Winona County Commissioner Steve Jacob questioned how commissioners are compensated at a recent meeting. Prior to the approval of commissioner salaries at a December 17, 2013, meeting, Jacob proposed reducing salaries and paying commissioners per diems for meetings attended.
"With the present system, it just doesn't seem equal among all commissioners," he said of board members' compensation. "It would seem [that] what would be fair to the taxpayers would be: however many meetings you attend, you get paid for, and if you're not attending meetings, you don't get paid for them." He added that in 2013 "some commissioners probably attended 3 [meetings] for every meeting other commissioners attended."
Well before Jacob joined the board in 2013, Winona County did pay commissioner per diems for meetings, but stopped the practice several years ago, in part, as a result of concerns about abuse.
"Per diems were sometimes a fuse, too," Commissioner Marcia Ward said of the old system. "People would show up at a meeting, make sure that they were on the roll call and then leave." She continued, "That was an individual discretion just like claiming miles is an individual discretion, so it didn't necessarily work the way it was intended."
"This seems like it's even easier – you don't show up to meetings," Jacob responded.
"We all have our own personal responsibilities and I take it very seriously," Commissioner Jim Pomeroy replied. He continued to explain that the board decided to remove per diems because "we felt like the salary was appropriate and we didn't need per diems to add to that."
Jacob proposed a 2.5 percent reduction of commissioners' salaries paired with a reinstatement of $25 per diems to provide "fairness among those that are performing their job." The motion failed for lack of second. The board approved $24,236 salaries for commissioners, the same salary as 2012. Commissioners may claim mileage reimbursements.
Board member committee assignments
Ward and Pomeroy serve on the most committees of the County Board; Olson and Valentine, the fewest. In 2013, Ward served on 13 committees and served as an alternate for three; Pomeroy served on nine committees and was an alternate for seven; Jacob served on four committees and was an alternate for six; Olson served on three committees and was an alternate for three; Valentine served on three committees and was an alternate for five.
This year, Ward will serve on 10 committees and will be an alternate for five; Pomeroy will serve on nine committees and as an alternate for six; Jacob will serve on six committees and will be an alternate for six; Olson will serve on three committees and as an alternate for two; Valentine will serve on three committees and as an alternate for five.
Valentine said that he and Olson were prepared to serve on more committees, but "there were a lot of people that said they really didn't want to give up their assignments."
"Based on their longevity on the board, there are committees that [Ward and Pomeory] serve on [and] they are very reluctant to give up" those assignments, Olson said. He said that his work schedule limits which committees he can serve on. Olson and Valentine both noted that they are involved in other community organizations that are not official County Board committees, such as the Housing Association and the Sheriff's Advisory Committee, respectively.
Jacob and Pomeroy did vie for a place on some committees. "I noticed you and commissioner Ward have a lot of responsibility," Jacob told Pomeroy, asking for more assignments. Asked to chose between the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) and the Parks and Environment Committee, Pomeroy ceded the parks committee. "That sort of makes me want the CJCC" instead, Jacob joked.
Olson ceded a position as alternate on the parks committee to Pomeroy at Pomeroy's request.
New Planning Commission members appointed
New County Board Chair Marcia Ward appointed Arlie Herber, of Rollingstone, and Joy Fabian-Ewing, of Winona, to the Planning Commission. Jacob and Valentine voiced support for those applicants, while Pomeroy and Olson supported Christine Meyer, of Winona, and Todd Paddock, of Winona. Per the county zoning ordinance, appointments to the Planning Commission are made solely by the board chair. Herber and Fabian-Ewing will replace Arland Otte and Jessica Heiden, who both resigned. Planning Commission members Bob Peterson, of Wilson Township, and Bruce Speltz, of Rollingstone Township, were reappointed.