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Stevens County Commissioners approve two staff hires

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved hiring one new staff member in the Human Services Department and one intermittent part-time office staff member in the Auditor/Treasurer's office at their meeting on Tuesday.

However, the new staff member in Human Services will not increase the size of the department.

Human Services Director Joanie Murphy told the board that one of her staff members, a financial worker, recently submitted her resignation. Murphy proposed that rather than hire a new financial worker, the office should hire an office support specialist then work in-house and through a contract with Traverse County to cover the financial worker's responsibilities.

Murphy explained that one major job for a financial worker within her office is to work on medical assistance programs for long-term care, a complicated job that requires a high degree of specialization. Traverse County currently has one full-time staff member working on these cases, but does not have a full case load for this employee.

Under Murphy's new staffing plan, Stevens County would contract all of its approximately 140 long-term care cases to Traverse County and shift around the other financial responsibilities to Human Services' three continuing financial workers - a plan Murphy said will benefit both Stevens and Traverse Counties.

During this year's county budget discussions, Murphy had asked to add an office support specialist to her office to work on improving the department's electronic record keeping. However, at previous board meetings and in work sessions, the board has seemed reluctant to hire another employee.

"We've heard this need to get documents imaged and also to destroy certain records," said Commissioner Paul Watzke. "Will this hire accomplish that?"

"That's my plan," Murphy responded. "We've not done any record destruction in almost two years. ... And the document imaging, we have to get on board with that. ... All around us and in the state, everything is becoming electronic and we're not set up to do much of anything in that world. ... I just know we're behind the curve."

Murphy told the board that the salary for the office support specialist would be lower than the salary for a financial worker. Based on very rough calculations, Murphy anticipated the contract with Traverse County - which still needs to be written and approved - would come to about $12,000 per year.

Before the vote, Commissioner Jeanne Ennen praised Murphy for coming up with a creative solution to her department's staffing issues.

Murphy plans to work on the contract with Traverse County and hopes to bring it to the board at their first meeting in November.

The other staffing decision at Tuesday's board meeting was a formal approval for County Auditor/Treasurer Neil Wiese to hire an intermittent, part-time office staff member to help with tax collection.

This is a short-term fix as the board waits to decide how they would like to proceed when it comes to preparing financial documents.

The rest of the Stevens County Board of Commissioners meeting will be recapped online this week and printed in this Saturday's Sun Tribune.