COUNTY NEWS: Sick leave bank; logging in neighborhoods

County creates employee sick day bank

County employees will soon be able to donate to and pull from a new sick day bank if they choose to enroll in the program.

All full-time employees will be eligible to enroll this month, and those who do will need to donate at least one sick day to the bank each year, Brown County Auditor Beth Mulry explained at the March 1 commissioners meeting.

The bank will build up with days, and when an employee has a catastrophic health situation that wipes out his or her paid time off, he or she will be able to apply for more paid time off from the sick bank.

The commissioners agreed to deposit 20 days into the bank initially.

Anyone asking for days will need to submit a doctor’s statement, Mulry said.

One county employee in the audience said she didn’t like the idea of a bank; she wanted to be able to donate days to a specific employee if she chose to share her days.

Commissioner Diana Biddle said there wasn’t actually a policy that allowed anyone to donate their days to anyone right now, but people were still doing it.

Human resources manager Melissa Stinson said the reason the county is instituting this policy is because there had been situations in which sick days were donated to one employee and when another fell ill, no one chose to donate to that employee. “There was a complaint,” she said. “If you’re going to give days, everyone should be able to receive days, not just those you choose them to be given to.”

Any employee who leaves his or her job with the county and has unused sick days built up will be able to donate up to 20 days to the bank, Mulry said.

County: Neighbors’ covenant concerns are private matter

The county will not step into a dispute about neighborhood covenants being dissolved, the Brown County Area Plan Commission has decided.

The dispute concerns the Southridge Trail neighborhood off Town Hill East. Steve and Nancy Comiskey and other neighbors have been looking into how their neighborhood covenants could have been dissolved without their input and what they can do to preserve or restore them.

Last fall, a majority of the lots in the subdivision were sold by their previous owner to new owners who are associated with a logging company.

Jeff Page, one of the new owners, told the neighbors in December that they were going to “look into all the possibilities of access and marketing to then sell these lots to people” and “at some point we would consider discussing the covenants you mentioned.” He did not say that logging would occur on the land.

Plan commission attorney David Schilling said a letter is being sent to the Comiskeys that says that as a matter of public policy, the plan commission does not enforce neighborhood covenants. He added that according to his reading of the agreement, it included a provision that a majority of the lot owners could decide to vacate the covenants, and that’s what happened.

However, plan commission members were sympathetic to neighbors’ concerns about logging in the neighborhood.

Schilling said a bill, HB 1089, is moving through the Legislature that would prohibit local governments from regulating the sale or removal of marketable timber from private property.

He said neighborhoods that have private covenants would not be affected by that prohibition.

Schilling said the bill “raises concern for local government because there’s no requirement that these loggers use best management practices,” like putting up fencing and helping to keep erosion down, and local government would not be able to step in.

He said private owners adjoining the logged land could challenge loggers on the basis that they damaged their property by runoff or erosion, “but most people don’t have the wherewithal to do that.”

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.