A point of contention arose in the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors meeting on the 2nd. Winnebago County Road Crew representatives came before the board to discuss why when the courthouse is closed due to weather, employees based there receive a paid day off while road crews have to work and are paid for the work they do. In the last three years, the courthouse has closed three times because of heavy snows, but road crews and the Sheriffs Office continued with business as usual. Representatives from the road crews were looking for overtime pay for work done on those closed courthouse days in 2019. Currently, the county has no policy in place to address the issue.
Michael Galloway is the Human Resources Attorney for Winnebago County. He spoke with the board via conference call on the matter.
Winnebago County Auditor Karla Weiss stated that there was no way the county could pay employees retroactively for an entire year. The fiscal year when the blizzards struck the area and closed the courthouse occurred last year and those books are now closed.
The Public Health Department closes its doors when the courthouse closes theirs according to Julie Sorenson who heads the department. She addressed the procedure with the board.
Nurses have braved the dangerous elements and gotten to their patients for needed treatments during several heavy northern Iowa snow squalls. They become dependent on the road crews to get their work done in clearing the roads. On occasion, weather conditions have endangered the safety of the road crews. Sorenson addressed a lack of communication when those situations arose.
Supervisor Terry Durby believed that there could be a plan worked out with the road crews that would be amicable.
Supervisors agreed to change the policy to continue closing the courthouse during heavy snowstorms or other dangerous inclement conditions. Courthouse employees could come into work to work on tasks that needed to be completed. Those who could not, would have to take a sick, vacation, or comp day in order to be paid. No discussion took place on how the Public Health Department or Sheriff’s Office, dispatch, or jail personnel would be allowed to handle their employee absences for snow emergencies.
In the case of the Clerk of Court Office workers who work in the courthouse, they are state employees and not a county employee. The state mandates that if the courthouse is closed, employees can come into work if they are able, otherwise they must take sick or vacation time in order to be paid.