Many in Marshall County are questioning whether the county is getting the services from Purdue Extension they are paying for. The County hasn’t had a 4-H Educator for nearly two years.
Josh Winrotte the Area 8 and Area 10 interim Director and liaison for 4-H and Samantha Williams the interim County Extension Director appeared before the commissioners on Tuesday to discuss the 2024 extension services contract.
The one question Winrotte wanted to address was if 4-H services have been addressed by Purdue Extension over the last 6-months. Since there hasn’t been a 4-H educator in place in the county Williams has stepped in to help because her background is a 4-H educator for almost 9 years. She is also a trainer for new 4-H educators and an area mentor to assist new 4-H educators.
Winrotte said his goal with putting her in as an interim was to allow her to help in areas and provide support. She can provide support to the other educators in the office to allow them to help in other areas along with helping with the county office staff being prepared to provide support.
There was a question about who was present during last year’s county fair. Winrotte said the commissioners allowed an office staff member to be at the fair each day and Williams, Winrotte or Brieanna Slonaker the county’s Ag Educator was there each day.
Winrotte said they have found some holes in places where things need to be addressed. One issue is 4-H Camp, also attendance at 4-H Council meetings, and addressing quick questions that come up. Much of this revolves around communication.
Winrotte said the number of kids participating in 4-H is rising. Before COVID the county was in the 640 to 750 range. During COVID it dropped to the 530s. In the last two years the number has risen to 562 and then 582. Enrollment is going on now through May.
Williams told the commissioners she has been in the office at least one day a week since June 1st. She said she shares all the 4-H materials and communications sent to her with the staff in the office.
Commissioner Kevin Overmyer asked about the process of getting a 4-H educator. He said Winrotte told him the 4-H Council is hard to get along with so he went to their meeting in December and knew many of them and said he didn’t understand his comment. Overmyer said the council expressed concerns about scholarships. He said the county paid $123,000 in 2023 and the 2024 contract amount is $128,000 for three positions, an Ag Education, a 4-H Education, and a Health & Human Services Educator.
Winrotte said he didn’t think the council itself is hard to deal with but there’s been a pattern of educators not lasting very long here. He said since 2014 Katie Sweet was here in 2014 & 2015, Nathon Grogg in 15 & 16, and the position was vacant in 16 & 17, Kelsey Galderma was here for 4 cycles, vacant in 22, and then another educator in 23. He said something is going on or something hard to deal with here and part of it is expectations. He doesn’t think the educator here has met the expectations of the 4-H Council and communications between the educator and council haven’t been as expected.
Fifteen years ago the expectation was if you did the fair well and that was all that mattered. Now the expectations are more focused on youth development.
There is an offer out right now to a standing educator in the system to come to Marshall County pending an interview with the 4-H Council and Board. He won’t know until later this month if there is interest on both sides. Winrotte said it’s a slow process working with the university and the salary is also an issue.
Winrotte reminded the commissioners that funding for extension services is paid 1/3 by the county, 1/3 from the state, and 1/3 from the federal government. He also said the contractual services agreement doesn’t say 3 educators, it only describes the services that are provided. While the goal is to have 3 people providing the necessary services on a full-time basis the extra services are being provided, just in different ways, for example, an interim county director.
The County Commissioners decided to table the contract until after the next meeting of the 4-H Council. Commissioners Overmyer motioned to table the decision until their February meeting.