Wright County prepares to define duties of department head

By John Holler

Contributing Writer


Several county department heads often wear several hats as part of their responsibilities, but few have two very different aspects of their job, much less in their job title.

At the meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners discussed the process that would be used to hire a new Veteran’s Services/Nuclear director.

The position had included a third job title — civil defense — but that was eliminated from the job description earlier in the month when it was addressed by the personnel committee. But, the debate came up as to which area the candidate that would be hired should be most experienced in — dealing with veterans issues or emergency management. The nuclear portion of the job deals with the nuclear power plant in Monticello when it conducts exercises that deal with potential emergency issues that might arise and how such emergencies would be handled.

Commissioner Charlie Borrell asked why so much emphasis was put on the veteran’s service end of the job? All six of the selected finalists were chosen based on their experience in veteran’s services, which Borrell questioned.

“Because it’s a dual job, how much weight are we going to put on the nuclear part of it, which may require a different skill set than the veteran services part?” Borrell asked. “I think more emphasis was put on the veteran’s services part of it and I don’t totally agree with that. I think hiring someone with leadership skills is very important that the emergency management skills would be important.”

Human Resources Director Tammy Bigelow said that 39 applicants met the minimum job requirements and the list was narrowed down to six — those who had the most experience in veteran’s services.

In the way of a compromise, Commissioner Pat Sawatzke suggested adding two more finalist candidates that were strongest in Emergency Management experience. Given the high number of applicants, having eight finalists would give the county a wider range of skill sets and personalities to choose from.

Board Chair Christine Husom said that her concern is that, as long as the board is hiring a new director, the amount of time anticipated to be spent on each aspect of the job should be spelled out and defined more clearly.

“These are two very separate things as far as their job goes,” Husom said. “Not that one person can’t do both, but, to me, emergency management is the same as risk management. They have many of the same components. My concern is that we need to be clear to the people we’re interviewing how much time will be spent on nuclear?”

After further discussion, the board decided to set criteria to define the division of the job duties before interviewing candidates. The final problem was coming up with a day when all commissioners could meet with candidates. Because the interviews were expected to last up to one hour, finding multiple days that worked for all commissioners wasn’t easy. After a couple of proposed dates were rejected, it was decided to conduct all the interviews on one day – from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5.

In other items on the agenda, the board:

WAS introduced to new Information Technology Director Adam Tagarro, who replaces longtime I.T. Director Bill Swing. Tagarro spent the last seven years in the same position with Benton County.

AUTHORIZED Parks Administrator Marc Mattice to submit an application to the State Parks and Legacy Grant Program for Phase 9 of the Bertram Chain of Lakes project. The grant request would be for $1.4 million with 90 percent of the cost coming from the grant program and the other 10 percent ($140,000) being split equally between the county and the City of Monticello. Borrell initially was going to vote against the application because he said he has requested that documents be drawn up specifically outlining the duties and responsibilities of both the county and the city and has yet to see such plans. He was informed that the process is underway and, after being told that, if the grant request was approved, the matter would have to come back to the county board for its approval. Borrell said he would vote for submitting the application, but if there isn’t a formal agreement in place outlining the duties of the county and city, he won’t vote in favor of authorizing the county match for the grant.

AUTHORIZED entering a joint powers agreement with the St. Paul Port Authority to allow the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program, which provides financing for clean, more efficient energy practices for business, ranging from large industries to geothermal heating of farms. Peter Klein of the Port Authority said that the PACE program has expanded from its initial scope centering on those businesses that were served by Xcel Energy. In early August, the Minnesota Department of Commerce to go statewide with the program. Klein came to Wright County because a request has been made by Buffie Chiropractic in Rockford to install a 40kw solar collection system to provide energy savings. County Coordinator Lee Kelly said he spoke with the officials from Sherburne County, which has already been involved in the program, and received very positive reviews.

APPROVED a lease agreement with the Buffalo School District for conducting the wRight Choice program, an alternative to out-of-school suspension that give students in grades 6-12 who have been suspended a chance to keep up with their school work while serving their suspensions. The program is split between academic work in the mornings and alternating afternoon presentations dealing with probation, chemical health, children’s mental health, public health, truancy intervention and community service. The contract runs through June 15, 2015 and calls for the county to be paid $26,744 in two payments due Sept. 15 and Jan. 15, 2015.

SET a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. at the Sept. 9 board meeting to get input on a request from the St. Michael-Albertville and Elk River school districts to potentially “swap” some properties within their respective districts that would switch a pair of properties from one school district to the other as the home district of those properties. The swap would equal on an acre-per-acre basis.

APPROVED a request from Franklin Township to execute a contract with SGA Group Inc. to prepare a report documenting the suitability of a land parcel in the township for the development of a township park. The cost of the study would be $4,000 and would be taken from Franklin Township’s portion of the park dedication fund at no cost to the county.