MASWCD Conference Call
June 19, 2008
|Fred Feldmann, President
Steve Radcliff, Area 2/Vice President
Bruce Biermann , Area 1
Kenny Lovelace, Area 3
Beverly Dometrorch, Area 4
George Engelbach, Area 5
|Marie Iiams, Area 6
Sharon Gifford, Area 7
Peggy Lemons, Executive Director
Bill Foster, DNR Soil & Water
Bill Wilson, DNR Soil & Water
Kenny Struemph, DNR Soil & Water
President Fred Feldmann opened the meeting at 8:00 p.m.
The first item discussed was the bids for District employee health insurance. Bill Foster stated that there were only 2 companies at the pre-bid conference Ė Missouri Consolidated and Blue Cross. He stated that Blue Cross said they were not going to submit a bid as the bid packet was too massive. The Program Office requested the bid be withdrawn which would allow them to discuss the issues with Blue Cross. It seems that there were parts of the bid packet that Blue Cross was not comfortable with such as the reimbursement for the deductible and out-of-pocket costs. Missouri Consolidated is contemplating some changes that will make it a better possibility to cover all the district employees. This decision will be made by August. The reimbursement for deductible and out-of-pocket costs has averaged approximately $8500 per month this year. One of the Area Directors gave a name for another company that may be interested.
The next item discussed was the DNR memo 2008-044 concerning a new cost-share procedure. Bill Foster stated that the payment by direct deposit has nothing to do with DNR, that the Office of Administration wants to do things as modern and efficiently as possible. There will still be a procedure for those landowners who donít use banks. He also stated they will figure out some way to notify the landowner when the funds have been deposited into their account. The Districts will be notified by MOSWIMS when the landowner has been paid. The pre-approval process will be more critical now that District technicians will be signing off on practices. Mr. Foster stated there have been instances over the past year where practices have been built where they should not have been but they decided to go ahead and pay the landowner as it was not their fault. Beverly Dometrorch asked about the time frame for approvals, she has heard from Districts that this will be very time consuming. Mr. Foster stated that approvals should be done within 24 hours. He stated it would be very general oversight looking at the big issues such as the location of the practice. When asked about the time of response, Kenny Struemph stated that MOSWIMS is set up to send a notice to him if a request has not been answered within 24 hours. He also stated that if he received very many of these notices he would address the issue with the Coordinator(s) and that he felt it would not be a problem. Some of the MASWCD Area Directors expressed concern over the statement in the memo that MASWCD supported this new policy when they in fact had not seen the policy until the memo came out. It was agreed a better communication effort needed to be in place.
The next item discussed was the Technician II position and certification. Most of the instructors will be retired NRCS people. Ohio has done something similar for their technical staff. When an employee passes the test he or she becomes a Technician II and will receive compensation accordingly. Mr. Foster cautioned that everyone needs to understand that there are additional steps past the Technician II testing to be certified for practices and approved for signing off on those practices. When asked about Districts that have more than one Technician and how to decide who would become Tech II, he stated he would like for all District technicians to become Tech IIís and has set aside adequate funding for this. He also stated he would hope that the Districts that had more than one Technician would have the Tech IIís divide up the practices they would be certified in. The target date for the Tech II testing is September 15. George Engelbach asked if there was a plan for periodic audits or checking on the Tech IIís. Mr. Foster replied that they were in the process of getting something set up for this.
Next the funding for District employee salaries was discussed. Mr. Foster stated that over the past 18 months there has been $1.1 million added to the funding for District employees salaries. His plan is to get all District employee salaries at the mid-range level, however, he reminded the Board that it is still up to the local Board of Supervisors to decide exactly what the level of pay for each District employee will be. Some may need to pay an employee that has been there for several years higher than mid-range and in order to do this may pay another employee that has not been there as long a salary closer to minimum range, but that is the Boardís decision. He also stated that he is working on tools to help the Supervisors, with one of these tools being efficiency ratings. The funding from the Soil Science section is scheduled to revert back to Cost-Share, however, it will be 1-2 years before all this funding is available. He stated that Mr. Childers is working with the other state agencies in trying to help find positions for the soil scientists at equivalent levels to their current jobs. He also stated that 2 or 3 may remain with the Program Office in other positions. He stated he is not allowed to switch funding from Program Office funding to District funding with getting legislative permission so the funds are not targeted to go to District employee salaries. The projection for the sales tax collections for this fiscal year is somewhere in the 0 to -1% level, therefore they are not planning on asking for any increase in the FY-2010 budget.
Cost-share funds were discussed next with Mr. Foster stating that it was his hopes that the allocations being carried over this year due to weather be made available back to each district after they have exhausted their FY-09 cost-share funds. Beverly Dometrorch asked about the 5-year assessment plans. Mr. Foster stated that he was hoping these would provide a means for Districts to let DNR know what they want and need to do in their District. With the Program Office restructuring, Colleen Meredith is in charge of the section overseeing SALT and also new Pilot Projects that will come through these needs assessments.
Mr. Foster also stated that the Information/Education issue is still a difficult one. He agreed that every District needs to provide training and marketing for their District to the local landowners. Educational efforts to groups of school children is still the difficult issue as he feels all children should be offered these educational programs, but that would take more funding than we have. His hopes are that MASWCD with the help of the Districts attending the Training Conference this year will develop a written mission for their local funds that can be used with the Legislature when they asked about the large sum of carryover funds Districts have from one fiscal year to the next. He hopes one of the goals will be these information/education programs. Other goals may be purchasing vehicles or purchase and repair of equipment.
There being no further business, a motion was made by Marie Iiams to adjourn. Motion seconded by Kenny Lovelace. Motion carried. Conference call adjourned at 9:30 p.m.