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County plans for outdoor smoking policy change

The Davison County Commission spent more than two hours Tuesday reviewing and revising the county's employee policy manual. And for the first time, it is laying out a specific policy regarding smoking at county buildings.

The board will designate specific areas outside county buildings for smokers but will not ban smoking on county property. Previously, the county didn't allow smoking inside public buildings, in accordance with state law, but didn't specify any further rules, meaning people smoked right next to the doorways to the building.

"We don't want to make it impossible, but we don't want it at the door," Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said.

The county has five buildings in Mitchell the policy will impact: the courthouse, the North Office building, the county's Highway Department shop, the Davison County Fairgrounds and the Public Safety Building.

Exact locations will be worked out by Physical Plant Director Mark Ruml and finalized by the commission at a later date. Some of the buildings have natural locations where a smoking-designated location makes sense, said Jeff Bathke, who administers the Emergency Management and Planning and Zoning departments.

The change replaces an antiquated policy that didn't define smoking rules and allowed drivers to smoke in county vehicles, as long as they were the only ones driving. The policy manual was last re-written in 2004 and updated in 2013.

The manual changes are part of revisions being led by Bathke, who has made a number of changes based on style and wording to the 136-page guide, and he estimates about 130 changes have been made.

One of the changes the commission agreed upon Tuesday during its regular meeting was to mandate that performance appraisals are done for nearly all county employees annually. The commissioners agreed the evaluations would be tied to potential raises, for both the supervisor and their employees.

"It's something that is going to be important, it's an important tool for communication for both the employee and the supervisor," Bode said. "And in the case where it's done, that's going to be tough, if someone's salary increase is held up because someone else didn't do their part."

The reviews would normally be conducted around the time of a person's anniversary working with the county, and the evaluations would have to be done before a salary increase goes into effect at the start of the next year.

Road weight limits lifted

The commission also lifted the weight limits from the county's roads after a wet spring.

The weight limits went into effect on March 20, with the limit of six tons per axle weight and a maximum of 80,000 pounds gross total.

Bode publicly thanked Weinberg and the county's highway department, which Weinberg said was set to install 68 culverts in the wake of the spring storms and wet weather. As of Tuesday, the department had four more culverts to install.

"I want to publicly thank you for the last three months," Bode said to Weinberg. "Because it's been tough. For the most part, we've received a lot of supportive and concerned calls from people."

Weinberg said caution should still be used on gravel roads, because there are many that are "plenty soft," with ditches that are still full of water.

Map costs differ for county

County officials also got closer to making a determination on how to handle a request from a platbook publisher seeking updated GIS files.

Davison County has received a request from Farm and Home Publishers for the files, which then charges $59 for the retail cost of the book. Another longtime platbook provider, County-Wide Directory, produces the books using the county's free mapping service and charges $30 retail for the books. In both cases, rural residents would receive the books for free.

That was in contrast to a request from one of the largest technology companies in the world, Apple, which was requesting GIS files for its Apple Maps function. That was eventually turned back by the commissioners. The rationale was that Apple was not going to provide any functions for the county with the GIS data except for producing their map.

In the case of Farm and Home and County-Wide, the county would be receiving a number of wall maps for county offices and free platbooks for county employees.

The county's fee for commercial use has been built around a decision to charge Corelogic, a California-based firm, $4,000 for GIS data that it provides to business clients. The county reaffirmed that was the fee amount at the beginning of the year, as well.

"Fair is fair," Bode said, of the commercial cost for Apple. "We really wouldn't have anything to negotiate."

Bode said she didn't have any justification to badmouth either platbook publisher, but said many people are frustrated by outdated books that have addresses and homeowners incorrect.

"I don't like opening the book and seeing my dead relatives' names," she said. "In some cases, it hasn't been updated in so long that it's no longer credible."

Bathke said he would provide Country-Wide with a listing of homeowners so that they could at least update that in their newest book, even if they're doing their own mapping work at no cost to the county.

For Farm and Home, Bathke said the county would ask for at least nine wall maps and 30 platbooks for county employees, which has an estimated value of $1,800. Both companies would also have the opportunity to have links to sell their books on the county website, rather than selling them at the courthouse.