Wright County employees upset over job classification process

By John Holler

There was a larger-than-normal audience at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners. At first it was thought that the group, which included many county employees, was there to praise the commissioners — four of whom were being presented with plaques honoring their service to the county. Instead, they were there to express concerns over a pending county board decision.

What brought the crowd was a presentation by George Gmach of Trusight, a consultant hired by the county to oversee the county’s updated job description point system. Gmach presented the county board with the job description figures, which assigned points to every position within the county government. However, it became clear that the employees weren’t part of the process since submitting job descriptions two years ago.

County Attorney Tom Kelly said that the employees had been largely been kept out of the process, including the documents the county board was referencing at the Dec. 18 meeting.

“I just hope that what you’re reading is something we can read,” Kelly said. “I’ve been sitting back here (in the county board room) and have no idea what you’re reading.”

Several employees indicated when asked by Board Chair Rose Thelen that not only were they not part of the process, they weren’t aware that the matter was going to be voted on until a couple employees noticed that it had been included on the Dec. 18 agenda.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke quizzed Gmach about the process, saying that all job descriptions were either submitted by department heads or the employees of a specific position themselves with their department head signing off on the proposed job description. He also added that there were 73 appeals of the initial job description point system list of 150 classifications and that 14 classifications were changed as a result. Sawatkze said that, given the time and effort put into the process, it would be unfair to drop the process on to the new commissioners that will take over in January — a sentiment shared by Commissioners Jack Russek and Dick Mattson.

“This has been a two-year process,” Sawatzke said. “I think it wouldn’t be right to get 99.9 percent of the process done and handing it over to a new board that hasn’t been involved in the process.”

By a 4-1 vote, the board approved the job description list. Thelen voted against the list, citing that department heads were left out of the process.

In other items on the Dec. 18 agenda, the board:

AUTHORIZED signatures on a Memorandum Of Understanding with Corinna Township concerning shoreland planning and zoning authority. Earlier in the month, the county board denied a request to turn shoreland planning over to the township, instead voting to extend the current agreement that has the county retaining ultimate authority for the next five years. That plan was rejected by the township. The MOU extends the current agreement for one more year.

APPROVED an agreement with the Minnesota Deaprtment of Transportation to provides the county and MnDOT to exchange federal founds for State Aid funds in order to provide greater efficiency for administrating federally funded projects. Under the agreement the county would receive $704,000 in federal funding for the CSAH 75 project, while $704,000 in state aid funds would be shifted to Crow Wing County as part of a funding exchange.

AUTHORIZED continuing the county’s Voluntary Leave Without Pay program for 2013. The program allows employees (with department head approval) to take addition time off without pay during the summer months as a way of saving money for the county.

RENEWED an agreement with MnDOT that allows the county highway department and MnDOT to perform work on behalf of the other, such as routine maintenance. The partnership agreement has been in place for five years and both sides have cited good cooperation on the project.

APPROVED a joint powers agreement with the multi-county CommUNITY Adult Mental Health Initiative. The program is operated with several counties and generate state and federal grant funds. Given that the group receives approximately $2.2 million in grant funds annually, it was determined a joint powers agreement should be in place between the CommUNITY organization and the counties it represents.

APPROVED a policy to allow county employees to have paychecks directly deposited into their bank accounts if they choose to enter into the program. Many private businesses use direct deposit and the county believes money will be saved by utilizing the system.

SET the mileage reimbursement rate for county employees in 2013 at 50 cents a mile.

INCREASED the county’s insurance contribution for non-union employees with family health insurance by $50 a month, effective March 1.