Wright Board discusses role of coordinator vs. administrator

By John Holler

Contributing Writer

In 2013, the Wright County Board of Commissioners debated the merits of keeping the position of county coordinator as opposed to changing the position to that of a county administrator. In the end, in fear of giving the impression that the county board was divided on the issue, by a 4-1 vote, it was determined that the board would stay with the county coordinator position.

Less than four years later, the same debate is taking place. At the July 11 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners discussed the committee of the whole minutes from June 27 discussing the merits of both positions and how to streamline the position to be more effective.

County Coordinator Lee Kelly said that he is comfortable with the discussion of changes because there is merit to easing the workload of the county commissioners because several routine, non-controversial decisions need to be delayed until the county board can give formal approval.

“It’s kind of a broad discussion at this point,” Kelly said. “They have a couple of different options. They could add some duties to the coordinator role or they could go to an administrator model and assign what are typically the duties of an administrator to that role. The board is kind of saying that they want to go to the administrator model, but there is a difference in the ways to get to that among the board members.”

Board Chair Charlie Borrell, a proponent of the coordinator model when the discussion took place in 2013, said he has softened on his stance. His view at the time was that an administrator would put a layer of bureaucracy in between the county board and department heads. But, in the interim time since, he has seen that those concerns were unfounded.

“The coordinator position works closely with the county board, but the administrator model would do many of the same things and have the authority to make decisions that are routine ones,” Borrell said. “For example, we had to wait to implement an eye-wash station in a county garage. It was something an administrator could have routinely done, but a coordinator doesn’t have that level of authority. That’s what we’re looking to change.”

The discussion was recessed until Aug. 1. At the current time, nothing is in place, but the expectation is that the changes in job duties will likely be forthcoming.

“No decisions have been at this time as what we’re going to do,” Kelly said. “I’m just trying to spark some dialogue because there are a lot of ways I feel that we could be a lot more effective and efficient in getting things done. That’s really our role – to best utilize the taxpayer dollar and get things done as efficiently and effectively as we can. I think it really behooves the role (of the coordinator/administrator) to bring forward those ideas to the board.”

In other items on the July 11 agenda, the board:

Authorized attendance at the Balancing Leadership & Risk Seminar training event sponsored by the Association of Minnesota Counties Sept. 6 in St. Paul.

Scheduled an owners committee meeting for 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 14. Among the agenda items to discuss are the costs and a site review of the future courts facility.

Awarded contracts for the CSAH 3 federal preservation project to Knife River Corp in the amount of $162 million, the Co. Rd. 131 preservation project to Knife River for $456,000 and a pair of rural intersection conflict warning systems – at CSAHs 35 and 6 and CSAHs 35 and 8 to Design Electrical Contractors..

Requested further information to narrow down a vendor for the potential purchase of body cams for sheriff’s department deputies.

Set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. at the Aug. 1 board meeting to discuss and approve a revised fee schedule for health and human services.

Approved a rezoning request of 31 acres in Marysville Township from AG General Agricultural at A/R Agricultural-Residential.

Scheduled a ditch committee of the whole meeting for 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 19 at the Wright County Highway Building.

Approved the conveyance of a tax forfeit parcel to the City of Rockford for roadway use and expansion within the city.

Announced that County Assessor Tony Rasmussen received a performance review of “Exceeds Expectations.”

Was introduced to Jennifer Hendricks, a new attorney in the Wright County Attorney’s Office.