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County moves on at solid waste department

The Wadena County Board promoted Chris Harshaw to a supervisor wage for his role filling in as the temporary solid waste supervisor.

"He's done a fine job," Consultant Mike Gibson said. "I think under some really tough circumstances he's performed well for you."

Gibson suggested back pay amounting to $701.43 and a wage change from grade 48 step one at $10.15 an hour to grade 51 step one at $13.24 an hour.

Harshaw has served as supervisor since March 26 after the department director and an employee were placed on leave.

Gibson said the wage increase would not affect the county's union contracts where county employees accepted a wage freeze for this year. He said the county does need to be careful that it is acting properly and that's why he wanted time to make sure the county does it right.

Harshaw isn't receiving a step increase, Gibson said. His position was changed and that makes a wage increase appropriate. Harshaw was newly hired to a part-time position when he was asked to fill in full time.

Gibson has received calls from three different businesses that offered compliments on the running of the operation during Harshaw's tenure, he said.

The board also hired Mike Pete to serve as a temporary full-time operations manager at $10.98 an hour.

The board agreed to have Auditor-Treasurer Char West make a journal entry to credit Gibson's time spent on the solid waste reorganization to the solid waste fund.

Commissioner Ralph Miller suggested charging the solid waste account because of the "dire condition" of the general fund.

Commissioner Rodney Bounds suggested having former solid waste director Deana Skov get more involved in the reorganization of the department rather than paying Gibson.

"It's cheaper to have her," Bounds said. "She knows what goes on out there."

Gibson said that because of the problem at solid waste, law enforcement requested the previous director not be involved in the reorganization.

"[It's] not a reflection on her," Gibson made clear. "It's just not supposed to happen."

Gibson also gave an update on the lengthy list of safety issues reported by the man who does a model review of items the Occupations Safety and Health Administration inspects.

"For the most part those have been resolved now," Gibson said.

The steel wall used to load garbage when it's on the floor that had some terrible rips and bends in it was repaired, Gibson said. It will serve the county decently.

He believes the worst is over, he said. The transfer station is to the point it can still service the county. He is continuing to get quotes for a hook truck and should be able to present that information to the board at its next meeting, Gibson said.

When it's all said and done the solid waste situation will be a very expensive one for the county, Gibson said. The county saved money on part-time wages, but has had to pay him, Otter Tail County employees and an employee receiving full-time wages for paid leave among other expenses.