WRIGHT COUNTY BOARD MINUTES
NOVEMBER 8, 2011
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek, Thelen, and Eichelberg present.
The 11-01-11 County Board Minutes were corrected as follows: Page 6, 6th paragraph, line 4, change from “Tammy Bauman” to “Tammy Dahlman” (Russek). Thelen moved to approve the minutes as corrected, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
Petitions were accepted to the Agenda as follows: Aud./Treas. Item #3, “County Ditch 10” (Hiivala); 9:10 A.M. Agenda Item, “Wayne Fingalson, Highway Engineer, RE: Hire Of Highway Maintenance Person” (Fingalson); Item For Consid. #2, “Tri-County Forensic Lab Meeting” (Russek); Item For Consid. #3, “Community Announcement” (Sawatzke). Eichelberg moved to approve the Agenda as amended, seconded by Mattson, carried 5-0.
Thelen moved to approve the Consent Agenda, second by Eichelberg. Mattson referenced Item B1 relating to the Dangerous Dog Contract with Crossroads Animal Shelter. Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, said the Sheriff’s Office recommends a two-year contract at the same rate. Crossroads Animal Shelter has also agreed to these terms. Crossroads takes care of the paperwork notifying people of a dangerous dog situation, and notification that animals must be registered and micro chipped. The motion to approve the Consent Agenda carried 5-0:
1. Performance Appraisals: M. Faulhaber, Aud./Treas.; B. Rhineberger, P&Z; J. Oltmanns, Sheriff.
2. Approve/Authorize Signatures On Memorandum Of Agreement With Non-Union Employees To Allow Donation Of Vacation Time To Employee.
3. O/T Report, Periods Ending 10-14-11 and 10-28-11.
4. Set Personnel Committee Of The Whole Meeting, 10:30 A.M., 11-15-11, RE: County Coordinator & Human Resources Director Job Descriptions.
1. Authorize Signatures On Two-Year Contract (2012-2013) For Dangerous Dog Services With Crossroads Animal Shelter.
C. PLANNING & ZONING
1. Accept The Findings & Recommendations Of The Planning Commission For The Following Rezonings:
A. Chris J. Uecker (Albion Twp.). Planning Commission unanimously recommend approval of the request to rezone 7.21 acres from AG & S-2 to R-1 & S-2.
1. Authorize Signatures Of Board Chair, County Coordinator & Sheriff On Additional Grant Fund Allocation For Off Highway Vehicle Safety Enforcement, $20,850.00. Grant Period: Date Of Approval Through 6-30-13.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, said the County Board previously authorized him to sign an Agreement with RT Vision reflecting payment terms for electronic timesheets and an employee product allowing self-service to access such things as pay stubs, time cards, W-2’s, etc. The Agreement being presented today reflects 50% due upon signing and 50% upon completion of the Pay Stub project (3-31-12). Hiivala said the Agreement was reviewed by Asleson. Richard Norman, County Coordinator, said the Agreement is between the County and RT Vision, yet there is only a signature line included for the County. After discussion, it was agreed that the Agreement should be modified to include signatures by the County Board Chair and RT Vision. Sawatzke asked whether the software has been tested. Hiivala said he has seen the time card reporting process. Several counties have implemented this and several more are going to it. The Pay Stub project is still being developed and will be paid for at the end of the project. Sawatzke asked what will happen if the product ends up not being available. Hiivala said the product is valued at $40,000 and the County will have paid $23,000. The vendor is agreeable to the County paying 50% up front even though the County is receiving more product than 50%. Hiivala anticipates going live with the time card product in February, 2012. He said there still will be some paper timesheets. Mattson moved to authorize signatures on the Agreement with RT Vision, seconded by Thelen, carried 5-0.
Hiivala provided an update on County Ditch 10. Last week, Hiivala attended a ditch viewer training session. Hiivala shared the County Ditch 10 pending actions with the group to obtain input. It was the group’s recommendation that the County should retain a ditch viewer or engineer to report on the project scope. Hiivala suggested the County look at retaining the services of Ron Ringquist, who has provided ditch assistance to the County in the past. It will be an applicable expense to Ditch 10. Russek stated that if Ringquist cannot provide this service, Kerry Saxton, SWCD, could be consulted to see whether he could recommend other engineers. It was the consensus that Hiivala will contact Ringquist to determine his availability prior to meeting with the petitioners. Russek will contact Saxton. Mattson moved to authorize Hiivala and Russek to work on the identified actions, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
The claims listing was reviewed. Mattson moved to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg. Russek referenced a claim on Page 15, Kurt Eich ($125.00) for steel toe boot reimbursement with funding from Unallocated Non-Highway Operations. Russek asked whether this should be funded from the Highway budget as Eich works for Parks. Wayne Fingalson, Highway Engineer, stated that the safety portion of the Highway budget includes all Public Works safety items. This change was made a couple of years ago. The motion to approve the claims carried 5-0.
Fingalson brought forth discussion on the filling of a Highway Maintenance position. Fingalson understood Sawatzke has concerns on the administrative process of filling the position. He explained the process has included a series of transfers between the Highway Maintenance and Sign Divisions. His feeling is that they are proceeding appropriately. Russek understands this is the same position approved in September but has involved transfers between the various Highway Divisions. Sawatzke stated that he had no idea this was going to be on the Agenda or he would have brought backup information. Sawatzke said that Mattson previously brought forward a policy on Agenda items. Sawatzke said his recollection is that general information items can be added but not specific action items, particularly those that are controversial or have a monetary value. He said the hire of the Highway Maintenance Person would be considered controversial, as it recently passed on a 3-2 vote a few months ago. The Personnel Committee is scheduled to meet in just eight days and this could be addressed at that time. Sawatzke said when the Highway Maintenance Person opening was discussed a couple of months ago and approved on a 3-2 vote, discussion involved timelines required to hire a person and train them prior to the winter season. Sawatzke would have liked to have that document available for discussion today. It would help determine whether it is practical to hire at this time and to proceed with the necessary training, because of the timelines required for publishing notice, receiving applications, and hiring. Sawatzke was unable to bring any of that information along as he was unaware that the request to fill the Highway Maintenance Person position was going to be petitioned onto the Agenda.
Sawatzke said there is a process in place for the Personnel Committee to review open positions, and that process clearly includes backfills. In every scenario where a position is filled, the backfill must go to Committee. Sawatzke received input that the Highway Maintenance position was being replaced and knew that the replacement hadn’t followed the appropriate procedures. He said this has been required of the Sheriff Department, much to the chagrin of the Sheriff. Sawatzke stated the position should be referred to the Personnel Committee next week and follow that process. It is a delay of eight days. He felt not doing so would set a precedence of not following the process of referring position replacements to Committee, and also of adding things to the Agenda that are controversial and have monetary consequences.
Russek said he agrees with Sawatzke to a certain extent. However, the Highway Maintenance position is the same position discussed previously by the Board. The process of filling the position has involved current employees moving within the Divisions. Initially, the Highway Maintenance Person position approved in September was filled by a Sign Person. Subsequently, a Highway Maintenance person filled the vacancy created by the Sign Person. This results in another Highway Maintenance position becoming open. Russek viewed it as the same position approved six weeks ago. He said it is not like when an employee leaves the organization. Russek said that is the only reason he allowed it to be petitioned onto the Agenda.
Eichelberg agreed and asked Richard Norman, County Coordinator, whether he sees a problem related to Sawatzke’s concerns. Norman stated that the County Board has referred all position openings to the Personnel Committee for review. The 49er’s contract is unique in that posting requirements must be met for all jobs covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Agreement requires posting for a set amount of days. Employees move to different shop locations. It is a unique recruiting situation for those covered by that Contract and involves a longer process to hire an employee.
Mattson agreed with Sawatzke’s comments. He is adamant that action items should not be petitioned onto the Agenda. He felt the filling of the Highway Maintenance Worker position could be placed on the Personnel Committee Agenda next week so posting requirements are met. Mattson’s view is that the Board is losing control with departments and actions they are taking. At this time, he feels the request should be forwarded to the Personnel Committee next week.
Fingalson said this request should not be on the Board Agenda. It is, however, because of the interference with the administrative process. Fingalson feels they are proceeding with the proper process as the replacement has already been approved by the County Board. In response to Mattson’s request to have this replacement sent to the Personnel Committee, Fingalson stated doing so would add an additional two week timeline in order to gain approval (by the time the issue goes to Committee and the Committee’s recommendation is presented to the Board for approval). Fingalson felt a sense of urgency in filling the position. In September, they did not foresee the process would take this long. They still don’t have an employee to be trained for snow and ice control. The internal posting requirement has been met and they do have a candidate they are ready to hire. The holdup is waiting for the Board to allow them to move forward with the administrative process. He restated that the position was already approved. Now they are being asked to wait until the Personnel Committee Meeting and the following Board Meeting to gain approval to fill the position. The only reason this is being discussed today is that the process was stopped by a Commissioner. Fingalson stated he would like authorization to proceed with the proper process of filling the internal position and then externally advertising for the Highway Maintenance Person position. He feels it will still take until December to fill the position. He said it has taken this long (from September 13) to move through the internal process. He viewed asking for approval to fill the position again as a waste of time.
Sawatzke said it has been suggested that he intervened in the process. He said this is incorrect. He contacted the County Coordinator and asked him about the situation. At the time of the phone call, Sawatzke indicated his opinion to Norman on consistency and on how this has been handled in the past. Sawatzke said he does not have the authority to give orders to any Department Head; that would take three County Commissioners. Sawatzke spoke with Norman on the process used to date and whether this was consistent with how requests from other departments have been handled. He provided the examples of a Court Services backfill about 1.5 months ago and replacement of Deputy positions in the Sheriff’s Office. He said the Sheriff’s Office has come in 2-3 months in a row with Deputy positions. Sawatzke said apparently Norman must have contacted Fingalson. He asked Norman to clarify if that is what happened. Norman said his recollection of the conversation is that someone contacted Sawatzke and questioned why there was a posting in the Highway Department for a Highway Maintenance Person position. Norman indicated to Sawatzke that he would look into it. Then Sawatzke made a comment that the item should go to the Personnel Committee for review like all other position openings. Norman said that when they were completing the interview process for the Sign Person, he was consulted by the Highway Department and a Personnel Representative on the Highway Maintenance position. His perspective was that the position was already approved so it should be posted. Today, Sawatzke said that is not the information he received from Norman on the telephone. Norman responded that he didn’t have that information at the time of the phone conversation. His staff member reminded him of the conversation held with Highway Department staff on filling of the position. Sawatzke said during the telephone conversation, Norman acted surprised that this action was taking place. Norman said he was, as he did not know there was a posting.
Sawatzke asked Norman whether he had available the Board’s policy on adding items to the Agenda. Norman stated that he did not have that information available for the meeting. Fingalson stated the 49er’s contract is somewhat unique with posting requirements. Fingalson did not know if any other bargaining unit within Wright County has that requirement. It makes those positions somewhat unique. Fingalson stated the position posting was clearly done with the County Coordinator’s approval and they were proceeding accordingly without this delay. Fingalson said they are on borrowed time and still have to hire before training can be completed. Russek asked whether they anticipate another employee transfer. Fingalson stated they are done. Last Friday, they met the posting requirement and they are ready to hire. That action was put on hold by the Administration Department pending discussion today. Fingalson asked for approval to proceed on granting the internal posting opportunity to the person and to allow them to externally advertise. Thelen asked for clarification. She said it sounds as though this is controversial, but it also sounds like someone gave the okay to post the position so this should not be an issue. She asked what made the Personnel Director tell Fingalson to stop. Norman said the actual advertising for the position opening has not occurred externally. The position has been posted per 49er’s Contract requirements. Wright County lost a grievance arbitration hearing years ago. The County is now required to post openings to allow 49er’s employees the opportunity to internally move from shop to shop or position to position. Until this process is complete, the position cannot be advertised externally.
Sawatzke referred to the issue of controversy as it pertains to items being added to the County Board Agenda. He said because of the discussion they were having today, this is a controversial item. Russek said he allowed this discussion to be petitioned onto the Agenda as he feels the position was already approved in September. The same position was approved in September; there has been internal movement of employees delaying the filling of the position. Sawatzke said if the Board approves this request, the policy on not petitioning controversial items to the Agenda might as well be thrown away. Russek stated this should not be a controversial item as the position replacement was already approved. Sawatzke responded that it was not approved. The Highway Maintenance position approved in September was a different position and was already filled. This request is for a new opening for a Highway Maintenance Person.
Eichelberg said whether this is sent to the Personnel Committee for approval or discussed now, his position has not changed. He said the Highway Maintenance position should be filled for the same reasons presented the last time the topic was discussed. He cited such things as traffic, commuters, and school buses that all need to utilize maintained State and County roads. Thelen said by looking at what Sawatzke is saying, it is the same position but a different person filling it. It would be like the Deputy openings. Thelen said the Board requires all the Deputy openings to come before the Committee. She feels the issue is that Fingalson was told to go ahead and post for the Highway Maintenance position. Now Fingalson is stuck in this administrative process.
Mattson asked for clarification. He said when there was a Sign Person opening, a request was presented to fill that position. Fingalson said that is because it was a different Division and a different job. Mattson said that the person will need training. He questioned whether the Highway Maintenance person that moved to the Sign position will need training. Fingalson said the person will need training. That is why they are under the gun to get the person hired so they can train the individual. The time involved with posting requirements has been a source of frustration. They did not realize there would be this much switching between Divisions. However, there has been and they must honor the 49er’s Contract. They took the lead of Personnel to post the position and they would like to be able to continue with that process. Fingalson said this is the same position that was already approved. The budget includes funding for this position to begin 11-01-11. They will be fortunate to have the position filled by the second week of December. He asked the Board to approve continuing with the process, allowing them to award the internal posting opportunity and to proceed with external advertising.
Mattson said he felt this was out of order. Mattson made a motion to send the Highway Maintenance position to the next Personnel Committee. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke. Sawatzke asked Fingalson whether he had the supporting documentation that was provided on the position about 2.5 months ago. The documentation outlined the necessity of filling the position at that time. Fingalson said that was presented with the budget and he did not have that along. Sawatzke said this is a situation of something being placed on the Agenda with no notice or supporting documentation. He felt it was setting a bad precedence to act on this today. He said the Highway Department and the 49er’s are not exempt from this policy of the Board, which he felt has been pretty much honored since he has been a Board member. Sawatzke said Fingalson could have contacted him at home after he learned that Sawatzke has an issue with this. Fingalson could have told him that he was bringing it to the Board today.
Thelen asked for Asleson’s opinion on whether this is setting precedence or whether this is controversial in nature (relating to the rules the Board has on bringing something forward). Asleson referenced the Open Meeting Law which governs the Board’s meetings. There is nothing in State law to require the Board to have an agenda. If there is an agenda, copies must be available for the public. He said there are items that may be added to any public entity’s meeting agenda. The policy the County Board adopted previously relates to not adding controversial items to the Agenda. That policy, whether written or unwritten, has been something that has governed how the County Board has acted for as long as he could recall. That being said, he stated that a policy is a policy, not a law. It is not something that needs to be followed 100% of the time, depending on the circumstance. Asleson said when he advises departments on policy (not an ordinance or law), he indicates there are exceptions to the rule. He suggested the Board include some flexibility or they will build themselves into a corner. Asleson added that he is not familiar with the situation in September when the Highway Maintenance position was approved. Thelen said it seems as though there would be no controversy if Norman had remembered that he had told Fingalson to post for the position and recalled that when Sawatzke contacted him. In that situation the Board could have indicated, outside of this process, that there are some inconsistencies and the policy could be tweaked. Thelen said the Sheriff is required to come back to Committee for every Deputy opening. In this case, Fingalson was told to go ahead with the Highway Maintenance position. He has a person that is waiting to start and there is snow coming. It has been established as an important position. Thelen said in response to Mattson, the fact that the Board does not look at this again does not mean their authority has been surrendered. They have more important things to do than discuss this again and make Fingalson go through this process. She said if this is controversial, the problem doesn’t reside with this hire. It resides with the communication, memory loss, etc. Thelen said she cannot support requiring Fingalson to go back to the Personnel Committee because of a communication failure. Fingalson indicated he has a conflict on the date of the next Personnel Committee Meeting. He is scheduled to make a presentation at a conference in Duluth. This position was discussed at length at a previous Transportation Committee Of The Whole Meeting and also at the Board Meeting on 9-13-11. He maintained it is the same position.
Sawatzke asked Fingalson if anything has changed in the last 2.5 months on the need for the position. Fingalson said it has not. Sawatzke said Fingalson’s self-described deadlines of a couple of months ago, where Fingalson said the position had to be filled right away or it wasn’t practical to do so, are now obsolete. Sawatzke said he attended an Association of Minnesota Conference approximately a week ago. At that meeting, they were informed of a $6 billion deficit for the State’s next biennium. Sawatzke said all the gimmicks are gone, and there will be $6 billion in real cuts. The world has changed in 2.5 months and the facts in this situation have changed. However, the Board is considering not having the discussion on this position and the policy can be thrown out the window because it can be. He said this position was not reflected on the Agenda, and that Fingalson knew Sawatzke had an issue with this. He asked Fingalson how he would know that this would be petitioned onto the Agenda. He had no ability to make a reasonable, justifiable argument because he is working from memory and no one told him it would be on the Agenda. Fingalson responded that if Sawatzke had concerns, he could have contacted him as well.
The motion failed 2-3 with Thelen, Eichelberg and Russek casting the nay votes. Eichelberg made a motion to approve the request to post the Highway Maintenance position externally. The motion was seconded by Thelen. Sawatzke said that the County now has a Sign Person that has been a Highway Maintenance Person. During emergency snow events, that person could drive truck. This option was not present before and will help to keep the budget down. Fingalson said all employees in the Sign position have CDL Licenses. Sawatzke said that the former Sign Person did not have hundreds of hours of experience, as this person will. Fingalson stated they are short-staffed in the Sign Division because of a workers compensation issue. He understands Sawatzke’s concerns on the economy. The job of the Highway Department is to maintain roads.
Mattson stated that the Board could go through this every week, the way they are breaking rules on adding things to the Agenda. Russek said this position was one that had already been approved. That is the only reason he allowed it to be added to the Agenda and the only reason it is being acted upon. If it were not approved, it would have to go to the Personnel Committee. Due to the internal postings, the job never was filled. Mattson said he employed 70 people in the private sector. He didn’t have people bouncing from job to job. They stayed at their job or they didn’t have one. He understands unions are different than the private sector. In the private sector, there is more control on what positions people fill. Fingalson said the County does not have that luxury as that is what the 49er’s Contract requires. Mattson had concern with adding action items to the Agenda. Thelen said this is a special situation. She referenced Asleson’s comments about flexibility. What they are trying to do is prevent the impeding of this particular process. Thelen said it seems as though this involves a glitch in what Personnel told Fingalson to do and also in the discussion between Personnel and Sawatzke. Sawatzke said he is disappointed in Personnel’s handling of this because of the lack of consistency. Having said that, regardless of how Personnel would have handled it, next Wednesday is when the position would have been on the Personnel Committee Agenda. Nothing Personnel told Fingalson either way would have impacted this being on the next Personnel Committee Agenda, with the proper documentation to support the request. He told Fingalson that staff can attend the Personnel meeting in his absence. Fingalson said the issue is the delay. Sawatzke said Fingalson may see it as a delay, but he sees it as an opportunity for discussion. Whether the person is hired two weeks earlier or later, the world is not going to come to an end. He viewed that as far less of a problem than throwing out the County’s policy on adding things to the Agenda, which he said has existed as long as he has been a Board member. He questioned what will happen in the future when an issue is petitioned onto the agenda (not posted) and a person who might have interest in the issue does not have the opportunity to attend because they did not know about it. Thelen said the Board will need to consider items as they come forward. She viewed this as a situation where the Board will want to take action. The motion carried 3-2 with Sawatzke and Mattson casting the nay votes.
Eichelberg moved to schedule a Board of Commissioners Tour of the Jail/LEC on 11-14-11 at 11:00 A.M. The motion was seconded by Thelen. Norman said the Agenda will include: 1) Tour of the Jail/LEC; and 2) Program to Discuss the Structure of the Sheriff’s Office. The meeting meets the open meeting law requirements. The Agenda will be posted and minutes will be taken. The motion carried 5-0.
Russek recently attended a meeting of the Tri-County Forensic Lab. Anoka County is discussing a merger with Hennepin County, resulting in a possible four County forensic lab. The members of the three counties indicated they all want the opportunity to approve this merger. Russek said the merger would speed up the accreditation of the Lab. They are filling a Laboratory Qualified Assurance position at a salary of about $70,000/year. There are six qualified applicants. The Lab is planning a workshop for the three counties after the first of the year. This was an informational item.
Sawatzke extended congratulations to the Monticello Girls Cross Country Team that finished in first place in the State Tournament. Eichelberg said Annandale will compete for the first time in the State Football Tournament.
Alexandria Technical Colle $150.00
Allina Hospitals & Clinics 17,484.25
Ameripride Services 322.54
Annandale Advocate Inc 225.00
Anoka County Corrections 7,696.00
Aramark Services Inc. 6,252.25
Bachman Printing 481.46
Barker Co/Bob 5,282.44
Beaudry Propane Inc. 792.11
Buffalo/City of 78,587.41
Centra Sota Cooperative - E 14,760.90
Central McGowan Inc. 221.24
Climate Air 3,686.53
Cokato Township 279.29
Community Lawn Care 260.87
Delano/City of 2,206.20
Emergency Physicians Prof 507.00
Felger Ramos LLC/Maria 100.00
Forest Mushrooms Inc. 500.00
Franklin Township 1,931.50
French Lake Township 946.80
Hewlett Packard 7,458.73
Hillyard Inc. - Minneapolis 7,505.79
International Code Council 798.00
Intoximeters Inc. 443.53
Kustom Blinds & Draperies 1,490.90
Lacount Sales LLC 1,201.02
LaPlant Demo Inc. 1,499.04
M & M Express Sales and Ser 179.34
Maple Lake Township 1,002.00
Marco Inc. 1,323.30
Marietta Aggregates/Martin 775.89
Martin-McAllisters Consult 800.00
Menards - Buffalo 132.03
Middleville Township 547.60
Midland Corporate Benefits 997.75
Office Depot 722.95
Ragan Communications 129.00
SHI International Corp 723.67
Solar Winds Inc. 2,995.00
Southside Township 835.60
Steve O Septic 420.00
Strategic Technologies Inc. 318.23
The Sign Man of MN Inc. 208.41
Total Printing 1,015.74
University of Minnesota 900.00
Vance Brothers Inc. 4,407.79
Waste Management - TC West 2,220.76
Waverly/City of 447.25
West Metro Opthamology 239.40
35 Payments less than $100 1,732.65
Final total $215,389.49
The meeting adjourned at 9:53 A.M.
Published in the Herald Journal Nov. 28, 2011.