County rethinking policy on continuing education
The Leavenworth County Commission will need to find a new way to send local paramedics -- and possibly other county employees -- "back to school" in 2008.
Commissioners met Monday with Steve Wagner, a certified public accountant who advises the commission on its budget, Emergency Medical Services Director Jamie Miller and Human Resources Director Diane Collins to discuss how to rework the continuing educational policy for certain county agencies, including the EMS department.
Currently, county funds pay for continuing education and licensing for full-time workers, but, under federal tax law, they cannot be granted to part-time or unqualified employees wanting to get to the "next step" in their careers and still be considered exempt from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax.
"You can't pay to qualify someone," Wagner said. "Someone must be qualified and furthering their education."
So, an emergency medical technician (EMT) working to earn his associates degree to become a mobile intensive care technician (MICT), which is the highest pre-hospital level in the hierarchy of paramedics, would not qualify for county funding, unless it was offered contractually or opened as a benefit to all county employees, even for non-job-related education.
"There can be no necessary guarantee that they're going to be promoted just because of the education," Wagner said.
Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he preferred offering a contract, where a paramedic receiving an education would agree to remain working for the department for a certain period of time or must repay a portion of the funds received.
Miller said he would prepare the contracts and would like to have them available for three department employees who are starting their first year of a two-year MICT program in August.
He added that several current EMS workers -- including himself -- have gone through paramedic training under contract and still work for the department.
"(The program) works for us," Miller said. "We just need to keep it going."
In business Thursday, the board:
- Unanimously decided not to sign off on a $37,780 grant application for the County Health Department and to request a 30-day extension on the application from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"I'd rather step back from this right now," Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said. "I'm not comfortable with this whole program."
Tellefson questioned whether the Health Department, which lost director Sylvia Burns to retirement last week, was actually meeting all the requirements in the grant application.
Commissioner Dean Oroke concurred.
"I just feel that as we go through this, we, the board, have a lot of responsibility," he said. "Are we doing those things that we're saying we're doing?"
Health Department representative Richard Moppin acknowledged the application would need to be reworked and resubmitted.
- Heard a monthly report by the County Public Works Department. Current projects include tree realignment along 147th Street between McIntyre Road and Dempsey Road and road resurfacing on 235th Street from Kansas Highway 16 to Hollingsworth Road.
Commissioners considered calling off improvements scheduled for County Road 2 south of Basehor in 2008.
"That road is, in its current condition, better than 95 percent of roads in the county," Commissioner Graeber said Thursday. "Why are we going to spend $2.5 million there?"
Tellefson asked whether the Kansas Department of Transportation should fund the project since it touches two highways, Kansas Highway 32 and Interstate 70.
Also, at Public Works Director Bill Green's request, the board approved a $3,000 bid for an automatic transmission fluid exchanger from O'Reilly Auto Parts.
- Approved, 3-0, a five-year special use permit for the operation of Donald Kirby's Machine Shop at 23193 227th St. in rural Leavenworth County.
- Unanimously approved a 10-year special use permit renewal for Blue Dog Pet Grooming, a business run by Jennifer Weible at 15775 158th St. in Bonner Springs.
- Rescheduled a hearing on a special use permit application, submitted by COG Transmission, a gas compressor and moisture stripper northwest of the intersection of 147th Street and Hollingsworth Road, for 3 p.m. July 9. The hearing was rescheduled because it was not properly posted on the commission agenda, and the property in question is under protest petition filed by surrounding homeowners.