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Employee issue unresolved, transfer station reopens

The Wadena County Solid Waste Transfer Station reopened Wednesday morning and will be open its regular hours for community use after being closed for two weeks due to the placement of two employees on leave.

The county board temporarily appointed staff and plans to reevaluate the running of the entire department due to serious safety concerns and inefficiencies as reported by Human Resources Consultant Mike Gibson, who was retained by the county to oversee the reorganization of the department.

Solid Waste Director Scott Carpenter was placed on unpaid leave and transfer station employee Joel Walsvik was placed on paid leave until further notice following a March 25 emergency closed county board meeting to "give preliminary consideration regarding allegations or charges in a criminal matter against a county employee," as stated by Chairman Dave Schermerhorn, according to minutes from an open meeting that followed.

Chris Harshaw, a recently hired part-time solid waste employee, will serve 40 hours a week as the temporary solid waste supervisor until the personnel issue is resolved as recommended by the solid waste/ hazardous waste committee, which met on Monday to discuss the issue.

Tammy Ehrmantraut, a part-time solid waste administrative assistant, will work several hours per day at the transfer station issuing receipts, running reports and completing deposits.

The county is advertising and will hire, prior to May 1, a temporary full-time truck driver/recycling processor, as the committee recommended. Starting April 1, Otter Tail County is providing one full-time truck driver until May 1 at Wadena County's expense.

The transfer station is open to local household garbage and demolition items, according to the recommendation. Haulers will continue to bring Wadena County recycling to the transfer station.

The board also agreed to research purchasing a late model used truck with a hook system due to what Gibson said were serious safety concerns with the county's current truck.

The county is taking this opportunity to go through the building and the whole solid waste operation to examine concerns.

"I think there's some real inefficiencies in our operation," Gibson said.

The building is poorly designed because the county needed something "quick and cheap" when it was constructed, Gibson said after talking with the architect about it.

Gibson is also asking the man who does Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspections to go through solid waste with a "fine-toothed comb" to make sure everything is up to date, he said.