Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, January 11, 1999

Wright County organizes for '99

By John Holler

When does an elected official actually become an elected official? Not until he or she takes office, or at least that is how the view goes when it comes to the Wright County Board of Commissioners.

At the Dec. 29 meeting, the board discussed committee assignments - of which commissioners serve on 30 committees and six ex-officio boards - and how they would be divided up. With the election of Commissioner Elmer Eichelberg, who took office officially at the Jan. 4 meeting, Commissioner Ken Jude asked that he be included in a committee of the whole meeting to shorten the process of selecting committee assignments for 1999 - a proposition that was met with immediate disapproval from some fellow commissioners, who said his inclusion, while understandable, would be inappropriate.

"It makes sense, but we just can't do it," Commissioner Jack Russek said. "He won't be a commissioner until Jan. 4, so he can't take part in a committee meeting in December to make his committee choices."

As a compromise, County Coordinator Dick Norman presented the commissioners and Eichelberg with a checklist of all committee and board assignments and asked the commissioners to check the appropriate boxes for committees they would be interested in serving on. Norman would then compile the results and the commissioners could then determine which committees would remain with the same commissioners and which would require some debate or change.

The board approved the concept of filling out the checklist by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Dick Mattson voted against the decision, saying that all assignments should be held off until Eichelberg is officially a board member as of Jan. 4.

In other items on the Jan. 4 agenda, the board:

- by a 4-1 vote, approved a cancellation of tax forfeiture on a parcel of property owned by Michael and Carol Krey in the city of Waverly.

Under the agreement the Kreys are required to pay delinquent back taxes and sell the property to another party.

Commissioner Judie Rose voted against the agreement, saying, "I don't have any confidence in the other party (the Kreys) to get this done."

- selected the Howard Lake Herald as the official county newspaper for 1999 and the Annandale Advocate as the alternate. The Herald and Advocate submitted the two lowest bids. Other bids were submitted by the Maple Lake Messenger and Delano Eagle.

- by a 3-2 vote, approved new salaries for the county attorney and auditor/treasurer at $79,472 and $74,597, respectively. Jude said he was against it, because the salary is a continuation of salaries paid to the retiring people who held the posts and that someone with no experience in the position should not be paid the same as someone who had years of experience in the position. Russek countered that the county was paying for the position, not the individual. The board approved the salaries 3-2, with Commissioners Jude and Pat Sawatzke voting against it.

- approved a contract with Buffalo Hospital to provide jail medical services. The contract calls for the county to pay $65,000 a year for nurse and doctor availability. Any medical costs incurred will be the responsibility of the county.

-amended the 1999 salaries for the sheriff, recorder and court administrator to accurately reflect 10-year step increases for each. The amended salaries are $74,597 for the sheriff and $61,823 for the recorder and court administrator.

- accepted the resignation of Assistant County Attorney Tom Kelly and authorized reimbursement of unused vacation and sick pay. Kelly is leaving the position to become the Wright County Attorney, a position he won in the November elections.

- received an update on the Minnesota Cities Participation program for first-time homeowners. The county had to have expended at least 50 percent of its allocation to be eligible for funding over the next two years. Wright County has used more than 50 percent of its allocation, so it will continue to be eligible for future funding.

- acknowledged receipt of a name change of the Private Industry Workforce Council. The area that served Wright County was known as PIC 5 (the fifth district of the Private Industry Council). The group will now be known as the Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services. It will still be headquartered in Annandale and will continue to offer the same services.

- gave approval for a temporary construction permit on Highway 24 near Maple Lake. The permit allows preliminary work to continue as right of way easements are obtained. The board gave its approval, which will eliminate a sharp turn that has been the scene of numerous serious accidents, a stretch of road Jude referred to as "Suicide Corner."

- recognized a pair of achievements in the county's highway department. The board honored Jim Gabrelcik, who is resigning after 40 years of service in the highway department and recognized a strong finish by the department at the annual "Snowfighters Roadeo" in St. Cloud, which tests the snowplowing abilities of plow drivers. Tom Decker of the Wright County crew finished third in individual competition.

- denied a request from the court administration office and county attorney's office to be allotted additional parking spaces in the indoor garage beneath the courthouse.

- received an update on the construction on the Public Works Building. Construction is currently running two weeks behind schedule and the board demanded that the subcontractors be available for future building committee meetings. Their non-attendance has left ambiguities as to why construction has run behind schedule and has not allowed committee members to get answers to questions in a timely manner.

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