Commissioners to again consider change in courthouse hours

Osage County commissioners agreed to reconsider a change in the hours the Osage County Courthouse is open to the public, after about half of the county’s courthouse employees presented a petition requesting the change last week.

During the monthly department head meeting April 29, commissioners said they had received the petition signed by 13 employees, which stated, “We the following employees of Osage County would like it to be noted that we would like to go back to the 1 hour lunch.”

At the first of the year, commissioners changed the opening time of the courthouse from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and changed the standard lunch period to 30 minutes in all departments.

Osage County Register of Deeds Linda Massey said some employees in her office had signed the petition.

“My girls are unhappy about the time change and we’ve had a few customers show up at 8,” Massey told the commissioners. “We’ve had complaints.”

Massey said employees in her office were used to the one-hour lunch break, which gave them time to take care of personal business. Osage County Treasurer Jo Ann Hamilton agreed that longtime employees were accustomed to a one-hour lunch break.

Osage County Clerk Rhonda Beets said employees in her office appreciate the new hours. She said most of them live outside of Lyndon, and they have nowhere to spend their lunch break, other than sit at their desks.

Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall suggested the courthouse might need a break room for employees to eat lunch and take breaks.

Kuykendall said he had an encounter in the parking lot that morning with a citizen who was angry because the courthouse offices were not yet open.

He said that citizen had attempted to visit the county attorney’s office, which was closed. He said the county attorney set the hours of that office, and then suggested a solution could be that each department head set the hours of each department.

“We’re interested in everybody’s opinion,” Kuykendall said about the petition, and said the commissioners would discuss the hours change further and again at the next department head meeting.

“We’re not ready to switch today,” he said.

“It was good we got some feedback,” Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer said.

During the discussion of lunch breaks, Meyer said he had reports that some employees were spending too much time taking smoking breaks.

“I understand there are people out there every hour,” Meyer said. “If department heads have people out there every hour, they don’t need as many people.”

Meyer said employees are allowed two 15-minute breaks and a lunch break each day, and department heads should ensure the policy is followed.

“The commissioners don’t want to be the smoking police,” Kuykendall agreed.

Also discussed with department heads was Internet usage of courthouse employees. Robert Duncan, the courthouse’s IT support employee, reported Internet use in the courthouse was 90 hours per week.

Kuykendall advised department heads, “Watch what your employees are doing on the Internet.”

Commissioners also discussed the courthouse’s designation as a gun-free zone and signs in the entrances designating it as such. They noted recent changes in legislation will require public buildings with “no-gun” signs to also have metal detectors and security personnel.

“That would bankrupt us,” Kuykendall said. “We can’t afford to have metal detectors and deputies on every floor.”

One option discussed was to remove the “no-gun” signs. Commissioners advised Byron Jordan, director of the Osage County Senior Center, that he could leave the signs on public transportation buses until the law went into effect and a county policy was set.

In other business last week, commissioners met Wednesday for a “bill-paying” meeting, but also heard from Wilburn Ludlum, chairman of the Vassar Community Service Corporation, which maintains the Vassar schoolhouse as a community center, and the adjacent square-block park.

Ludlum recently asked commissioners if the county had funds available to assist with maintenance of the park, which is owned by the county. He said a shelter house in the park was in disrepair and needed renovation or replacement. At that time, commissioners noted the county had funds designated for maintaining parks, collected from taxes on alcohol sales.

They asked Ludlum to obtain estimates of the cost of repairs or replacement, and asked county counselor Caleb Crook to verify the funds could be used for Vassar Park. Crook advised that commissioners might need to pass a resolution to designate the property as a county park, but said he would review the laws regulating the tax funds. It was noted the park has a sign designating it as “Jones Youth Park”.

Ludlum reported Wednesday he had sought estimates from area contractors for removing and replacing the concrete pad under the shelter, and constructing a 20 by 40-foot building partially enclosed on one end. Quality Structures, Inc., Richmond, offered the lowest estimate, $10,810, for the complete job of replacing the concrete and constructing the shelter building.

Commissioners agreed to look over the bids and were awaiting advice from Crook before making a decision to allocate funds to Vassar Park. See related story here.

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