WRIGHT COUNTY BOARD MINUTES
OCTOBER 18, 2011
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek, Thelen, and Eichelberg present.
Eichelberg moved to approve the 10-11-11 County Board Minutes, seconded by Thelen, carried 5-0.
Petitions were accepted to the Agenda under Items For Consideration as follows: #2, “Letter Commending The Sheriff’s Department” (Russek); #3, “Redistricting Information From Rep. Sarah Anderson” (Russek); #4, “Discuss Agreement On Township Sign Program” (Fingalson). Thelen moved to approve the Agenda as amended, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
Eichelberg moved to approve the Consent Agenda, seconded by Thelen. Mattson referenced Item A2, “Authorize AMC Delegates Attendance at District 5 Meeting, 10/27/11, at Stearns County.” Mattson said he will probably not attend. The other Commissioners plan to attend. Registration is on site the day of the Meeting. The motion carried 5-0:
1. Performance Appraisals: T. Sarvie, Atty.; N. Helgeson, Hwy.; C. Schulz, P&Z; J. Baker, H. DuBois, J. Koenig, E. Kunkel, N. Roemer, C. Strand, A. Sturm, Sher./Corr.
2. Authorize AMC Delegates Attendance at District 5 Meeting, 10/27/11, at Stearns County.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, presented the claims listing for approval. Mattson referenced a claim on Page 12, MN Department of Labor & Industry ($769.00) for a September surcharge. Hiivala explained the claim reflects the payment is for a building permit surcharge report. It is remitted on a monthly basis and this is the September surcharge. Mattson requested additional information on the claim. Hiivala said he will present this at the next County Board Meeting. On a motion by Mattson, second by Thelen, all voted to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit.
Wayne Fingalson, Highway Engineer, distributed a draft Wright County/Township Agreement for Phase 1 of the Town Road Signing Project. Wright County is participating in a Federal aid project along with one other Minnesota County (Stevens) and Mn/DOT to evaluate the township roadway signs within each County’s borders to replace/install signs. The Wright County/Township Agreement has been approved by the County Attorney’s Office and by the Attorney for the Township Association. Phase 1 involves the sign inventory. Phase 2 will occur next spring to summer and will involve the contract between the County and the townships to furnish and install the signs. Fingalson said the Phase 1 Agreement was discussed at the 10-06-11 Township Officer’s Meeting, where a kick-off meeting was set for the Town Road Signing Project at 7:00 P.M. on 10-19-11 at the Wright County Government Center. The meeting will provide an overview of the Signing Program. Fingalson encouraged Commissioners to attend and said 1-2 representatives from each township plan on attending. Howard Preston, a consultant hired by Mn/DOT, will attend to speak on the importance of removing all unnecessary signs.
Fingalson said that Article 2 of the Phase 1 Agreement reflects that under MN Statute 161.36, Mn/DOT will act as the County’s agent to accept and disburse Federal funds for the Project. The County agrees to reimburse Mn/DOT for the County’s share of the local match for the Project (20%), and the County will collect the monies from the townships in a manner agreed upon between the County and townships. Fingalson estimated this cost at about $2,000 per township. Fingalson said the Agreement reflects the County will pay Mn/DOT the township’s cost share and will invoice the township for reimbursement. The townships will reimburse the County within 45 days of receipt of the invoice. Fingalson said Phase 2 of the project is estimated to cost about $1 million up front because of the reimbursement of Federal funds. The County will need to discuss whether the townships will pay directly or whether the County will offer a 2% loan to them. Fingalson said his time is not included in the cost being billed as part of the Signing Program. He considered this to be part of his job as Highway Engineer. The County does have the option of billing for that if desired.
Mattson asked whether all townships are required to pay even if they do not want to or the expense has not been budgeted. Fingalson said this is correct. The County has signed Agreements from all of the townships reflecting their participation in the Program. Maple Lake and Chatham Townships were not represented at the 10-06-11 Township Officers Meeting. However, Karen McDougall (Chair, Township Officers Association) has assured Fingalson that all townships will be participating in the Program. Fingalson said all townships must participate or there is no Program. Fingalson said if the Board is comfortable with the Agreement for Phase 1, he will distribute copies to each township at the 10-19-11 Town Road Signing Project Meeting. Each township will be required to sign the Agreement. All of the Agreements will be brought back to the County Board at a future meeting for approval.
Eichelberg referenced concerns townships may have on removal of some signs they view as vital. Fingalson said Howard Preston, the consultant hired by Mn/DOT to update the Township Signing Manual, will address this at the meeting on 10-19-11. He will provide a compelling argument why certain signs should not be placed. The firm selected for placement of the signs has worked with 50 townships in the State and has reduced signs in the Program by 45%. Ultimately, less signs mean less cost to the townships. Thelen questioned whether Fingalson has contacted the two townships not represented at the 10-06-11 Township Officers Meeting. Fingalson said Maple Lake Township and Chatham Township were sent the information but he has not personally contacted them. Fingalson said the Program is a great opportunity for townships to obtain 80% Federal funding reimbursement toward the Project. Thelen moved to approve the Wright County/Township Agreement for Phase 1 of the Town Road Signing Project. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
Greg Kramber, Assessor, provided a Green Acres/Rural Preserve update. Kramber said that Green Acres was enacted in 1967 in an effort to allow farmers to continue farming and not be forced off of their land by paying taxes on a higher non-agricultural value. It also equalized property taxes on farms in the State and allowed farmers to defer special assessments. Wright County implemented the Green Acres Program in 1971. In 2007, the Legislative Auditor’s Report reflected that some counties were not using the Program, some were using the Program incorrectly, and some abuse was seen in northern Minnesota relating to hunting land. In 2008, the Legislature amended the law to clarify that going forward, “only Class 2a productive agricultural land can qualify for Green Acres. Class 2b rural vacant land that is currently enrolled in Green Acres may be grandfathered into the Program until the 2013 assessment, and any Class 2b rural vacant land that has been grandfathered into Green Acres will be removed from the program and deferred taxes will be collected.” The legislative changes in 2008 included a 7-year payback and reflected that CRP and RIM did not qualify for the Program. There was also a new methodology for the Green Acre valuation process using agricultural sales in Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone and Rock Counties. In 2009-2010, there were multiple legislative changes because of some of the impact of the 2b land not qualifying for Green Acres. A Rural Preserve Program was created and is available beginning with the 2011 assessment. It required the landowner to meet with the SWCD to develop a soil conservation plan and to file the plan with the Recorders Office. There was an 8-year covenant put on the land where it could not be removed from the Program.
In 2011, the Legislature met again and basically mirrored the Green Acre Program with the Rural Preserve Program. Kramber said the Rural Preserve Program has a lot of the same features, including the same payback requirements. The Assessors Office has completed multiple mailings over the past few years trying to keep the public educated on these Programs. The last mailing was about one year ago and informed the public about removing 2b land with no payback requirements. A couple hundred people pulled their land out of the 2b Program. With the 2011 changes, they can enroll the land in the Rural Preserve Program. Letters were sent to those people asking them if they wanted to reapply. Next week, the Assessor’s Office will mail about 3,200 letters to those with land enrolled in Green Acres and who have the potential for the land to be enrolled in the Rural Preserve Program. The application deadline is 5-01-13 for placing the 2b land into the Rural Preserve Program with no type of payback. Kramber said today’s information was to update the Board. The Assessor’s Office is trying to complete the mailings in segments to they can accommodate the public’s requests. They ask the public to come in over a period of time instead of all at once, as it will be difficult to meet the public’s needs otherwise. Thelen questioned whether anything was gained through the process. Kramber said that in Wright County, they have gone through every agricultural property multiple times. The land breakdown is a little more defined. For Wright County, there has not been a lot of change other than staff time involved and public confusion on how to implement some of the changes. Kramber said there may have been benefit for other counties. Thelen asked the cost. Kramber responded it was hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thelen questioned if more people will qualify for the current Program. Kramber said there will probably be fewer people enrolled in the Program overall than now. This is because of the impacts of the 2008 changes on small tracts of land. In 1997, about 900-1000 properties had the agricultural classification pulled because of legislative changes. Through 2008, they worked to review some of the marginal properties that were included in the Program. Eichelberg suggested that another mailing be completed in January, 2013 as a reminder of the May, 2013 deadline. Kramber said the goal is to inform all property owners of property tax programs that may benefit them. A future mailing will be considered depending on the response received. The public will also be made aware of these changes as the Assessor’s Office completes the normal review process. Information on this topic was provided at the last Township Officers Meeting. Information may also be provided through the local media. Kramber said that if a property owner has, for example, 30 acres of wooded land and they don’t enroll in the Rural Preserve Program, it will no longer qualify and they will get billed for the payback. In 2013, if the 2b land enrolled is not enrolled in a program, a bill will be sent. This was provided as an informational item.
A Personnel Committee Meeting was held on 10-12-11. At today’s County Board Meeting, the following changes were made to the minutes: Page 1, last paragraph, 4th line should read, “Sawatzke said he doesn’t like them to read magazines during their shift, commenting that Bailiffs should be observant” (Sawatzke); Page 1, last paragraph, 6th line should read, “Sawatzke said two or three Bailiffs in front are sometimes too many” (Sawatzke); Page 2, 2nd paragraph, 2nd to last sentence should read, “Hagerty said he may not fill it immediately and has not advertised the position yet” (Sawatzke). On a motion by Sawatzke, second by Eichelberg, all voted to approve the minutes as corrected and the recommendations:
I. POSITION OPENINGS
A. Civilian Bailiff.
Sawatzke asked Pawelk whether an active list exists for this position. Pawelk replied they could do a seven or ten day posting. She said Civilian Bailiffs do not carry guns. The position requires a high school education. Sawatzke asked how many Civilian Bailiffs are employed by the County. Pawelk said there are currently two part time Civilian Bailiffs. The others are either temporary Deputies or full time Deputies.
Hagerty said Daniel Pobuda, Civilian Bailiff, is retiring at the end of October, 2011. Hagerty said Pobuda would stay on as a seasonal Bailiff if needed. He said this position is one of two part time people the Office uses. Sawatzke asked how many Bailiffs are employed by the County. Pawelk said there are two Civilian Bailiffs and the rest are deputized. Hagerty clarified there are about nine or ten Bailiffs. He said by Statute his Office has to cover the courts. Hagerty said once Judge McPherson starts, there will be five or six judges. He said some days every judge has court with two jury trials, requiring the Sheriff’s Office to have a Bailiff with each. The Office is usually given a week’s notice when the Courts need Bailiffs. Hagerty said there are several temporary Bailiffs. Sawatzke asked whether the Office has to call in Law Enforcement when all six judges are in session. Hagerty replied they call whomever they can get. The entrance can get congested when jurors return from breaks and have to re-enter through the metal detectors.
Eichelberg asked the wages for Civilian Bailiffs. Hagerty said about $15 per hour plus half benefits. Eichelberg said the only complaint he hears about them is when there are three at the front entrance. Hagerty said usually there are two in front and one at the back entrance. Sawatzke said he doesn’t like them to read magazines during their shift, commenting that Bailiffs should be observant. Hagerty agreed. Sawatzke said most of the Bailiffs serve a positive public relations purpose. Hagerty agreed. Sawatzke said two or three Bailiffs in front are sometimes too many. Eichelberg said a third one could patrol the area. Hagerty said sometimes a road Deputy or one of the Sergeants may stop in, and then there are three. He suggested one alternative would be to count how many come through the back door. He said most are probably employees. He said the County Courthouse parking lot is closer than many other courthouse parking lots. Hagerty said if the County had one public entrance, one less Bailiff would be no problem. Pawelk said the parking ramp is a public one and may be too far to walk in the winter for some residents if the back entrance was closed to the public. Sawatzke said the one Bailiff position could be re-evaluated in the event of budget constraints. Eichelberg said employees could still use the back entrance. Hagerty said the public may balk at only one entrance, but many courthouses only have one entrance. Eichelberg said it was a consideration. Sawatzke said the County always has Civilian and official Deputies on duty. Hagerty said the Office always wants one licensed Deputy in the area.
There was discussion about the pay grade a licensed Deputy receives if he or she accepts an unlicensed Deputy position. Hagerty said they are paid at the unlicensed level. Hagerty added he knows a Deputy who would be interested in the part time Bailiff position even though it would be a pay cut from a licensed position. Pawelk added the unlicensed Civilian Bailiff position is a different Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) fund than licensed officers. Sawatzke said there appears to be a need for the part time Civilian Bailiff position. Hagerty said he may not fill it immediately and has not advertised the position yet. Pawelk said she thought there was internal interest.
RECOMMENDATION: Authorization to hire part time Civilian Bailiff.
B. Sign Person.
Fingalson said the previous Sign Person transferred to the recent opening for a Highway Maintenance Person. That left a vacancy for the Sign Person position. Fingalson said that with the Highway Maintenance Person leaving, there is currently no one to perform these functions. Eichelberg asked the requirements for the Sign Person position. Cordell said they need a Class A driver’s license and good computer knowledge because of the sign inventory software. Eichelberg stated that if the Department hires at Step One, they should have no problem finding someone with those qualifications. Eichelberg stated he had no objections to hiring a Sign Person. Sawatzke agreed there was a need for this position to be filled.
RECOMMENDATION: Authorization to hire Sign Person.
II. REQUEST TO HIRE IT INTERN.
Swing said the Department has hired interns in the past to best utilize available dollars for personnel. The Department has decreased the hourly pay from $10 to $8. The intern is given a list of projects. Swing said the IT Department wanted to start an intern earlier in 2011 as $5,000 was budgeted for temporary help. The 67 day rule for temporary help would potentially extend the intern position, if approved, into 2012. Swing said he reduced the budget for temporary help from $5,000 in 2011 to $4,500 for 2012. They would like to start training the intern as soon as possible, cross over into 2012 and utilize funding allocated for that year. Sawatzke asked whether they have a candidate in mind at this point, and Nelson said no. Sawatzke asked whether interns get credits for school. Swing replied the intern typically goes to college and works for the County on the side. He said half of IT Department staff was originally part of a St. Cloud Technical College internship. Swing said they will advertise with St. Cloud Technical College. Nelson added they have advertised with Rasmussen College in St. Cloud as well. Sawatzke said the position is budgeted and they should proceed if the IT Department can get someone for $8 per hour. Swing said an intern frees up his technicians to do more intricate work. Sawatzke said after interns work for awhile, the Department can decide whether they want to hire them in the future. Nelson added the Department is clear upon hiring that there are no positions currently open, but that if something does become available, the intern could be considered a candidate. Eichelberg said it sounds like a good plan, and Sawatzke concurred.
RECOMMENDATION: Authorization to hire an Information Technology Intern.
III. FLEX TIME REQUEST (Human Services Board Agenda Item).
IV. CHIEF DEPUTY WAGE.
Hagerty said during previous meetings he explained how he restructured his Office organization. When David Miller was promoted to Chief Deputy, they talked about where he could start on the pay scale. Hagerty said he felt starting Miller at the step second to the top was appropriate as that was where both he and his predecessor started. Hagerty said Miller has more administrative experience than many of those in the Office. He said Miller worked as a road Sergeant early in his career, and is the person responsible for keeping the Office under budget. Hagerty said Miller is the Office finance person and a very good supervisor and team player. Hagerty said he realizes he could start Miller at the second to the top step were it not for pending arbitration on 11-16-11. He said if Miller’s pay were increased after the arbitration ended, he would like Miller to receive retroactive pay dating back to 1/3/11. Miller is currently at Step Seven of Nine on the Pay Scale, one step higher than the Captain’s wage. He said on 1-3-12 Miller will be eligible for the next higher step (step 8). His salary is $87,318.
Hagerty said he checked with counties and Carver is the most similar to Wright. Carver has 25% less population or approximately 89,000, but is similar in that they have many city contracts like Wright County with 13, as well as contracts with townships and schools. Hagerty said a new Chief Deputy at Carver County earns $103,900 and the one at Sherburne County makes $105,000 or $106,000 (although that person has been there a long time). Sawatzke asked whether the Chief Deputy is in charge of jail administration at Sherburne County. Hagerty did not know. He said Wright County is one of the top 11 counties in the state by population, but our County is unique in that there are not a lot of police departments. Anoka County does not have as much area to control and does not have the same number city police departments. Hagerty says he prefers the situation in Wright County with fewer police departments. He said Miller plans to be with the County for a number of years.
Eichelberg asked whether the issue was strictly about the pay rate. He signed the contract as Chief Deputy. Sawatzke said he appreciates Miller’s work, and he knows that anyone who moves up the ranks is good. Sawatzke said the Board just fought a costly battle, and one issue that arose pertained to past practices. Sawatzke said the County has to adhere to policy. Apparently in the past, the Chief Deputy started at Step 8 by various requests, which became a problem later. Miller became Chief Deputy after this issue arose. Sawatzke said the County now starts most at Step One. He said this is not a reflection on Miller’s skills or abilities, but the situation has changed. Hagerty said it helped when they dropped the bottom step, as his Office was losing people because the pay was $4,000-$8,000 per year under market compared to other jurisdictions. Hagerty said they are now better able to retain officers. He added there are a lot of advantages to working for the County. He said he started as Chief Deputy at the second Step from the top at what is now Step Eight. Hagerty said if it weren’t for the arbitration, he was hoping the Board would be more amenable to giving Miller a one step increase to get him closer to the step Hagerty received when he started in that position, given Miller’s experience. Eichelberg agreed with Hagerty but said if you do something different for one person others will request the same thing. He said the request is not feasible now or in the foreseeable future. Hagerty said he appreciated the opportunity to discuss the matter.
RECOMMENDATION: Deny request to increase Chief Deputy pay by one Step.
(End of 10-12-11 Personnel Committee Minutes)
Russek said a letter was received from a member of the public commending the Sheriff’s Office, specifically Sheriff Joe Hagerty and Detective Steve Sims. The issue relates to a couple being scammed by a blacktop organization. The Sheriff’s Office became involved and resolved the issue for the couple. They also asked the company to leave Wright County and reported the company to the Better Business Bureau. Sawatzke said there may have been a few other parties involved and the Sheriff’s Office intervened on their behalf as well.
Russek received an email from State Representative Sarah Anderson relating to the State’s proposed redistricting plan. The Legislature had the redistricting plan done and the Governor vetoed it. Now the issue has moved to the Courts system. It was the consensus that County Board members may respond on this issue individually if desired. It was felt there is not enough information for the County Board to act upon. The deadline to submit comment is 10-21-11.
Earlier in today’s Board Meeting, Mattson questioned a claim to the MN Department of Labor & Industry ($769.00) for a September surcharge. Upon review, Hiivala found that the payment relates to a $5.00 building permit surcharge collected for the State. The surcharge is remitted monthly.
Accurate USA. $276.50
Advantage Emblem Inc. 1,534.90
All Wheels Recovery 133.59
Ameripride Services 189.23
Ancom Communications Inc. 8,520.80
Annandale Rock Products 179.08
Annandale/City of 1,233.60
Aramark Services Inc. 13,251.80
Black Box Resale Services 244.00
Buff N Glo Inc. 180.00
Buffalo/City of 4,923.56
Center For Education & Emp 254.95
Center Point Energy 1,048.44
Clearwater River Watershed 2,199.16
Climate Air 3,030.20
Consulting Radiologists Ltd. 110.40
Corporate Payment Systems 1,337.91
Croteau Plumbing 1,019.02
CST Distribution LLC 305.68
Culligan of Buffalo 600.00
Dental Care Associates of B 226.00
Department of Public Safety 8,550.00
Eagle Point 1,013.75
Emergency Physicians Prof 621.54
Fibernet Monticello 359.80
Fleet Computing Internation 250.00
Gopher State One Call 158.15
Grand View Lodge 392.00
Granite Electronics 877.10
Greenview Inc. 17,210.95
Herald Jounal Publishing 229.77
Holiay Iinn - St. Cloud 179.70
Internation Code Council 617.99
Intoximeters Inc. 961.88
Karels Towing 197.72
Kris Engineering Inc. 1,249.97
L3 Communications Inc. 228.71
Larson Allen LLP 1,000.00
Larson Associates Inc. 876.00
Loberg Electric 2,497.45
Lostetter/Carol H. 300.00
Marietta Aggregates 250.95
Martin-McAllisters Consult 1,200,00
Mattila Electric/Roger 304.00
McQuay International 654.00
Meeker County Sheriff 250.00
Menards - Buffalo 140.02
Midland Corporate Benefits 997.75
Mini Biff LLC 133.28
MN CLE Inc. 245.00
MN Corrections Association 455.00
MN Counties Computer Coop 14,410.91
MN Department of Labor & In 769.00
MN Monitoring Inc. 597.00
MN State Bar Association 951.19
Moore & Moore Water Treatm 150.00
Morries Parts & Service Group 101.41
New River Medical Center 3,348.97
Norman/Richard W. 451.36
North American Salt Co. 20,238.48
Numara Software 3,404.17
Office Depot 830.58
Omann Brothers Inc. 1,091.30
Pepperball Technologies 395.00
Performance Kennels Inc. 182.78
PowerPlan OIB 229.56
Reds Auto Electric 102.34
Russell Security Resource 868.26
Safariland Training Group 350.00
Society for Human Resource 180.00
State of MN-Office Enterpri 965.00
Verizon Wireless 160.06
Village Ranch 2,061.28
Voss Lighting 484.14
Watchguard Electronic Ho 175.50
Wurm Construction/Keith 540.00
Zarnoth Brush Works Inc. 632.70
20 Payments less than $100 959.95
Final total $146,089.67
The meeting adjourned at 9:38 A.M
Published in the Herald Journal Nov. 7, 2011.