Commissioners gain input on several subjects

January 27, 2019

MADISON — The Madison County Commissioners were on a fact-finding mission Wednesday.

The commissioners gathered information on a range of topics, including drones, office space modification for the veterans office, replacing the courthouse lights and the county’s new payroll system.

Aaron Beckman, who owns property near the Elkhorn River near Battle Creek, showed the commissioners some aerial photos of his property taken from one of his drones.

Commissioner Troy Uhlir said Beckman could assist the county by using his drone to fly over the Elkhorn River, then use a grid system to chart erosion. It possibly would be quicker and more efficient than using a surveyor, he said.

With many roads near the river being threatened by erosion, there could be uses for Beckman’s drones, he said.

Ron Schmidt, chairman of the county board, said the drone also could help to identify noxious weeds along the river.

Schmidt noted that, in the past, the county has considered purchasing an Argo, which is a brand of amphibious ATV that can travel both land and water.

Beckman, who has been flying drones for about 10 years, said the drones are impressive devices and the technology keeps improving.

The grid systems that are created can be used to make 2-D or 3-D maps, which can be useful for such things as finding slopes. They also can determine distances to within eight to 12 inches, he said.

Beckman said the program he uses can keep being repeated so that changes can be measured over time. He noted that property he purchased in 2015 near the river has already lost about 12 acres because of the river changes.

He also noted that he used a drone to provide photos to Antelope County Emergency Management showing an ice jam last Sunday on the Elkhorn River and some low-level flooding.

Commissioners discussed some other possible uses for it, but said they would need to check with the county attorney regarding laws. No action was taken.

In other business, Gregg Hanson, the veterans services officer, discussed some office space modifications that are needed at 1305 S. 13th St., the new Veterans Service Office in Norfolk.

The building was purchased earlier this year and is also housing NU Extension and another tenant that pays rent to the county.

Commissioners Christian Ohl and Schmidt said commissioners can visit the building to see some of the needs and become more familiar with the situation.

The needs include three doors, a wall and possibly a modification for a desk for a waiting area.

Hanson said privacy is a big concern because the area is shared with Extension and there can be many people waiting. Among other things, there are medical issues and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) laws that must be followed. There also can be veterans who are in distress.

Hanson obtained a cost estimate from a contractor on the proposed changes. Commissioners did not take action, but will meet with Hanson and Heather McWhorter, the county planning and zoning administrator, to see if there would be room to relocate her office into the building and to see in person the changes being proposed.

Also during the meeting, the county board met with Chuck Frohberg, a Norfolk electrician, who shared some information with commissioners about possible savings with the proposed courthouse lighting project.

Last summer, commissioners discussed possible lighting upgrades for the courthouse that would be expected to result in savings because of rebates and less electricity consumed.

Schmidt said as the county board gets more into the project, it has become a bigger project than it was expected.

Frohberg said based on the specifications, he questions whether there is a need to remove the existing lighting system and furnish and install new lights.

Among other things, Frohberg presented some features that are available with LED lights and discussed other features now available.

He said it would be worthwhile to get LED lights because the county would save money, but there probably should be more research completed to know for sure if the entire system needs to be replaced or just lens with the new lights.

Under the second scenario, the rest of the system could be replaced as technology changes or it wears out, Frohberg said.

Commissioners took no action but will conduct additional research before awarding a contract.

In regards to the county’s new payroll system, which was installed about a year ago, only the sheriff’s department is using it.

Representatives of two of the courthouse offices said they are having difficulty with the program and requested that a computer representative provide assistance.

Among other things, the new system enables people to log in and out without having to punch a time card. It also can help with scheduling.

While the new system has more capabilities, it appears that some offices believe there is too much to learn and many features their offices don’t need.

Anne Pruss, county clerk, said she will call the company and see if a representative could provide training.

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