County commission welcomes new members

At the first meeting for Fred Zoeller and Holly Stacy, the two new commissioners spared no time in making changes and pitching new ideas.

One of the most notable ideas the new board proposed is a bonus suggestion program that would reward county employees for making suggestions to their department heads on ways to save the county money.

“I have always used in my business career, that some of the best ways to find money is to get with the people in the trenches,” Zoeller said. “Not to say managers are bad, but sometimes managers don’t see every detail that’s going on in the system. I think there’s two givens in county government one is there is going to be added demand on the resources that we have, and there’s going to be limited resources from the state.”

Zoeller said he is to donate 50 percent of his salary as commissioner to a pool, which will compensate employees who have their ideas approved by their department head and commissioners. He said he would like to see a one-year trial period for the program.

“We want this to be a win-win situation,” he said. “A win for the employees, a win for the manager and a win for the county.”

No final decision has been made on the program, but the board is expected to take action on it during a future meeting.

The new board also set a new schedule for commissioners meetings. Commissioners are to meet every Tuesday and on the last Thursday of every month.

Stacy said she likes the idea of meeting every Tuesday, because it is more consistent than the old schedule.

She also proposed that commissioners have a meeting outside of Tiffin at least once a quarter, and have an occasional meeting during the evening, as opposed to the usual morning meeting.

“We would like this board to be more open,” Zoeller said.

Another idea the board pitched was to have an open work session, which would be 30 minutes prior to regular board meetings, where the public can address commissioners in a less formal manner.

Jeff Wagner, the only commissioner from the previous board, is expected to be appointed president and Holly Stacy is to be appointed vice president.

No action has been taken on these changes, but the board is expected to approve them at upcoming meetings.

One of the last decisions the previous board made in 2012 was to approve a one-time, 3 percent bonus to county employees.

Zoeller proposed that the board look at counties similar to Seneca and compare wages of employees. He said he was all for the one-time bonus if their pay is lower than in other counties.

Wagner said the “horse is out of the barn,” and that some departments already have begun to distribute the money.

The board decided to not take a vote on the pay issue, so employees still will see the one-time bonus, as approved by the previous board of commissioners.

Also at the meeting, architect student Craig Genet presented his courthouse design to commissioners, Mayor Aaron Montz and City Council President Paul Elchert.

Genet’s pitch included a modern clock tower and a glass atrium that would connect the new building to the annex. He designed the courthouse to includes open lawn in front of the building.

Genet’s design would cost roughly $8 million, which was about what it would have cost the county to fully renovate the 1884 Courthouse. Zoeller said the design was “very impressive.”

As of now there are no plans to build a new courthouse, and the presentation was to get the county and city discussing the possibility of a new building.

County Engineer Mark Zimmerman also spoke to commissioners about Seneca County’s sewage systems.