Wright County Board Minutes

WRIGHT COUNTY BOARD MINUTES
NOVEMBER 24, 2009
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek, Eichelberg and Thelen present.
Thelen moved to approve the 11-17-09 County Board Minutes, seconded by Russek, carried 5-0.
Petitions were accepted to the Agenda as follows: Consent Item A6, “Approve/Authorize Signatures On A Memorandum Of Agreement With Teamsters Local No. 320, Non-Licensed Essential Staff To Allow Donation Of Vacation Time To An Employee” (Norman); Consent Item A7, “Approve/Authorize Signatures On A Memorandum Of Agreement With Local No. 49 To Allow Donation Of Vacation Time To An Employee” (Norman); Hwy. Engineer Item #6, “Set Transportation Committee Of The Whole Meeting” (Norman); Item For Consid. #4, “RC&D Report” (Russek). Russek moved to approve the Agenda as amended, seconded by Thelen, carried unanimously.
The Consent Agenda was discussed. Russek referenced Consent Item A3, “Minutes, Tri-County Regional Forensic Laboratory Advisory Committee Meeting Of 10-29-09.” Russek attended the meeting and said the minutes accurately reflect the discussion that took place. Russek moved to approve the Consent Agenda as amended, seconded by Eichelberg. Mattson referenced Consent Item A4, “Review/Approve Budget Committee Of The Whole Minutes, 2010 Budget Process” and inquired what the approval pertained to. Richard Norman, County Coordinator, stated the approval is for the minutes of the Budget Committee Of The Whole Meetings setting the 2010 Budget. Russek referenced Consent Item A2, “Acknowledge MCIT Dividend For 2009, $285,771.” He said MCIT is doing a good job. The motion carried 5-0:
A. ADMINISTRATION
1. Performance Appraisals: T. Erickson, Atty.; P. Czech, Bldg. Maint.; S. Denzer, Ct. Svcs.; B. Jans, Hwy.; B. Rhineberger, P&Z; B. Miller, Sheriff.
2. Acknowledge MCIT Dividend For 2009, $285,771.
3. Minutes, Tri-County Regional Forensic Laboratory Advisory Committee Meeting Of 10-29-09.
4. Review/Approve Budget Committee Of The Whole Minutes, 2010 Budget Process.
5. Approve/Authorize Signatures On A Memorandum Of Agreement With The Wright County Deputies Association To Allow Donation Of Vacation Time To An Employee.
6. Approve/Authorize Signatures On A Memorandum Of Agreement With Teamsters Local No. 320, Non-Licensed Essential Staff To Allow Donation Of Vacation Time To An Employee.
7. Approve/Authorize Signatures On A Memorandum Of Agreement With Local No. 49 To Allow Donation Of Vacation Time To An Employee.
B. SHERIFF
1. Authorize Signatures On Two-Year State Snowmobile Supplemental Grant Agreement.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, presented the claims listing for approval. Mattson referenced a claim on Page 8, Cub Pharmacy ($8,077.04), for inmate pharmacy costs. He asked what month these costs relate to. Hiivala stated this is for October pharmacy costs. Mattson felt the pharmacy costs were on the increase each month. He felt the increase in costs might relate to all pharmacy costs being seen in one lump sum as prisoners are no longer boarded in other counties. On a motion by Russek, second by Eichelberg, all voted to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit.
A Budget Committee Of The Whole meeting was held on 11-17-09. At today’s County Board Meeting, the following change was made to the minutes: Page 1, last paragraph, 7th line, sentence should read, “The bottom line is that we saved the citizens’ well over $3 million” (Russek). Russek made a motion to approve the minutes, seconded by Thelen. Mattson completed calculations on the effect of a 2.5% wage increase for all County employees. He projected that if the County receives a $500,000 cut by the State, it could result in 16 employees being laid off. In one portion of the Committee minutes it reflects that Mattson could go along with the 2.5% salary increase, but he wants it known that this is only if employees are not laid off. It is still unknown what State cuts will be. He said employees work for the residents of the County, not the Commissioners. The Commissioners only handle the checkbook. There are many people laid off in his District who have desperate needs. He said you would not be able to get money out of people who are laid off. Mattson said if the State does not make additional cuts to the County, then we are in good shape. Russek said the County has $700,000 in the budget that was saved by not backfilling 13 County positions. He felt it made up for the shortfall Mattson is concerned with. If that money is used elsewhere, then there may be an issue on how to cover the salary increase. The motion carried 3-2 with Mattson and Sawatzke casting the nay votes. Mattson said his vote against the motion was based on what may happen. If we are in good financial shape, then Mattson said he could handle 2.5%. He just did not see anything in the future. The minutes follow:
2010 NON-UNION EMPLOYEES SALARY INCREASE OF 2.5%.
Sawatzke said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the requested 2.5% salary increases for non-union employees for 2010. Mattson referenced that in his District, 535 people have lost their jobs and have experienced wage freezes due to the current economy and he does not feel that it is appropriate to increase employee’s salaries. He continued that Wright County has not had to pursue lay offs; however, other counties have chosen to do so.
Sawatzke said that the Union contracts have been settled for a 2.5% increase for 2010. Typically, the same amount is awarded to the non-union employees. He referenced Benton County, and stated that renegotiating with the union was not reached which resulted in lay offs. Sawatzke questioned if other counties have been successful in renegotiating with the unions based on the current economy. Norman stated that he is not aware of any renegotiations that have been successful. Sawatzke said that the public is watching what the government is doing during these difficult economic times and he feels that a 2.5% increase will not go over well with the citizens. The question is how this problem can be balanced out when the unions are under contract for increases that are higher then they should be in reference to the current economy. Sawatzke stated that the current economy was not foreseeable when union contract negotiations took place 14 months ago.
Tom Kelly stated that he is speaking in good faith on behalf of his non-union staff. He understands that it could be viewed negatively if the government is not a good steward with their money and give the non-union government employees (the minority of the work force) a 2.5% increase. His concern is that Wright County could have been better stewards by providing information to the public involving the department heads decisions and the exercise to reduce their budgets. The bottom line is that we saved the citizens’ well over $3 million. If this 2.5% is going to reflect badly on the County, then he feels it should be communicated that the department heads working in conjunction with the Board did a good job to foresee the current economic crisis. The employees of Wright County have a good working moral, work ethics, and loyalty. The non-union employees should not have to be punished for the current economic issues.
Sawatzke stated that in 2009 the County was able to beat the losses. The County’s proposed levy is at 7.2% which is higher than Benton, Sherburne, and Stearns County combined. Citizens will see a salary increase of 2.5%, which is out of the norm, and a levy at 7.2% that will increase their taxes. Kelly stated that the levy includes the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) and that citizens should be aware of this. Sawatzke said that as a tax payer it does not matter what causes an increase, it is still an increase. He feels that the citizens of Wright County would support a wage freeze for County employees if surveyed. Sawatzke said that Wright County is one of the few counties that have not laid anyone off.
Russek stated that he does not know of one person who does not know someone that has been affected the by the current economy. He will not vote in any way to give one employee less of a raise than another in this County. If the unions agree to renegotiations and no increases, then he will agree to no increases for every employee. Every employee is important no matter if they are a department head, non-union employee, or union employee.
Thelen supported Russek’s decision. She feels that the public has compassion and realizes the levy is due to the construction of the LEC. Employees should not have to take cuts in salary to make up for other budget issues. She stated we have an obligation to the public and as Board members to clarify that the employees are not to blame. Thelen is apposed to cutting any salaries and she supports a 2.5% increase for non-union employees.
Sawatzke stated that it is the Board’s job to represent the citizens of Wright County, and he feels that the citizens would not support the increase. Some of the employees have received a 2.5% increase and all employees are valued. If the Board was able to freeze all salaries this meeting would have been avoided, however unions are not renegotiating. He suggested that the Board can look into making up the difference in future years. He feels that the Board has been a lot less diligent at attacking this problem. Other counties have used a more intense approach to the current economic situation which have included lay offs to reduce their costs.
Mattson stated that knowing people in his District have lost their jobs; he is not willing to accept a 2.5% increase for 2010. He stated that the County has to understand that people are suffering and he is concerned what is going to happen going forward.
Thelen questioned how a 2.5% increase would affect homeowner’s costs. Hiivala said that with the 7.2% levy increase, his property taxes will be less; however, other home owners could be paying more. Sawatzke questioned that with the minimal amount of growth and development that has taken place, what cost to the County would a 2.5% increase have. Norman stated that it would total just under $200,000 in wages. Russek said that other factors that affect the levy include the LEC and bond issues. He continued that $700,000 was saved during budgeting and left in the budget; many empty positions have not be filled in order to save costs and avoid lay offs.
Eichelberg stated that if the County is not able to renegotiate with the unions, he is not in favor of cutting an increase for the non-union employees. He stated that during the next union negotiations, lay offs may be looked at as an option. Eichelberg continued that the Board can not satisfy every citizen; however, if the public is interested on learning where the tax dollars go, it is up to the Board members to explain that Wright County is moving forward.
Mattson commented that he too will go along with the 2.5% increase; however, he wants it noted that he would hate to see more jobs lost during these rough economic times.
Sawatzke said that he is not in favor of a 2.5% increase. He suggested reductions for union employees take place over the next several years during negotiations. Sawatzke referenced the library board and provided the following changes that took place: no cost of living increase, longevity was eliminated, no increase to health insurance, every employee is required to take 2 days off without pay, and mileage reimbursement was reduced to 25% below the IRS rate. Eichelberg stated that everything that was cut affected every library employee. The difference with Wright County is that there are union and non-union employees and it would not be fair to give an increase to only the union employees.
Fingalson sympathized with Mattson and said that it is important to think about the citizens and if they would support salary increases. It is also important to realize that employees of Wright County are here to provide a service for our citizens. The Board has done a great job at keeping Wright County within a situation that is different than other counties. If comparisons were made, it would be noted that some counties have more employees, even though they are smaller in size to Wright County. Wright County’s situation is different and if we start talking about not providing a 2.5% increase for non-union employees it becomes a moral issue. The employees are the ones doing the work and they deserve the increase.
Mleziva said that Wright County’s staff has been told to work harder and smarter with the resources they have. The Board has done a great job at keeping things under control such as property taxes and levies. Wright County has grown tremendously. There are excellent school systems in Wright County which has attracted people from the metro area. Going into 2010 the County is contending with the current resources and the public should appreciate that. He feels that there are many dedicated employees that have chosen to stay with Wright County, even though surrounding counties may pay more. He commented that in his department three positions are being eliminated. Mleziva feels the Board has done an outstanding job and needs to stand up to the public in regards to up coming levies and property tax increases.
RECOMMENDATION: A 2.5% salary increase for non-union employees for 2010.
(End of 11-17-09 Budget Committee Of The Whole Minutes & discussion)
Wayne Fingalson, Highway Engineer, recognized two Highway Maintenance staff that competed in the Snow Fighters ROADEO in St. Cloud on October 7-8, 2009. The ROADEO is part of the annual Fall Maintenance Expo to help maintenance workers sharpen skills, share information, and prepare for the rigorous challenges posed by a Minnesota winter. Shannon Wolff took 5th place and Bruce Bersie tied for 6th place. Fingalson said this reflects the caliber of the employees. The competition is held with 108 county, city and Mn/DOT employees, so it is outstanding to finish in 5th and 6th places. Bersie explained the event includes a snowplow course with obstacles and scoring is based on how far the driver is from the obstacle without hitting it (measured in inches). Four Wright County employees participated in the event.
Fingalson requested approval of a resolution of final acceptance for the CSAH 17 Surcharge Construction Project, Contract #0713, with Dennis Fehn Gravel & Excavating, Inc., Albertville MN, authorizing final payment of $8,350.81. Eichelberg moved to adopt Resolution #09-47, seconded by Russek, carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Fingalson requested approval of a resolution of final acceptance for the 2009 Street Lighting Improvements, Contract #0902, with Granite Ledge Electrical Cont. Inc., authorizing final payment of $4,009.50. Russek moved to adopt Resolution #09-48, seconded by Thelen, carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Fingalson presented for approval a resolution in support of the new Federal Transportation Bill. This issue was discussed at the last County Board Meeting. Fingalson will forward the resolution to the President and Congressional Delegation. Russek moved to adopt Resolution #09-49, seconded by Thelen, carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Fingalson brought forth discussion on a request from Mn/DOT and the City of Buffalo for adding a traffic signal at the Junction of TH 25 and CSAH 12 in the City. The City proposes that the traffic signal be included as part of the TH 12 Project being completed next year. The intersection meets warrants for a signal and geometric improvements. Mn/DOT will fund 2/3 of the cost (two legs). The County’s funding policy calls for the City and the County to fund the remainder. The County’s cost share is estimated at $35,000. This request was presented to the County about four years ago and voted down by the County Board. The City is asking that the traffic signal be given consideration. Russek stated that according to Roberts Rules, discussion on the issue must be brought back by one of the Commissioners who voted against it. Russek still is against the traffic signal. He drives the intersection every day, and his wait time is minimal in comparison to those intersections with traffic signals. Thelen suggested that discussion on the issue be referred to the Transportation Committee Of The Whole (TCOTW). The City could present information to the Committee on their request. Sawatzke said when this request was discussed previously, there was an extensive study on wait time and stacking (present condition versus with a stop light). He did not feel the statistics were impressive on the value gained. The data reflected that some movements resulted in more wait time with a stop light and the overall gain appeared to be insignificant at best. Fingalson supported the referral of the issue to the TCOTW. He said traffic has increased some since this issue was discussed four years ago. It needs to be decided whether this improvement will be incorporated into the TH 12 construction project. Fingalson was in contact with Mert Auger, Buffalo City Administrator, today who felt there are backups at this intersection and that the right turn lane helped with the flow of traffic. Fingalson referenced a recent “Letter to the Editor” in the Journal Press by a person who felt traffic is not stopping in the right turn lane. Fingalson said proper geometrics might help with this. He said typically, the Board looks to cities for a reaction and thought the City could present their request to the TCOTW. Russek said people will fail to stop whether there is a stop light or a stop sign. Fingalson agreed there might be a problem whether there is a signal or a stop sign. He was contacted by a couple of people with concerns on sight restrictions caused by larger sized vehicles at this intersection. Fingalson said there have been a number of close calls and crashes over the past few years. Russek said when he voted against the request for a signal at this intersection four years ago, he was thanked by a number of people. Norman questioned whether the $35,000 cost has been included in the Road & Bridge 2010 Budget. Fingalson said that it was not, that State Aid funding would need to be advance encumbered. Sawatzke questioned whether there is any work in the 2010 Budget that is using local dollars that would be eligible for State Aid dollars. Fingalson said $35,000 would only cover about one mile of overlay. Sawatzke said that project funding could be split with local and State Aid funding; that way, the budget could be reduced by $35,000 at a time when citizens are hurting. Thelen asked whether completing the signal upgrade at this time would result in a savings. Fingalson said it would, that if a signal is to be installed at this intersection this would be the logical time to do it. He envisioned the improvements to CSAH 12 will stand for 40-50 years and would include geometrics with a turn lane as part of the improvements. Thelen felt the issue should be referred to the TCOTW, as a courtesy to the City to be able to present their claim. She did not want to make a decision without allowing them an opportunity to speak. Thelen moved to table the issue and to refer it to the next TCOTW Meeting. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg. The motion failed 2-3 with Russek, Sawatzke and Mattson casting the nay votes.
Fingalson requested that the Board set a TCOTW Meeting to discuss the 5-Year Plan. Russek moved to schedule a TCOTW Meeting on 12-15-09 at 1:30 P.M. at the Public Works Building. The motion was seconded by Thelen and carried unanimously.
Marc Mattice, Parks Administrator, said at the 11-09-09 Parks Commission Meeting, Jim Berg, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), presented information to the Parks Commission on a request to drill ground water monitoring wells on two County properties, Montissippi and Bill Anderson Parks. The goals of the project are to monitor ground water levels, recharge areas, and study the long-term effects on the Mt. Simon Aquifer. The DNR will install approximately 10 monitoring well nests in the study area on public land. Public land is necessary in order to ensure that the wells will be able to remain at those locations for an extended period (30 plus years). They will be able to test the aquifer for chemistry, direction of water flow, pollution sensitivity, and recharge areas within the aquifer. Three sites will be located in Wright County, one of which is located on a DNR administered lake access at Ann Lake, and two of which are proposed to be on County property near the edge of the aquifer. The wells will be between 200 and 500 feet deep and will be electronically monitored from a remote site. The Parks Commission recommended that the County Board approve the agreement with the DNR to establish ground monitoring wells at Montissippi and Bill Anderson Parks. Bill Stephens, Environmental Health Officer from Planning & Zoning, said he attended the Parks Commission Meeting and informed them how Planning & Zoning will benefit from the wells. At their April meeting, the County Board approved the County participating in a geologic atlas which is being conducted by the Minnesota Geological Survey. Stephens felt this project ties in. The benefits to Planning & Zoning are through environmental services through groundwater protection. It will help them utilize the information in conjunction with that from the geologic atlas for reference in planning issues and citing of commercial and industrial projects proposed for the County. Anything that has to do with high capacity water use may also be able to be answered locally. The DNR discussed the potential of locating wells on County property several months ago with the County Board. Mattson said the SWCD is completing a study on 12 Mile Creek through Lake Ann and asked whether Stephens is working on that study. Stephens said he is not but that study deals with surface water issues. Mattice said the DNR request is for ground level water monitoring rather than water quality and surface quality. The DNR study will help identify recharge areas for the Mount Simon Aquifer and areas of possible pollution. He said the DNR is interested in the water level capacity and the pollution within recharge areas. Sawatzke asked whether the DNR has been in contact with the Nuclear Plant in Monticello to see whether their wells could be utilized for this purpose. Sawatzke was in contact with a representative from Excel and they did not feel there would be a problem with assisting the DNR. Mattice said the DNR wants the wells to be placed on the edge of the aquifer and on public lands to guarantee the wells can remain for many years. Sawatzke felt the Excel wells would remain for many years. It would eliminate the cost and there would be one less well drilled. Stephens indicated that Berg has been in contact with other entities. They are looking to cover the recharge area for the Mount Simon aquifer. He was not sure whether the wells on the Excel property are deep enough. The two wells are required to be 300 to 500 feet deep to reach the Mount Simon aquifer. Sawatzke suggested Stephens contact Excel to determine whether this potential exists. Stephens said he will research the Department of Health’s website. He did not want to go around the DNR’s project. Stephens was directed to contact Berg to see what steps have been taken with regard to Excel to see if there is a valid opportunity there. The Board felt this should at least be researched. Sawatzke felt that Excel might be able to provide the data from their wells to the DNR. Russek said every city has between 1-4 wells that are around 400 ft. deep. He felt the DNR should work with them as well. Stephens said he is unsure whether they are deep enough to get into the Mount Simon aquifer. The Mount Simon Aquifer has a narrow band recharge area, which means the top of the aquifer is exposed. It is passed into confined areas which protects from upper contamination. The band runs from the west end of Monticello down toward Howard Lake. Eichelberg moved to approve and authorize signatures on the agreements with the Minnesota DNR to install ground water monitoring wells on two County properties. The motion was seconded by Russek. The motion was amended to include proceeding based upon verifying whether this can be done in cooperation with Excel. The motion carried 5-0.
Another issue addressed by the Parks Commission was the request by Freedom Farms relating to the Lake Ida School House, owned by Wright County (Woodland Township). Freedom Farm is a therapeutic riding center that was founded to improve mobility and build confidence in children and adults with physical, mental, and emotional challenges through the use of horses. They would like to expand services to include veterans as well as have a facility that could be used for day and/or overnight retreats. Mattice said about four years ago, discussion included renovation of the School House but the donators did not come through. The idea has come back because a supporter/donor wants to make this a reality. The Parks Commission would like to work with Freedom Farms. Mattice said that Planning & Zoning has indicated that soil samples will be required, as well as CUP variances. The lot does not meet setbacks from the lake and it may not be large enough for a septic system. Eichelberg said there are various options that could be considered. He felt the Board should authorize Mattice to continue to work with Planning & Zoning and the Attorney’s Office to explore any possibilities that can be worked out. The land was given to the County many years ago. The School House previously was used by 4-H but the club ran out of funding. Sawatzke is supportive of the request. He felt that someone previously donated the land to the County with the purpose of it being a County park, so he would be opposed to selling the land or giving it to someone else. He felt the County has a moral responsibility to keep it part of the Parks system. Eichelberg said the donor would like a long term agreement if they are going to put the money into refurbishing the building. The Parks Commission will need to discuss this further and it will need to be determined by the County Planning & Zoning what can be done legally with regard to the water and sewer. It was the consensus that Mattice, Eichelberg, Asleson, and Planning & Zoning staff should work out the details and bring them back to the Parks Commission.
A Building Committee Meeting was held on 11-18-09. At today’s County Board Meeting, Mattson moved to approve the minutes and recommendation. The motion was seconded by Russek and carried 5-0:
Space Needs For Courthouse Security Personnel.
Howell stated that Korbel is looking for additional office space for the Bailiffs and court security personnel. Korbel is interested in reclaiming the office space that was once his office in the Court Administration Department area. He stated that there was a misunderstanding that the old Jail Administration Office was going to be vacated after the Sheriffs Department moves to the new Jail/LEC. Hagerty explained that the Department did not realize how busy the Day Jail would become after the move. They continue to do a lot of bookings, fingerprinting, and Rule 5s. Korbel stated that he has 10-12 Bailiffs working in his Division each day. Korbel stated that he and Gentles have discussed the arrangement. Gentles stated that Courts placed furniture within the office with plans to use the space. Gentles explained that although the Courts are not currently using the space, they would appreciate future consideration if their needs change. She stated that she also expects that the office would be used for Court related activity. A tour was provided of the proposed office space within Court Administration. Korbel explained that the vacated office would house 2-3 Court Security Personnel. This would be a no cost item. RECOMMENDATION: Authorize move of the Bailiffs to occupy the vacant office space within Court Administration.
(End of 11-18-09 Building Committee Minutes & discussion)
A Personnel Committee Meeting was held on 11-18-09. At today’s County Board Meeting, Eichelberg moved to approve the minutes. The motion was seconded by Mattson. Mattson asked whether anyone had information on the Manatron System being delayed at the Assessor’s Office for a couple of years because of problems. Eichelberg said he heard it is moving forward. Russek was in contact with the Auditor on the problems being experienced in the Assessor’s Office. He asked the Auditor whether it would be better to lay this over for a couple of weeks. The response was that it would cost $150,000 to go to the old tax system and the County would still be required to pay for the Manatron system. The motion carried 5-0:
REQUEST TO HIRE AN ASSESSMENT ASSISTANT. Kramber presented a request to hire an Assessment Assistant. He understood the difficulty of his request because of the economic situation but felt it was a dire need. Over the past couple of years, the Assessor’s Department had to deal with Legislative 2A and 2B issues (causing thousands of additional hours in the Office), Green Acres changes, 2009 Legislative changes to Green Acres, and changes in the economy. Tax court petitions have doubled in the last year. He expects this number to double again in 2010. The issues relate to property valuation in a declining market. The Manatron Project is a new tax system implemented in August, 2009. This has resulted in additional work, training, and requirements. Historically, Kramber said the Assessor’s Department has turned back an average of about $40,000/year. He estimated this at $216,000 over the past five years. An additional Technical position was requested in the 2009 budget but was not filled due to budget constraints. There was a need for this person in the 2010 budget but he did not bring the request forth due to the economy. The implementation of the Manatron Tax System forced him to address the Committee with the request. He recently met with the Technology Committee. The strategy was to hire additional technical staff and a consultant (hired through Professional Services) one day per week. Every process in the Office is challenging because of the difficulties encountered with the Manatron System. Kramber said with his Department being in the front line of the revenue stream, he felt it was his job to bring these concerns forward to emphasize the need for additional support. Norman stated the position is not currently included in the draft 2010 budget. When Kramber first approached Norman, he told Kramber he could not support a staff person being added to the budget as there are 13 positions open in other departments that all have a need. Norman said he conveyed that he would support looking at alternatives. Sawatzke brought forth the potential of having staff from other departments assist the Assessor’s Office on a short-term basis. Kramber said he would like to have one full-time person from the period of 1-01-10 through 4-01-10. Needs could be reassessed at that time. Kramber said this position would require technical skills and ideally someone that is involved with the Manatron System. He did not want to train more than one person due to the complexity of the System. Discussion followed on position requirements, out-of-class pay, and the potential of the Auditor’s Office supporting this role as they work closely with the Manatron System. Sawatzke suggested that if the Auditor’s Office supports the Assessor’s Office for 40 hours per week, then an employee from another department could potentially support the Auditor’s Office for a shorter period each week (i.e., 16 hours). Norman stated the details would need to be worked out with the assistance of the Administration Department. Kramber informed the Committee that he will need to set up an office space for the person. He was directed to work through Administration to utilize excess modular furniture pieces. Recommendation: Authorize a current employee to assist the Assessor’s Office for the period of 1-01-10 to 4-01-10. This includes work out of classification if necessary for this period. The Administration Department will assist with the details of this arrangement. The arrangement will be reassessed at a future date if needed.
POSITION OPENING.
A. Social Worker (Family Assessment Unit). Charbonneau distributed an outline of the request to replace a Child Protection Family Assessment Social Worker. The person most recently in this position has moved to the Intake area. Human Services has been down one position since Judy Benson resigned. There have been four employees that have transferred into various positions because of vacancies created. The current request is the fifth employee to move. Recommendation: Support request to fill the Child Assessment Social Worker position.
(End of 11-18-09 Personnel Committee Minutes & discussion)
A Technology Committee Meeting was held on 11-18-09. At today’s County Board Meeting, Thelen moved to approve the minutes and recommendations, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0:
POSITRON CHANGE ORDERS.
Swing stated that the vendor has discovered two unpaid change orders since the completion of the Positron project. The change orders are technically 2008 charges and total $8,815.00. The change orders are specific to the Jail portion of the LEC construction project. A report system and additional training was needed as part of the phase 3 portion of the Jail. He stated that the change orders were oversights that are quite small in significance to the complexity, length, and total cost of the project. He stated that he would recommend paying these items out of the LEC Technology Fund. Norman stated that Hiivala appeared before the County Board on 10-20-09 asking for authorization to make final payment on the Positron project. Swing stated that he is aware of this; however, these approved and signed change orders were overlooked. Swing distributed copies of the change orders (see attached.) RECOMMENDATION: Authorize payment of the previously approved change orders, totaling $8,815.00, from the Jail/LEC Project Technology Fund.
UPDATE, 800 MHz RADIO PROJECT.
Swing announced that the County is in the final stages of the 800 MHz Radio Project. Mazzitello distributed a project timeline (see attached). He stated that the Final Acceptance is scheduled for 2-28-10. He stated that it is his opinion that the project will be completed prior to that date. Testing of the radio code plugs is scheduled for mid-December. Mazzitello stated that he visited the Howard Lake tower site and noted that the shelters are ready for power. Training is scheduled for the first week in January. He clarified that by the completion of the training session, the Dispatchers and field people will leave with their assigned portable radios. Eichelberg asked if Mazzitello anticipates whether any of the vendors will present change orders as a result of the project completion date being extended into 2010. Mazzitello stated that Motorola has not discussed any change orders as related to the timeline extensions. Currently, Motorola does not have any change orders. He stated that GeoComm will have a no-cost change order due to the project timeline extension, and Sabor will have a change order for additional crane work as a result of the rainy October weather. The tower shelter was delivered, but because of the rain, the shelter was moved to an offsite storage facility. This called for a crane company to transport it. Mazzitello explained to the Committee that American Tower wanted to charge the County for the use of a propane tank at each tower site. However, the team decided to place self contained fuel tanks within the shelters for two diesel generators. The diesel fuel will be stored in a tank under the generator room. The generators will be run for monthly tests; however, there will be an annual charge to cycle out the unused diesel fuel. Swing clarified that there will be a cost for the fuel fills. Eichelberg asked if the Highway Department could supply the diesel fuel. Jobe stated that the Highway Department has diesel on site. The question would be whether the Highway Department has the equipment to transport the fuel to the two tower sites. Eichelberg asked if using different grades of diesel, tuned to seasonal weather changes, could prevent the fuel from getting “goopy”. Mazzitello explained that the fuel tanks are contained in the shelter buildings. The grade of fuel would not matter as it will not be affected by temperature changes. Swing stated that the 800 MHz Project Team would like to distribute a letter (see attached) to public safety agencies and city officials communicating the status of this project. The letter is a synopsis of the attached timeline. Steve Berg, Emergency Management Coordinator, will attend the Fire Chief’s meeting tonight. The Fire Departments have provided great input and communication has been good throughout this project. Swing expressed his appreciation to GeoComm for their involvement. He stated that the project had a lot of outside agency involvement and came in under budget. Mazzitello stated that the County should consider a press release when the 800 MHz system is activated.
MANATRON PROJECT, STRATEGY IN THE ASSESSOR DEPARTMENT.
Swing distributed a handout dated 11-18-09 with a bulleted history of the Manatron Project (see attached). He stated that although Wright County initially was not in support of a new property tax system, eventually the County aligned itself with the other large counties and voted “yes” in support of Manatron as the selected vendor during the MCCC RFP process. The small counties stayed with ACS. The vision was to acquire a property tax system that would integrate with other systems and provide GIS, mapping, and image handling. He stated that since 2006, the involved parties have put forth thousands of hours into the creation of a new property tax system. Unfortunately, MCCC did not involve the Assessors in the process, and that is why Kramber is here today to discuss the Assessor’s Department strategy. Kramber stated that due to legislative issues that the Assessors have been working on, their resources are depleted. He clarified that his Department supports the decisions that the land records group has made, however, the problems lie with the computer system. He stated that he cannot express the amount of additional work his staff will be taking on due to the problems with the Manatron system. He stated that his Department would continue to network with other counties to ensure success of the system. He stated that the Personnel Committee met earlier today to discuss strategies that included hiring of technical staff, additional staff training, use of professional services, use of budgeted overtime, use of budgeted temporary personnel, continued efforts with MCCC to improve product usability, and continued networking with Manatron counties. He stated that they would like to engage Ron Michaels Consulting for an additional 20 hours to specifically work with the Assessor’s Department prior to year-end. The cost would be $2,000 and Swing proposed funding the cost out of the Recorder’s Compliance Fund. The consultant is currently working with Ramsey and Nicollet Counties. Kramber stated that they are hopeful that the Manatron Project will become successful over time because Hennepin County recently signed a six year, $7.5 million, contract with Manatron. He stated that with Hennepin County’s purchasing power, they might be able to impact corrections needed to make the program efficient. He stated that since Wright County works closely with Hennepin County, he hopes to reap some of that benefit. Eichelberg stated that he was pleased to hear that Kramber has been contacting other counties about their concerns. Kramber stated that although his staff is highly skilled, they do not have the technical capability to work on this complex and new system. It is not end user friendly. He stated that with the new system, there is a lot of room for error. The increased chance of error could result in increased abatements. He stated that they had a recent conference call with Manatron. They were told that all changes to the program must be done through MCCC. The County has already expended a lot of money in the new system. However, there would have been costs to remain with the current ACS product. A contract renewal would have been $130,000-140,000 and it would have negatively impacted the Auditor/Treasurer Department’s workload. The necessary training and additional overtime to ensure a successful product puts the County in a difficult position. Thelen asked Kramber what issues the Assessor’s Department is experiencing with the program. She asked whether Manatron was negligent in their work. Kramber stated that Manatron is a viable company. They have put a lot of money back into their product. He stated that the users need a system that is easy to understand, easy to operate, can retrieve information, and completely integrates with the County’s current product. He explained that instead of using one screen to complete a process, they now have to use four screens and complete four steps to achieve the same result. There are no safeguards built into the product, therefore the validity of the data being entered is critical. He stated that he is confident that his staff’s speed and accuracy will continue to improve, yet it is taking 2-4 times longer to complete their work. He stated that his staff is going from using a program that was fully integrated to a program that is not integrated. Hiivala stated that his Department is experiencing the same frustrations, but they are working through it. He stated that the Recorders Compliance Fund was fostered for the assimilation of land records information. Future costs, as it relates to the success of the Manatron project, are a perfect fit for this fund. $350,000 was already spent on this project. He stated that he would recommend funding the additional consulting fee out of the Recorder’s Compliance Fund. Jobe asked if the other Manatron counties would be definitively impacted by Hennepin County’s influence in achieving corrections and efficiencies within the program. Kramber stated that he is hoping that the Hennepin County contract will have a strong impact on addressing some of the inefficiencies in the program. Swing stated that if the County Board authorizes the additional consulting, he would propose monitoring the progress and encouraged flexibility in discussing potential future action. Swing noted that Ron Michaels Consulting still owes the County for 28 hours of consulting. Today’s action would be to increase that amount to 48 hours. Eichelberg stated that he understands the frustration as identified by the Assessor and IT Departments. He stated that it sounds as if the County is committed to move forward with the project. He stated that he is in favor of networking with other counties and gathering help from others. RECOMMENDATION: Authorize payment of $2,000 for an additional twenty (20) hours of consulting from Ron Michaels Consulting to be funded out of the Recorder’s Compliance Fund.
(End of 11-18-09 Technology Committee Minutes & discussion)
A Ways & Means Committee Meeting was held on 11-18-09. At today’s County Board Meeting, Russek moved to approve the minutes, seconded by Mattson, carried 5-0:
Proposed Dangerous Dog Ordinance.
Asleson said that Sherburne County provided a draft ordinance that was adopted in 01-09. Currently if a dog owner disagrees that their dog is a dangerous dog, the matter ends up in criminal court. Simonds stated that in a criminal case the biggest problem is that you can not address the dog itself and make a plea offer to the owner. He does not feel that criminal cases are the right way to handle dangerous dog problems within Wright County. The Minnesota Dangerous Dog Statute gives an opportunity for the accused to be placed on probation and give dog owners optimal time to address and handle the issues. Norman referenced page 4, Section 4 – Jurisdiction (see handout). He questioned if there are any cities or towns that have declared an Animal Control Authority within their jurisdiction. Asleson stated that Sherburne County took authority across the County and that no questions were raised. Miller stated that this would give the cities options to agree with our ordinance or set up their own Animal Control Authority. The City of Otsego is the only city in Wright County that has adopted a Dangerous Dog Ordinance. Under Minnesota Statutes the County can not charge dog owners after the bite has occurred. He commented that Crossroads has done a lot of work to deal with dog owners in order to hold owners responsible. Asleson commented that Section 1 relates to Section 4 and states that this Ordinance does not deal with non dangerous dogs. Simonds stated that if there is a non dangerous dog at large, it needs to be dealt with locally. Norman questioned if there are enough resources to enforce the Ordinance. Miller replied that from the law enforcement side, the roles would not change a lot. The Sheriff’s Office would still contact Crossroads. Miller stated that the Sheriff’s Office does not want to be considered “animal control” as is stated on page 5, Section 6 – Definitions (see handout). Asleson stated that rewording will reference Wright County as the Animal Control Authority. Schwichtenberg stated that her understanding is that the Hearing Officer would make the determinations. She said that the Hearing Officer for the City of Otsego is a retired judge who makes all the determinations. He does this voluntarily and it seems to run smoothly. Schwichtenberg recommends this process for Wright County as the Hearing Officer would deal directly with owners that have disputes. Simonds clarified that Crossroads would make the initial determination and that a Hearing Officer would deal directly with the appeals. Schwichtenberg stated that it is nearly impossible for Crossroads to make the right decision as they do not have the proper tools to deal with offenders. The language needs to be specific and define what is a dangerous dog. Statistics were provided regarding the number of dangerous dogs in Wright County (see handout). Asleson referenced page 5, Section 5 – Incorporation. He stated that the Ordinance includes additional language that is built on Minnesota Statutes Sections 347.50 – 347.565. Schwichtenberg referenced page 5, Section 6 – Definitions, D – 4. She stated that any dog that has bitten one time is a dangerous dog. The issue here is that the Minnesota Statute states that a dog should be allowed to bite twice and she questioned who defines this. Asleson stated that in most cases it is a bite without provocation. Simonds commented that from a policy perspective, he feels that it is too much having one bite being considered a dangerous dog and would like to discuss what is reasonable. Wisecarver referenced page 5, Section 6, D-1. He suggested changing “without provocation”. He questioned if a child pulls or steps on a dogs tail and gets nipped, does that qualify the dog as a dangerous dog. Asleson stated that if the first bite breaks the skin and causes bodily harm or disfigurement, it would be classified as a dangerous dog. Schwichtenberg feels that there has to be a written procedure in place. Miller commented that there is a big difference if someone is walking by a dog owner’s property and gets bite versus being on a dog owner’s property. O’Dell stated that the statistics show the number of bite incidents reported when owners let their dogs run freely. This is in direct violation with the County’s leash law. She has also been involved in incidents where a dog will run through an invisible fence system to attack another animal or a person. Asleson stated that the definition on page 5, Section 6, D-5 is from the Minnesota Statute and covers a dog being tagged as potentially dangerous. Asleson referenced that the definition of a dog owner on page 6, Section 6, is broader than the Minnesota Statute and clarifies that anyone keeping or harboring a dog for five consecutive days shall be deemed the owner. This will avoid any one from stating they are only watching the dog temporarily. Schwichtenberg requested clarification on what is the definition of a dangerous dog. She questioned if a human is bitten by a dog totally unprovoked, would that dog be classified as dangerous. Perlick commented that each incident would have to be reviewed case by case. Simonds stated that the Hearing Officers’ position is to determine if the appealing parties are within in the Ordinance. He continued that there has to be a system in place and if a dangerous dog owner is not complying, then the County can legally hold the owner accountable. Asleson referenced page 7, Section 6, M – Unprovoked. He stated that this is an addition and it is not required by Minnesota Statute. Wisecarver commented that there have been numerous occasions when a child under the age of 14 has intentionally hurt a dog. He feels that an age can not be put on the offender. Wisecarver gave an example of a child who had a history of abusing a dog. The child was bitten eventually and the owners had to remove their dog, even though there was no history of the dog biting anyone else or complaints from other neighbors against the dog. Asleson stated that he will look into the possibility of removing the age category. Simonds stated that there should be verbiage added to cover dogs being provoked. Asleson referenced page 8, Subsection 3 – Hearing. He stated that a dog owner should have a right to a hearing. However, the dog owner would be responsible for the additional costs. Currently, it is written that if Crossroads is performing micro chipping the dog owner is responsible for the fees involved. Schwichtenberg agreed and approved the verbiage. Asleson referenced page 9, Subsection 4: Exemption. He stated that this was added and is not a Minnesota Statute and approves the verbiage remaining in the Ordinance. In regard to page 11, Subsection 5: Fee. Asleson questioned if any contract references annual registering fees. Schwichtenberg stated that there is currently a $100 dollar fee and she feels it is enough. Asleson stated that if we make the fees higher it will make the dangerous dog owners think twice about keeping a dangerous dog. He agrees with the verbiage as it allows fees to go up to $500 dollars. Norman added that when the County Board talks about setting fees, a minimum amount and a maximum at $500 dollars should be set. This will help employees that have to administer the Ordinance. Asleson referenced page 14, Section 10, Subsection 3. He stated that a dog owner meeting with a Hearing Office would not acquire additional fees. Police officers would not need to be called for each case keeping cost down as the Hearing Office could be able to review the reports. Schwichtenberg said that sterilization should be included on page 15, Section 11, Subsection 2. She feels that all dangerous dogs should be sterilized. Sterilization is an important factor and that potentially dangerous dogs should not be able to reproduce. Miller stated that an appeal process would have to be available for dog owners not wanting sterilization for their dog if it is eventually ruled to be not dangerous. Asleson referenced page 16, Section 13 – Confiscation. The Minnesota Statute has a requirement of fourteen (14) days. Schwichtenberg feels that the requirement would be hard to meet and agrees with the thirty (30) day time period. Asleson stated the Ordinance at thirty (30) days seems reasonable and fair. If the dog owners’ intentions are in line, then there should be some lead way to get requirements completed. Asleson referenced page 18, Section 15 – Penalty. He stated that State law includes three conditions that would lead to a gross misdemeanor. Therefore, he didn’t feel they needed to be included in the Ordinance. Asleson stated that Section 16 – Restrictions, was unintentionally left out. He recommends that it be added back in as page 19 (see handout). He continued that there are certain people who should be prohibited from owning a dog. This section provides restrictions on dog owners as well as household members owning dogs. It means that if one family member is prohibited from owning a dog, then no one in the household can be a dog owner. Simonds concluded that the current cases are clearly with dog owners that have not dealt with the issues at hand. The issue is that something needs to be done to address the publics’ safety issues. Criminal prosecution does not handle the problem with the dogs causing the issues, it only affects the owners. He feels decent people can be owners of a dangerous dog and should not have to be put through the criminal prosecution process. Having an ordinance in place would provide the support to deal with registration items. Currently, without the Ordinance we are not equipped to deal with dangerous dogs appropriately. Schwichtenberg referenced the incidents that occur on the dangerous dogs’ property. She is concerned why a dog can bite someone off their property, such as a park, and not be considered a dangerous dog. Miller stated that civil law states that you should be able to walk to some ones door with out the fear of being bitten by a dog. He added that the verbiage needs to be specific on what can and can’t happen on a dog owner’s property. RECOMMENDATION: Asleson will make appropriate revisions. A second review of the proposed Dangerous Dog Ordinance will be scheduled for 12-16-09 at 9:00 A.M.
(End of 11-18-09 Ways & Means Committee Minutes & discussion)
Eichelberg moved to authorize attendance at the Metropolitan Council Chair’s Meeting with Neighboring County Officials on 12-04-09 in St. Paul. The motion was seconded by Thelen and carried unanimously.
A request was presented from Information Technology for approval of high/low temperature sensors for Data Rooms 2501 (Dispatch Data Center) and J1004 (Security Electronics) in the LEC. Norman said the background information reflects the sensors should have been part of the initial design of the building. A failure of the cooling unit in the Dispatch Center recently occurred, presenting significant issues. If approved, the sensors will be installed by Integrated Fire & Security (IFS) for $788. The sensors will be tied into the existing fire alarm dialer unit that was installed by IFS. Norman said the alarms will be monitored by Wright Hennepin. Thelen moved to approve the request with funding from the Building Maintenance budget. The motion was seconded by Russek. Mattson asked whether this is an architect’s error that this was not included in the design of the Jail/LEC. Sawatzke said that it probably should have been caught by either the architect, construction manager, or commissioning agent. The motion carried 5-0.
Russek said that about 5-6 years ago, the Federal government pushed for all Minnesota counties to be covered by an RC&D (Resource Conservation & Development) group. The Mid Minnesota RC&D was formed by Wright, Sherburne, Stearns, and Benton Counties. So far, the Mid Minnesota RC&D has never been sanctioned but has been able to receive funding. Last year, they received $20,000 for projects. Of that amount, the Parks Department received $5,000. Funding was also provided for a rain garden in a Buffalo Park and for other projects. This year, there will be no funding available. The group discussed the situation and felt that they will probably meet once next year or until things turn around with funding. They do not want to disband as they went through the process of obtaining the 501C3 non-profit status. The group has $5,900 which will be left for future projects. This was provided as an informational item.
Bills Approved
AECOM Usa Inc. $1,440.25
AERCOR Wireless Inc. 480.00
All State Communications Inc. 127.00
Allina Hospitals & Clinics 338.79
Allina Hospitals & Clinics Sp 552.00
Allina Medical Laboratories 339.90
Ameripride Linen and Apparel 232.88
Ancom Technical Center 363.38
Dawn Anderson 191.21
City Annandale 300.00
Anoka County Sheriff 9,033.62
Aramark Correctional Serv 6,366.40
Assn. of Minnesota Counties 100.00
Association of MN Counties 100.00
Auto Glass Center Inc. 265.55
Black Moore Bumgardner Magn 400.00
Bound Tree Medical LLC 483.90
Boyer Truck Parts 152.92
Canadian Pacific Railway 9,088.07
Center Point Energy 1,248.49
Centra Sota Lake Region 62,885.03
Climate Air 1,199.30
Crysteel Truck & Equipment 524.97
Cub Pharmacy 8,077.04
Rachel Dahlman 220.55
Delano Sports Center Inc. 179.34
Dell Marketing LP 2,702.30
George Demers 889.81
Dale Engel 700.00
Farm Plan 524.57
Dennis Fehn Gravel & Exca 899,531.57
Grainger 383.42
Granite Electronics 142.50
Granite Ledge Electrical 4,009.50
Hancock Concrete Products 855.00
Brad Hatfield 104.00
Hewlett Packard 6,826.68
Hillyard Inc. - Minneapolis 8,292.55
Gregory Howell 104.98
Interstate Battery Systems 290.54
Michael Janckila 286.00
Bonnie Johnson 189.00
Joseph Johnson 136.75
Justice Benefits Inc. 3,644.52
Knife River 33,293.95
Lake Region Coop Oil 210.94
LaPlant Demo Inc. 510.34
M-R Sign Company Inc. 390.78
Frank Madden & Associates 11,464.52
Marco 488.03
Marco Inc. 769.50
Meeker County Treasurer 677.14
Menards - Buffalo 332.67
Mid-Minnesota Hot Mix Inc. 763.99
MN - PIE 150.00
MN Onsite Wastewater Assn. 340.00
Morries Parts & Service Grp 1,273.85
Morton Salt 1,748.60
Mountain Stream Sports & App 295.53
Northern Green Expo 406.00
Office Depot 4,521.36
Onsite Medical Service Inc. 810.00
Ragan Communications 129.00
Frank Ramacciotti 600.00
Thomas Richards 200.00
Royal Tire Inc. 1,038.41
Russell Security Resource Inc. 127.30
Ryan Chevrolet 319.98
Savance 125.00
Shell Fleet Plus 215.41
Spectrum Solutions 368.50
TKDA 13,842.77
Trueman Welters Inc. 3,740.63
Wright Co. Highway Dept. 39,747.54
Wright Henn Co-op Elec Assn 978.92
Wright Hennepin Electric 510.27
Xcel Energy 1,025.70
Zarnoth Brush Works Inc. 583.54
Zumbro Valley Forestry 12,884.00
30 Payments less than $100 1,740.15
Final total $1,170,928.60
The meeting adjourned at 10:30 A.M
Published in the Herald Journal Dec. 21, 2009.



Return to Wright County Menu | Return to Government Table of Contents

Herald Journal
Stories | Columns | Obituaries | Classifieds
Guides | Sitemap | Search | Home Page