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Wadena EMS Director McKellep resigns

 By Rin Porter

Wadena Commissioners learned at their Aug. 22 meeting that Emergency Management Services (EMS) Director Scott McKellep is resigning to take a job with the State of Minnesota. Chief Sheriff's Deputy Bill Cross made the announcement. The board voted to accept the resignation with regret.

McKellep told the board during his scheduled appearance on another matter that in his new job he would be coordinating the training center for emergency services at Camp Ripley as a civilian employee, not with the Minnesota National Guard. He would be trained at a location in Maryland, and then return to Minnesota to adapt a new training curriculum to the Minnesota counties' needs.

A discussion of the need to replace McKellep in the position was led by Cross. The Sheriff's Department would like to reclassify the EMS Director position and upgrade the qualifications for the position by requiring the EMS Director to be a licensed peace officer and Sheriff's Deputy. The position would also be changed from a Grade 53 to a Grade 54 in the county's employee pay equity system.

The board voted to have Sheriff Mike Carr and Chief Deputy Cross meet with Teamsters Local 320 business manager Joanne Derby to discuss the proposed changes in the position with her, to see whether the changes would be acceptable to the union.

After speaking with Derby, the Sheriff could post the opening in-house if the union agrees to the changes. If the union does not agree, then a pay equity study would have to be completed by an independent contractor to evaluate the position and see where it fits in the county's grade and pay scale.

Toward the end of the county board meeting, County Engineer Ryan Odden gave a powerpoint presentation on the proposal for the county to adopt a one-half percent sales tax, effective Jan. 1, 2014. The proceeds would be used to pay for transportation projects in Wadena County.

Odden gave information indicating that the average person in Wadena County would pay an estimated 67 cents per month for the sales tax. The tax is estimated to bring the county an additional $800,000 in revenue in 2014, if adopted.

Odden obtained his figures from the Office of the Minnesota State Demographer. He said that the additional funds would allow the County Highway Department to carry out a set of needed road work projects next year, and every year that the tax remains in effect.

Commissioners thanked Odden for his presentation and asked Auditor/Treasurer Judy Taves to put the issue on the agenda for a special meeting, scheduled for Sept. 10, at which the county's 2014 budget will be completed and the 2013 pay 2014 preliminary levy set.

In other business, the board:

• approved a budget for public defenders to serve the county in 2014. There was no change in the costs requested by the attorneys who serve as public defenders.

• rescinded a motion passed on Aug. 6 to appoint Mark Hanson as the county's economic development director, and put the economic development issue on the agenda for the special meeting on Sept. 10. County Attorney Kyra Ladd told the board that it had not followed Minnesota Statutes correctly in appointing Hanson, and that it would need to appoint an economic development authority committee first, before appointing an economic development director.

• approved the hiring of Lance Uselman as a permanent part-time jailer/dispatcher.

• learned that the county's health insurance committee had recommended a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for 2014 that would decrease the county's health insurance premiums by 10 percent.

• scheduled a discussion and walk-through with Widseth, Smith, Nolting and the contractor for the fairgrounds for the Sept. 10 special board meeting.

• approved an increase in the Human Resources Services contractor's budget of $5,520 to allow contractor Cheryl Goettig to continue working for the county until Dec. 31.

• asked County Engineer Odden to bring cost information comparing natural gas and propane gas rates and installation prices for the Sheriff's Building at the fairgrounds to the Sept. 10 special meeting.

• heard a request from the Building Maintenance Services Department to purchase a new vehicle to provide snow removal for the county building parking lots. As a result of the discussion of this issue, additional options besides purchasing a new vehicle will be considered at the Sept. 3 board meeting.