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County MIS Director Stensrude to deploy again

At the Nov. 1 county board meeting, Wadena commissioners learned that their Management Information Systems director, Kevin Stensrude, is once again being called to active duty, this time in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar.

Stensrude served eight months on active duty in Iraq during 2009. While he was away, the firm of Morris Electronics was contracted to provide professional MIS services for two days per month on site, and two county employees who work in Stensrude's department added some duties and responsibilities to their jobs to handle county information systems needs in Stensrude's absence. The temporary changes in 2009 were negotiated by management consultant Mike Gibson with Joanne Derby, business manager for Local 320 of the Teamster's Union that represents some county employees.

Commissioners anticipated that similar arrangements will be needed for Stensrude's 2012 deployment. He will serve with the U.S. Air Force 934th Airlift Wing for 60 days, but will be absent from his county position for about 90 days.

Commissioners voted to grant Stensrude a leave of absence from Jan. 1 to March 30, 2012, to fulfill his military service commitment. Auditor/Treasurer Char West and Stensrude will review the contracts and policies that were in place in 2009 to handle his absence, and determine whether they need to be updated. They will report back to the board.

Another event at the Nov. 1 meeting was the annual presentation of the State Auditor's Report to the county about its finances. Bob Johnson, of the Moorhead office, appeared before the board to deliver the report.

Johnson congratulated commissioners and county department heads on their careful money management and accounting practices during calendar year 2010, which was covered by his report.

Johnson said, "You've achieved an 11 percent increase this year in your fund balances. They are now at 87 percent of what we recommend. This is an upward trend that has been maintained since 2008, when your fund balances were at 41 percent of what we recommend."

Johnson also complimented the major fund managers - Auditor/Treasurer Char West, County Engineer Ryan Odden, and Social Services Director Paul Sailer - for their stewardship of county funds. All three funds increased substantially over 2006 levels, when the county was in poor financial condition. The General Fund and Road and Bridge Fund experienced the most dramatic improvements.

In other business, the board:

• approved a resolution acknowledging the transfer of ownership of the Perham Resource and Recovery Facility (PRRF), known as the incinerator, from the city of Perham and the Joint Powers Board, to the Prairie Lakes Municipal Solid Waste Authority (PLMSWA) made up of Becker, Otter Tail, Todd and Wadena counties. The transfer took place in June 2011.

• authorized County Engineer Ryan Odden to advertise a used county plow truck for sale in the statewide Minnesota Township Association newsletter. No bids were received for the truck in a recent local advertising campaign.

• authorized Odden to prepare and advertise for bids four upcoming highway construction projects for 2012.

• authorized the Solid Waste Department to hire two casual employees to work 11.5 hours per week at the county transfer station, contingent upon review of the hiring process by labor attorney Steve Burton and Teamsters business manager Joanne Derby. The new employees will eliminate the county's need to pay overtime to full-time employees who had been working every third Saturday, and will provide increased service to residents. Solid Waste Director Mike Hanan told the board that recycling activities have increased dramatically in the past two years.

• authorized two general fund cash advances to the Solid Waste Fund to alleviate cash flow problems. The cash flow problems are occurring because the county is having to pay bills related to the tornado debris clean-up, but has not received money from FEMA and the Minnesota Department of Homeland Security to cover the bills. All the bills will be covered eventually. Auditor/Treasurer Char West told the board that the county will not need to borrow money to pay the bills. About $1 million is owed to the county for tornado debris clean-up.

• approved a charitable gambling permit for Wadena County Pheasants Forever.

• selected Wadena State Bank as the depository for county employees' Health Savings Plan services.

• selected several alternate November dates for the upcoming closed board meeting to be held with the county labor attorney Steve Burton to discuss negotiations on a possible grievance with Teamsters Local 320.

The four-hour board meeting adjourned at 1:12 p.m.