Page County Board of Supervisors

The Page County Board of Supervisors listens to County Engineer J.D. King during a meeting at the courthouse.

(Clarinda) -- Efforts to improve employee safety in Page County continue.

Meeting in regular session Tuesday morning, the Page County Board of Supervisors held a discussion regarding the possible creation of a full-time safety director position in the county. In March, the supervisors approved a three-year contract with SPR Direct of Davenport as the county's safety consultant. Supervisors Chair Chuck Morris says the county has worked with SPR Loss Control Manager Mark Shaffer for the past several months and there is still work to be done on safety issues.

"In those follow-up discussions with Mark, we have gotten a report, which we received on December 6th, of where Mark believes we are," said Morris. "We still have a long ways to go."

Morris says the need for an improved safety culture is due to concerns raised by the county's insurance carrier over the frequency of claims made by employees, which puts the county at risk of being placed in a pool with a higher premium. He says one way to help change the county's culture would be to hire a full-time employee who would work with the county's secondary roads department, which has the highest rate of claims.

"That individual would have skills in secondary roads so that as the demands of safety get organized, that individual could utilized by (King's) department," said Morris. "I don't know if that individual exists or doesn't exist. What I do know is in conversation with Mark Shaffer, if we don't tie up some of the loose ends, we're still very much at risk of being thrown in the pool."

One possibility involved combining the new position with the currently vacant assistant county engineer position. County Engineer J.D. King says he agrees a safety coordinator for the county is a good idea, however, he doesn't feel the employee should be hired in his department.

"In my view, a safety guy ought to work for you, as opposed to me, or part for you and part for me," said King. "In my opinion, I think my assistant engineer fresh out of school is going to be wanting to do engineering stuff."

Supervisor Alan Armstrong says a shared position between the secondary roads department and human resources -- which is currently led by County Auditor Melissa Wellhausen -- would be a good fit.

"In my mind, I can see this person working between J.D. and this office, so it will help out on the human resource side and will help make sure that everything that's happening here and the other departments gets to the office, so there is no miscommunications," said Armstrong. "This person is essentially going to be another department head. It's going to be a department head that's going to be responsible for a lot of reports and a lot of information."

In July, the supervisors appointed seven members to a county safety committee, which consists of county employees across various departments. Morris says one of the areas of need in the county is a better record-keeping system for discipline and claims records. He says this could also be a duty of the new position.

"We need somebody to help coordinate human resource records across department lines into an office of human resources," said Morris. "Therein lies the disconnect. As managers, the ultimate buck stops with the board of supervisors to bear the responsibility for our workers' comp insurance."

More discussion on the potential position is expected at a future meeting as budgets for next fiscal year are crafted. In other business, the board unanimously approved the re-appointments of Holly Martin to the conservation board, Duane Rexroth to the civil service commission and Jona Hutson to the board of health. The board also approved the new appointment of Chuck Nordyke to the board of health by a 2-to-0 vote with Morris abstaining.