County to Reorganize Airport, Parks, Highway Departments

County Administrator Ken Pabich and his staff will go to work on a reorganization plan for three departments. Consolidation of the airport, parks and highway departments will aim to increase employee cross training – limiting the county’s risk during retirements, sick leave and vacation of its employees.

“We have a whole number of departments that are one, two or three people and we don’t have any capacity for backup,” said Pabich.

He hopes the county will have plans in place by January or February, with a full transition following the county board elections in April.

The reorganization would place airport administration under the highway department and parks administration under the facilities and buildings manager. The presentation of the plan before a joint meeting of the airport & parks, property and highway committees came shortly after Erik Aleson, former Airport and Parks Director, finished his last day on Dec. 1.

Some committee members expressed concern for administration of county parks under the consolidation.

County supervisor Linda Wait read a letter from Paul Graf, president of the Friends of Door County Parks, who could not be present.

“The board of directors of the Friends of Door County Parks is concerned that under the new management system, whatever it may be, that our parks will continue to receive priority management they have received in the past,” the letter said.

While other committee members echoed that concern, Pabich said a designated parks superintendent, who would also share administrative duties with a facilities director, would be able to focus on the success of the parks system.

The airport would also fall under the highway department, functioning more as a general transportation office similar to the structure used at the state level.

“I’ve wanted this for 10 years and I was a big advocate for this years ago,” said Joel Gunnlaugsson, member of the highway committee. “To me this is a no-brainer and this is long overdue.”

The primary cause for this reorganization was concern of the workload placed on Keith Kasbohm, the airport manager. Kasbohm’s specialization at the airport, especially in clearing the runway after snowstorms, has forced him to be on call throughout the entire winter.

“That’s an area of weakness that we have. We have everything riding on one person’s shoulder,” said Pabich. “If something happens we are in for a world of hurt.”

Pabich said he would still recommend an additional airport employee to support Kasbohm even if the county did not move forward with the reorganization, adding that the plans would likely be neutral on expenses and revenues. Highway staff would be cross-trained on airport maintenance to help Kasbohm.

Committee members also expressed concern about the locations of staff offices. The proposal, still in its early stages, would move park administration from the airport to the government center.

“We talk about how we don’t have enough space in this building and now we’re going to move more people into the building,” said county supervisor Steve Sohns.

County staff will look to create a more detailed transition plan to begin implementing by January while continuing to coordinate with the committees. Corporation Counsel Grant Thomas will also need to amend portions of the county code to comply with the restructuring of the committees.

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