BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Lee County will start working on transitioning two part-time county attorney spots into full-time positions beginning in 2019.
At Tuesday’s regular Board of Supervisor’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to move from a staff of two full-time and two part-time attorneys to four full-time attorneys.
The move had been put on the agenda last week, but supervisors wanted more information on how the move would impact future budgets.
Tuesday, Lee County Attorney Ross Braden told the board that he believed he could convert the two part-time positions to full-time positions at the current salaries of the two part-time staffers.
Currently Fort Madison attorney Mio Santiago and Keokuk attorney Bruce McDonald are both the part-time attorneys in the county attorney’s office. Santiago was making about $65,000/year and McDonald received a bump in 2017 to $81,000.
“I think I can find two very good full-time attorneys for what we are paying these two,” Braden told the board. He said if there were any additional funding request next year it would not exceed $5,000 and the money would be for token raises for the staff to show that Lee County is a good place to work.
Braden said he would start an application process for converting Santiago’s position to a full-time position. Santiago has a private firm in Fort Madison and state code doesn’t allow for private practicing attorneys to serve full time for state counties.
McDonald has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31 and Braden said he has several candidates he’s considering to replace McDonald and would like to have them on staff on July 1.
In an unrelated matter, the board also approved a second reading on a proposed ordinance to make excessive jake braking illegal in certain areas of the county.
Local truck driver Chris Sorrentino, who approached the board last week in opposition to the ordinance, again questioned the board as to how they plan to enforce the ordinance. Sorrentino also brought up safety issues and the jake brake being a vital tool for truck drivers in different scenarios.
Braden said the ordinance drawn up allows for jake braking in emergency situations and is worded only to eliminate excessive jake braking in county neighborhoods.
Jim Noll, a resident of Clearview Heights west of Fort Madison, where the original complaint to the board began, said he wouldn’t expect the drivers to not use the system when safety mandated it.
“I don’t care if you use it every five minutes and lay on the horn if you have to,” Noll told Sorrentino. “This is a ordinance about excessive noise, not safety.”
The board said there was still one more reading that needed to be approved next week before the ordinance becomes part of the county code. Matt Pflug told Sorrentino he appreciated him coming forward because it’s important that the board hear both sides.