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Plan Commission Votes to Keep Directors Position Full-time

January 28, 2011

01/31/11 Marshall County Plan Director Ralph Booker presented his analysis of the position he currently holds to the Marshall County Plan Commission on Thursday night. During a December 20, 2010 meeting of the Marshall County Commissioners, a motion was made to request that the Plan Commission conduct an analysis of how much time the Plan Director spends on planning projects and to consider whether the director’s job could be done on a part-time basis. Deb Griewank, Plan Commission president, then asked Booker to provide a report on the matter.

After all was said and done, the commission members voted 7-0-1 to keep the position of Plan Director as a full-time position. Abstaining was Greg Compton. Compton assumed duties on the Commissioner’s board after being appointed to take the place of resigning Commissioner, and now county sheriff, Tom Chamberlin. Although the vote to pursue a report from the Plan Commission was made before Compton took office, he indicated that he felt it was proper to abstain from the vote during the meeting on Thursday night.

Greiwank said, “I’m pretty much on the chopping block. I have to report back to the Commissioners.”

Prior to his report, Booker said, “Perhaps someone other than the Plan Director should be giving this report.” He went on to share some of the statistics of activities from 2010. Those included the following: Permits, 371 verses 367 in 2009; property values,

$13,949, 234 up from $13,069,572 in 2009; and revenue, $41,370.80 verses $36,333.80 in 2009. Booker noted that the permit fees increased in August of 2010 contributing to the increase in overall revenue.

Booker said, “Some people want to judge this (matter of full or part time) on how many cases.” He said there were 30 cases presented to the BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals) as opposed to 27 the previous year. According to Booker, there were 45 official violations presented to the BZA.

Booker said his department only spent 85 percent of the Plan Commission budget and 68 percent of the BZA budget in 2010.

He listed a number of work projects that he participated in during 2010 including the 2010 census, cell tower appeal, Lake-of-the-Woods access disagreements, technical review committee, web-page, and others.

Booker said he didn’t know what started the talk of going to a part-time basis, but he did have some guesses. He said, “None have talked to me directly.”

He said, “If you wish for this position to go part-time, you’re going to have to change the duties.” He then spoke of attending MACOG meetings monthly, investigating possible violations, supervising office personnel, assigning new addresses, advising neighboring town and cities, testifying in legal proceedings when requested, and occasionally responding to 24-hour emergencies.

Turing to other considerations, Greiwank brought up evaluations. She said, “Is there anything in there (job description) that says you have to have a yearly evaluation?” Greiwank said, “In my eyes, there should be a yearly evaluation.”

Compton said, “It’s not about Ralph Booker. It’s about whether this should be full or part time.” He questioned what has happened in the past saying, “Has there been any type of time analysis?” “I don’t know if he does these things one time a year, two times a year or every day.” he added. He then suggested keeping a time diary or doing time management analysis.

Board member Robert Yoder spoke of economic development .He said they need someone who is cutting edge understands the nuances in planning and zoning has a vision of how to do things better, and is competent to do research and give guidance to the board. He said, “I’m not sure you can have a person in that position that only does paperwork.” Yoder said, “If it’s based on the number of permits, it is like having the number of police based on traffic tickets.”

Echoing Yoder’s comments was Larry Fisher, board member. Fisher said, “I’ve been on this board for 25 year. I can’t fathom having a part-time director.” “I work on a daily basis with Ralph’s (Booker) office. I know what goes on in his office.” Fisher said.

Board member Stan Klotz said, “If we had a yearly evaluation, it would alleviate some of this. However, it should not be set to fail or be a free pass.”

Later in the meeting as the board discussed Rules of Procedures. They did add an annual evaluation by a vote of 8-0.

Booker said, “Can you hire someone part-time with the requirements stated in the job description?” He added, “It depends on the level of service you want to provide.”

Booker said,”If the position goes part-time, one must consider the requirements of the position and the ability to attract suitable candidates for the position.” He said, “My conclusion,: it would be very difficult to take present organization of the Plan Office and make the director part-time. Too many duties are the responsibility of the position.”

According to the requirements, the Plan Director is required to have a Baccalaureate degree in Planning or a related field. Additionally, a master’s degree in Public Administration or a related field is preferred. Booker holds a BA in Agricultural Economics and a Masters Degree in Public Administration.

Two citizens appeared before the Plan Commission to voice their complaints against Booker. Connie Yates and Jason Tibbs have submitted a number of complaints over the last few years to the Plan Director’s office concerning what they consider violations of a variance given to Levi Kemp for a shooting range near Walkerton.

Yates and Tibbs said they were at the meeting because Booker did not bring the matter before the BZA or Plan Commission.

Although several members of the Plan Commission said the matter needed to be brought before the BZA, they did apologize to both Yates and Tibbs for not being able to respond.

Yates said they asked to be put on the agenda for the Plan Commission because they were told to take their complaints to the Plan Commission. Tibbs said, “Marshall County needs to look at the chain of command.”

Yates said, “We have world war three going on out there.”How many violations do you have to have before they pull it (variance)?  Tibbs said, “Like Mts. Yates said, we have proof of violations that were turned into a county official.” Yates added, “He (Booker) saw fit not to investigate these.”

The board continued to respond saying that the matter needed to be taken up with the BZA.

The Plan Commission also discussed possible amendments to the requirements for off-premises rural outdoor signs. After holding a public hearing, the board voted to send the proposed new wordage to the county commissioners with a favorable recommendation.

Carol Anders Correspondent