Weather Forecast


Pichotta to lead land conservation unit

Land Management Department Administrator Andy Pichotta will serve as interim director of Pierce County's Land Conservation Department as county supervisors try to sort things out in the wake of David Sander's resignation.

The finance and personnel committee changed course last week following a closed meeting with members of the land conservation committee. Just five days earlier, finance committee members voted to name soil conservationist Jon Krauss to serve as temporary department supervisor, but that action was nullified Wednesday.

Sander, who had been the director since November 2002, resigned March 24 during a finance and personnel committee meeting. A grievance filed by Sander was apparently discussed during that meeting. Details of that grievance and of Sander's resignation agreement haven't been made public yet.

There was no discussion last week of paying Pichotta more for the extra work, but Administrative Coordinator Curt Kephart said Monday he will recommend additional compensation. He said Pichotta's extra duties include regular meetings with land conservation staff and looking at the operations of the department.

Kephart, Corporation Counsel Brad Lawrence and Pichotta have been asked to draft a memorandum of understanding between the land conservation department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. The two agencies share an office suite. Both offer technical and financial assistance for soil and water conservation practices.

Land Conservation Committee Member Bill Gilles said the memorandum is intended to define roles and set boundaries between the two departments.

"Somebody should have the committee involved up front," protested Land Conservation Committee Vice Chairman Don Nellessen. He insisted committee representatives should be involved in preparing the memorandum.

"If you start sidestepping the committees, why do you have committees?" asked Nellessen.

County board members have to be careful to avoid micromanaging and should let staff do the groundwork, replied Supervisor Dale Hines, who chaired the meeting.

"What is our proper role here?" asked Gilles, speaking rhetorically. "We can't run these departments. We have hired professionals (to do that)."

Hines refused to expand the group working on the memorandum of understanding, saying the group will prepare a first draft.

Others will have input once a preliminary agreement is written, he said.

No action was taken on three sub-items on Wednesday's agenda:

--a proposal to advertise and refill the land conservation director's position by Aug. 1,

--a proposal to carry over $43,000 from land conservation's 2005 budget to help pay a director's 2006 salary, and

--a statement the county land conservation department would remain separate from the NRCS.

Finance committee members said the $43,000 isn't needed now, but they will remember that it is there.

"I think it needs to be reaffirmed that it's not happening," said Nellessen, urging the committee to quell suspicions of a merger of the two agencies.