County employee Dusty Disque has had one less problem to think about since Monday.
Disque, who works in the public works department, no longer has to worry about losing his job for moving to Leavenworth County to care for his ailing parents. The county commission alleviated that concern by abolishing its controversial residency requirement for county employees.
"I was very pleased that they did," Disque said. "I believe everybody ought to have their choice as to where they live. It should not be dictated."
After a year of exemption requests by current and prospective employees, the commission on Monday agreed with Disque and unanimously voted to abolish the requirement. The rule was approved in 1986 by the commission because it wanted to bolster the county's tax base.
Recently, however, the requirement has hamstrung the county in hiring employees, especially skilled applicants for paramedic and data processing jobs. Exemptions to the rule had been given to fill those positions. But the rule also caused hardships for people like Disque who needed to move out of the county for personal reasons.
"I've become convinced for the past two years that it's hurt the county more than helped it," said County Administrator Chris McKenzie. "I think the county will be much better served by being able to hire anyone."
McKENZIE pointed to the dominance of the two-career families and the highway system that serves Lawrence in all four directions as being other reasons that rendered the rule unfeasible.
"I don't think it will hurt the county in terms of tax dollars," he said.
Two commissioners gave different reasons for voting to end the requirement. Louie McElhaney said he was uncomfortable with the rule because he thought past exemptions created an inconsistency between higher skilled positions and employees in lower paying jobs.
"I think we need to be fair with everybody," he said.
COMMISSIONER Nancy Hiebert said she disagreed with McElhaney's position because the higher skilled positions could not be filled without granting exemptions. But she said she approved abolishing the rule because it could save the county from spending money on overtime in short-handed departments that could not find a qualified county resident.
McElhaney attached three provisions to Monday's action. The provisions require department heads to live in the county, that departments such as the sheriff and treasurer give preference to hiring Douglas County residents and that no county car can be taken home by an employee who lives in another county.
Disque said he would move his mobile home "as soon as the weather permits" so he can care for his 87-year-old father and 82-year-old mother.
"The only way I can let them live independently without going to a home is for me to get up there to be with them," he said.
The commission's action earned Disque's appreciation.
"I knew that they would be fair, and they were," he said.