said Milovich. “We can’t be giving the rest of the county employees a three percent salary increase one year, and then allow your budget, which is independent of the county to give your employees a five percent increase just because you receive more money for that.”
Presently the center has six full time employees and four part time workers. It also has volunteers that come into help. All these people are cleared to work there through the counties insurance and also go through background checks. The total funding for the center comes from $240,000 in state money and $10,000 in federal funds. Last year the center handled 103 cases and were involved with 566 people. The center also has 15 families in the outreach program.
“One of the other things we do is prepare transcripts for cases going to court, which helps the county investigator,” said Willis. “Last year we prepared 434 pages of those.”
The commission had a discussion about the liability insurance problems as well as the fixed asset insurance on property the center owns.
“Well I see no problem with the center becoming a separate county department, but if the funding dries up that doesn’t mean the county will fund it,” said Milovich.
The commission approved the center as a new department under the direction of the county attorneys office.
In other business the commission considered and did the following.
•Nick Tatton, Price City community director, brought in an update on the promotional CD Price City is creating as it applies to the funding the city requested from the restaurant tax committee.
“The last time I was here the commission told me to come back with figure that more realistically reflected the costs of an upgraded program that would represent the county as a whole,” said Tatton. “Based on the large spectrum of information the CD would cover, we are now asking for $32,000 to set up the project.”
As the commissioners looked through the proposal they commented that much of the money toward the project would be going toward professional services, but no names were attached to any of the costs.
“I guess what we want to know is who is getting all the money here?’ asked Milovich.
Tatton explained that with the increased scope of what the commission had requested be done with the CD the project had out grown his time to put it together so a good deal of that work will so a good deal of that work will have to be hired out. In addition, a lot of the money will go to the website development that will accompany the CD program.
“There are no names attached to the costs because those are estimates I have gotten from people involved in doing this,” said Tatton. “No decisions have been made on who will do what at this point.”
Delynn Fielding, the county’s economic development director spoke in favor of the project stating that Utah State University is also working on the same area and will be tying their information to a smart site.
But commissioners are not completely sure about the project yet, it’s costs and who’s paying what yet.
“I looked into what Price City has in their room transit tax and they still have $45,000 in that account,” said Mathews. “Why doesn’t the city kick in more money for this.”
Tatton explained that he felt the city was putting in quite a bit of money by putting “in kind” services into the project.
“Well I think this needs to move forward and I want to see it happen,” said Milovich. “But I also want the best bang for each buck we spend.”
Another question was also raised about the on-going costs of the project once the development had been done, such as updating the CD and website revisions.
“I think it would only cost a few thousand dollars per year to keep it up and I see no more requests for money from the fund for that,” said Tatton. “My concern is the development and start up. I really would like to have a base going by the end of the year.”
The commissioners asked Tatton to refine the request a little with more specifics if possible and with what the projected costs would be after the first year of operation and to bring it back to another meeting in the next month.
•Robert Pero, county clerk, reported that when the board of equalization for property taxes was through with their work on tax appeals they had granted $10 million dollars in assessment reductions to county property owners.
•The commission also approved the final property tax rates for 2002. For the general fund that final assessment will be the same as the proposed assessment at .0002306. For the assessment and local collection fund it will also be the same as the proposed at .000270. Finally for the municipal services fund the final assessment will be .000171.
•Mathews proposed to the commission that the county lease 10 shares of water to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for 10 years at $1 per year for use in the Gigliotti Pond in Helper. The commission supported the proposal.
• The commission set a public hearing on Nov. 26 at 4 p.m. for approval of the 2003 county operating budget.

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