Needing to cut costs because of the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Story County Board of Supervisors this week approved a hiring freeze for all county departments, effective immediately.

According to a draft of the policy, the hiring freeze applies to new positions, replacement staff, full-time, part-time and temporary positions, regardless of the funding source.

A county document describing the freeze said it “will enable county department heads and elected officials, along with the Board of Supervisors, an opportunity to examine department or office functions and services in conjunction with cost reduction efforts.”

It said the supervisors can approve exemptions to the freeze for essential staff.

“If we approve of those today and we do an immediate hire freeze, there is an exemption form,” said Linda Murken, board chair. “You can request an exemption as an essential service.”

At Tuesday's board meeting, Lucy Martin, Story County auditor, said her department would need to add additional staff members for the upcoming June 2 primary.

“I need to hire my elections practitioner. That's an essential service that I cannot delay,” Martin said. “As long as I know I can get an exemption.”

The supervisors moved March 27 to place all non-essential employees on administrative leave in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. May 1 is the tentative date for them to return to work.

Two weeks ago, county supervisors also moved to delay the start date for newly hired, nonessential county employees until mid-May.

The Story County administration building and offices have been closed to the public since March 17, and all nonessential county employees have been working from home.