County to reexamine possible elimination, impacts of interpreter position

Published 8:42 am Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wanting due diligence and further discussion, the Mower County Board tabled the recommendation on eliminating an interpreter position during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Chairman Jerry Reinartz made the motion to table the item, favoring more dialogue to take place with the personnel committee and departments that may be affected from losing an  interpreter position, which is currently filled by Nitaya Jandragholica.

“We received many emails and phone calls regarding the interpreter position,” Reinartz told the audience. “We will hold off on making a recommendation and table the proposal until a later date. …please understand that we can’t answer questions about this today, but we want to listen to you about it.”

Email newsletter signup

A large crowd of about 30 people appeared at the meeting, and expressed their concerns regarding the agenda item that looked at possibly eliminating an interpreter position from the 2019 budget. They also thanked the county board for not making an immediate decision, and for allowing them a chance to speak.

Juliana Pena-Marconi, a member of the Welcome Center’s Board of Directors, stated that eliminating an interpreter would affect more than just the county agencies, but also the school district and other members of the public in need of those services.

“What are your plans to replace this position if it were eliminated?” Pena-Marconi asked the Mower County Board. “It takes time and knowledge to build relationships with the community.”

Taking that concern into consideration, Reinartz stated that it would be one of the things that the personnel committee and the department heads would need to discuss further next week.

According to Denise Barthels, county administrative assistant, Jandragholica had worked with Mower County for 18 years — hired in January 2000 — and multiple departments utilize her services, such as courts, the county attorney, county corrections, county jail, and county human services. The Welcome Center and the Law Enforcement Center have also used the interpreter for several other services as well. Barthels also confirmed that Jandragholica is the only interpreter currently employed by Mower County.

Commissioners shared that the meeting between the personnel committee and department heads would not be an open meeting to the public, but assured the public that no decisions would be made behind closed doors regarding the status of the interpreter’s position and would bring this issue back into a regular meeting later this month.

“This is not an easy decision. We want to do our due diligence,” Gabrielson said. “It really depends on what we learn as a committee so that it’s fair for those involved and for Nitaya.”