By Kate Klimesh,
Much discussion was held at the Monday, Sept. 11, Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors meeting regarding the hiring process for the vacant county engineer position following Engineer Lee Bjerke’s June resignation. Supervisors Steve Kelsay and Shirley Vermace recommended the board postpone interviewing the three applicants, from which they had received resumes, until there was a larger pool of applicants. They did note it would be helpful to compile the questions for the interview ahead of time. The board voted to approve delaying the hiring process until they had more applicants, with Kelsay, Vermace and Faldet voting for, and Langreck and Vick voting against.
Currently, Howard County Engineer Nick Rissman is contracted as Winneshiek County’s Interim Engineer. With an interim engineer, and until the county hires a full-time or approved shared DOT-certified county engineer, the county cannot let (or request bids on) any new projects utilizing state or federal funding for secondary roads, including Farm-to-Market Funds.
Niki Stinn, Secondary Roads Engineer for the Department of Transportation, oversees many aspects of county secondary road operations. Stinn presented information to the supervisors on the roles and responsibilities of the county engineer and the role the DOT plays in the system. Stinn, as she listed her responsibilities with the DOT in coordination with Iowa counties, did note she was responsible for enforcing restrictions when a county does not have a full-time or contracted shared DOT-licensed civil engineer on staff.
The team breakdown
“We are a team, between the DOT, the county engineer and the board of supervisors. The county engineer is obviously at the center of the team, and the secondary roads department, but also works with all these different departments, including the county board of supervisors and the public,” Stinn stated.
“Iowa counties are required to have a full-time licensed civil engineer in place (or a shared arrangement between counties) to administer all the state and federal aid-funded programs. We (the DOT) have to be satisfied that the engineer personally carries out and administers all those program restrictions and rules in the maintenance of the secondary roads in the county.”
Stinn clarified, “The county board of supervisors is charged with the duty of establishing policies and providing adequate funding for maintaining the secondary roads system. The county engineer then, pursuant to board policy, adopts the methods and implements that direction, and directs the personnel and equipment necessary to maintain the system – so it’s a team effort.
“There’s direction coming from the board, but it is up to the County engineer who has the responsibility for determining how that is to be carried out,” she continued. “DOT requires supervision of construction. All construction and contracted work shall be performed under the direct and immediate supervision of the county engineer, who shall be responsible for the requirements of the work [being performed]. The engineer is then held accountable by the board of supervisors for implementation of their policies.”
Stinn reminded, “The county engineer is not just a county employee but is considered a public official who coordinates with the board of supervisors. The board’s duty is to give direction in policy, and turn over projects to the engineer, who is responsible for the performance of the work as directed, and the employees and equipment in their department.
Complete article in the September 14 Public Opinion.