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‘Unrest’ postpones computer certification

Published 10:28am Friday, November 6, 2009

By JOHN EBY
Niles Daily Star

CASSOPOLIS – “Unrest” postponed action Thursday night on requiring IC3 (Internet and Computing Core Certification) for 168 Cass County employees in 2010.

Goal of the training is to improve employees’ technical skills. Training consists of three modules, computing fundamentals, key applications and living online.

On average, each module takes five weeks to complete. Someone coming in with no experience is allotted 15 weeks.

Southwestern Michigan College previously launched this initiative and requires all faculty and staff to be certified.

Commissioner Debbie Johnson, D-Niles, began the discussion by acknowledging, “There’s a lot of concern about that if they can’t pass this training there’s going to be job loss. There are a lot of other concerns … I’ve got a whole sheet of different things, from certification is not basic computer skills to if everybody passes these tests then what is the need for Kerry’s (Collins, information services director) office? We’d be able to fix the Web site and our computers ourselves.”

Johnson was also advised, “The board should each take the test before investing in laptops for 168 employees. Some employees feel extremely stressed about this certification as (County Administrator Terry) Proctor stated in the paper that if we don’t pass, we can’t perform our current jobs, which is totally untrue.”

“There are a lot of concerns and worries I think we need to look into a little bit harder before we jump in and pass this motion,” Johnson said.

The motion before the board Nov. 5 which was postponed concerned establishing a $27,254 budget to implement the IC3 training program Collins presented the commission Oct. 15.

Commissioner Cathy Goodenough, R-Marcellus, suggested that since the board is scheduled to meet with department heads and elected officials the next three Tuesday evenings that some of those job security concerns could be addressed at that time.
“Right now we have unrest we need to calm,” Goodenough said.

“There has been a series of planning meetings with elected officials and department heads and union presidents to answer questions and to discuss what is planned in IC3 training,” Proctor said.

“I received copies of a couple of memos that were circulated to county commissioners today for the first time. There are a lot of allegations and falsehoods in those memos. I would be more than happy to see this tabled for two weeks so we can discuss it with elected officials and department heads next Tuesday and meet with any employee groups that want to meet about it further. A lot of things have been said in memos sent to board members that simply aren’t so. We don’t need to debate that tonight. There’s still a lot of time between now and January to work these things out.”

“Is this something that should be negotiated?” with labor unions, asked Vice Chairman Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis.

Proctor answered, “That was alleged in the e-mails you received, but training is the responsibility of elected officials and department heads. They send people to training all year long – whether it’s in Cass County, Michigan somewhere or out of state. One of the good things about this county is that even in tough financial times, budgets for training, workshops and conferences have not been cut.”

“I’m for it, but I want to know a little bit more about it,” Commissioner Johnie Rodebush, D-Howard Township, said.

Commissioner E. Clark Cobb, D-Dowagiac, questioned the $13,500 equipment section of the budget, including eight $1,200 laptops for $9,600 and a $3,900 laptop cart.

“Some of the fastest laptops made run in the neighborhood of $500 to $600,” Cobb said.
“If it can lead to disciplinary action, it can be grieved,” Commissioner Minnie Warren, D-Pokagon Township, answered Francis’ negotiation question.

“We’ll bring all these issues forward,” Chairman Robert Wagel, R-Wayne Township, said.

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