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Budget cuts slow hiring process a extension office

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By Nick Schrager

Though the county has a new extension office building, it’s missing two important people; a 4-H agent and agriculture agent.

According to Horticulture Agent Dennis Morgeson, the University of Kentucky is holding approximately 70 positions due to budget cuts from the state.

Morgeson said it’s important to note that when the state cuts from the university’s budget, “the university cuts the College of Ag, the College of Ag cuts extension, and extension has to hold on hiring agents to meet their budget.”

“Hiring of agents is a wait until your number comes up thing right now,” he said. “The Washington County Agriculture Agent position is around 25 right now, meaning that when hiring starts back there are 25 positions to be filled before ours, with the 4-H Position being at the bottom. However, the 4-H position is being bumped in front of the ag.”

This came at the request of the county’s extension council, Morgeson said.

“Every county in Kentucky basically has three agent positions funded by the college; those being 4-H Youth Development, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Agriculture and Natural Resources. Any other agent position such as horticulture is funded by the County Extension District Board, which basically means the county reimburses the college for my position. Now, since we were already down the ag position when Roberta retired, the extension council gets to pick which position to fill first and it goes to the top of the hire pool. The ag position now goes to the bottom. When or if hiring resumes, our 4-H position should be first. This also means we might not get an ag agent for several more years.”

Morgeson and Family and Consumer Science Agent Cabrina Buckman have been working around the clock to meet the needs of both their roles and the positions that remain open.

“Right now, Cabrina and I are splitting the duties of 4-H between us with me already having been to 4-H Camp and her to Teen Conference,” Morgeson said. “Each program basically took us away from our programs and the county for a week each. The extension council voted to move the 4-H position to the top solely based on the needs of the children in 4-H with all the different programs and clubs. Although we have wonderful volunteers in 4-H, there still needs to be an agent to coordinate and oversee the program. With that said, the council decided that the adult groups such as Cattleman’s Association etc., are maintaining and running well even in the absence of a full time ag agent, however, the children groups can’t function like that. Also, the council felt that my horticulture background overlaps enough with ag that I can cover it to a degree until we can hire.”

He said the community has been very understanding of the predicament, but is hoping the office can get the positions filled.

“Believe me there is no one in the community that wants us to get a 4-H and ag agent sooner than Cabrina and I,” Morgeson said. “We are doing our best to cover these positions but it is hard for two people to cover four full-time positions especially when each of those four positions are consistently over 40-hour work weeks with nights and weekends being common.

“Although some of the community would like a particular position filled first the extension council did the right thing by choosing the position that works with so many of the children in the community. We miss both Rick and Roberta in the office not because of the work that they did but because we valued them as our friends and mentors. We are happy they get to enjoy the fruits of their many years of service to Washington County, however; we definitely miss them. The great thing is they are both still living in Washington County and are always there when we need them.”