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County will receive MnDOT funds for another bridge

County Engineer Ryan Odden told commissioners at their Aug. 18 board meeting that Wadena County has received permission to go ahead with the bidding process to replace Bridge No. 7278 over the Partridge River on CSAH 26. The new bridge will have a new number, 80538, when it is constructed.

The total estimated cost of the bridge replacement is $442,434.50, all of which will come from County State Aid dollars and State of Minnesota Bridge Bond Funds.

This project brings the number of current bridge replacements in process in the county to five. The bridge on CSAH 7 over the Red Eye River is already underway. The Meadow Township Bridge, also over the Red Eye River, will be advertising for bids due in September.

At the Aug. 18 meeting, Odden asked the board for and received approval to prepare plans, purchase right of way, and apply for funding for Bridge No. 80501 over the Leaf River on CSAH 26. As soon as the plans are completed and sent to MnDOT, this bridge project will be eligible for funding.

The remaining current bridge project is the replacement of Bridge No. 92575 over the Cat River on CR 157. The board voted to approve Odden's request for permission to purchase right of way for this bridge reconstruction.

Doug Kingslies, fisheries biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural

Resources (DNR) Park Rapids office, appeared before the board to request county approval of the state's acquisition of 37 acres of land on Spirit Lake in the City of Menahga. The land will be used to create an Aquatic Management Area (AMA) to enhance water quality. The two parcels involved contain 940 feet of shoreline. The purchase is supported by the City of Menahga, Blueberry Township, and the Spirit Lake Association.

Spirit Lake Association President Connie Steiner was present at the meeting, and said, "The area is basically swamp. There are no building sites. We need that area to stay wild and we support the DNR plan."

Two other members of the public were present for the board's discussion of the DNR request, and they also supported the plan.

The board voted to approve the DNR purchase.

Also at the Aug. 18 meeting, Commissioner Bill Stearns told the board that the city of Wadena had agreed to let the county acquire city property located in the county landfill and use it as a place to put the 2010 tornado debris. Stearns said, "It took an act of the Minnesota Legislature to approve this. It will require removal of some debris that should not have been put there." He recommended that the board approve the resolution for the land acquisition, and commissioners voted for it.

Kevin Stensrude, county Management Information Systems director, attended the Aug. 18 meeting to explain the upcoming replacement of the county's fiber optic cable, which carries the electronic signals for the internet and email services among county buildings. The cable was purchased and installed in 1998. The reason it needs to be replaced is because it is old, because it is too small to carry the future volume of messages, and because the City of Wadena is taking down the poles on which the wires are currently strung.

Stensrude is not sure when the replacement will happen, because the city has not given him a date, but he believed it would be sometime in the next three years. He and Commissioner Lane Waldahl both recommended to the board that a reserve fund be set up to pay the estimated $60,000 cost of the wires, plus labor and installation. The new wiring would be expected to last 15 years.

Stensrude said the wiring is essential "because it gives us disaster recovery capability through our backup systems in another building" if the Courthouse were destroyed by fire or other causes.

No vote was taken about setting up the reserve fund, and Board Chair Rodney Bounds indicated that the matter would be discussed again as the county's budget process proceeds this month and next.

County Attorney Kyra Ladd attended the Aug. 18 meeting to participate in the discussion about the proposed county administrator or county coordinator position that has been under consideration during the past several board meetings.

Ladd provided commissioners with a packet of materials at the Aug. 2 board meeting, designed to give them the Minnesota Statutes that relate to the position of county administrator and county coordinator, several examples of job descriptions from other counties, an example of an employment agreement and other materials.

Discussion about the position among Ladd, Auditor/Treasurer Char West and commissioners centered around the qualifications for the positions of county administrator, county coordinator and human resources manager - all three of which are job titles that are being considered by the board for possible hiring. Ladd pointed out that the three positions were different from one another in their duties and that the qualifications for the positions differed as well, especially in education and experience.

Commissioners, West and Ladd discussed the services that management consultant Mike Gibson had provided to the county for the last several years, many of which were human resources services. Gibson told the board on numerous occasions that he believed the board should hire a person to perform human resources services and that it was a function that the county did not have but should have. But he always said, "I am not that person" who should be hired, "I am not looking for a job."

West asked Ladd whether combining the positions of county engineer and county coordinator would result in one job description or two job descriptions. Ladd said two, because the two positions if held by one person would each be part-time positions, and they would have different duties and there would be different qualifications for each position.

Ladd emphasized, "Whatever job you have with the county, you need to have identifiable objective qualifications for that job. The county needs to identify these qualifications and see who fits these qualifications, not design the qualifications to fit the person you want in the job."

Waldahl and West reported on the meeting they had with Todd County Commissioner Mark Blessing and County Administrator Nathan Burkett about the possibility of sharing of an administrator position between Wadena and Todd Counties. Waldahl and West said that the Todd County officials were interested, and that the example was discussed of Wadena County having the administrator two days per week and Todd County having the administrator three days per week.

Bounds recommended that the issue be turned over to the Wadena County management team for consideration.

In other business, the board:

• approved a resolution authorizing the Otter Tail Wadena Community Action Council to accept funds from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency for family homelessness prevention and assistance. The $99,300 grant will be administered by Wadena County.

• authorized the Sheriff's Department to accept the annual boat safety grant from the state.

• approved an unpaid leave of absence for Sheriff's Department Jailer/Dispatcher Tom Aagard from Aug. 13, 2011 to Feb. 12, 2012.

• learned that the county's dividend from the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust will be $176,760 in 2011.

• approved changes to the Joint Powers Agreement that governs the Central Minnesota Regional Radio Board, including a name change to the Central Minnesota Emergency Services Board.

• accepted with regret the resignation of Auditor/Treasurer employee Keona Gerads, with thanks for her three years of service.