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Wadena Board reaches labor agreement with Transit System employees

Wadena commissioners approved a salary and benefit agreement at the April 1 board meeting between the county and the friendly rider transit system employees, who were transferred to the Highway Department effective on that date.

The employees previously were part of the services department, which operates under MERIT system rules that are somewhat different from those of the highway department.

The new labor agreement is in effect from April 1, 2014, to December 31, 2015.   The workers will retain their existing salaries and benefits in the new agreement, which was referred to as a “standstill” agreement by the county’s labor attorney, meaning that it doesn’t change anything.  The workers carry with them their current pay, benefits, and rules.  The agreement will be in effect until its end date, unless the workers decide to join the highway department workers’ union known as the 49ers.

The agreement was negotiated by County Engineer Ryan Odden, who is the workers’ new boss; former social services director Paul Sailer; and labor attorney Ronald Brandenburg of St. Cloud, a member of the firm Quinlivan and Hughes that the county has retained to advise on labor issues. They met with the employees and with the 49ers representative to make sure that everyone’s concerns were discussed.

“Our goal was to keep the transition as smooth as possible,” Odden told the board.

Odden asked the board to table once again the discussion of the lease for the friendly rider transit service building, currently being remodeled as a joint project between the county and MNDOT. Odden said that he had talked extensively with representatives of MNDOT since the last board meeting but had not had time to write up the changes in the agreement that the parties had selected and had not discussed them with County Attorney Kyra Ladd.

While Odden was present at the board meeting, he was asked by the board about two of the county’s upcoming facilities projects under discussion:  replacement of the county’s generator and replacement of the social services building roof.

Emergency management services director Luke Manderschied presented information on a proposed RFP for purchase and installation of a new generator – a project costing an estimated $150,000. Manderschied had gathered information from several companies that manufacture generators and prepared a set of specifications for that equipment. He asked the board to approve the issuing of an RFP to provide the generator, install it, and make the electrical connections.

But Commissioner Bill Stearns questioned the scope of the RFP because it did not include the services of an electrical engineer to develop specifications for the whole project.  He asked Manderschied, “Who owns the transformer? Is it the city?  Who will approve the connection?  Who will pay if something goes wrong?”

Manderschied had not proposed that a general contractor be hired for the project or that an electrical engineer be consulted, but after Stearns’ questions were raised, board members commented that they did not feel competent to serve as the general contractor themselves, and wanted a professional engineer to study the project and assure that it was correctly designed and implemented.

Odden was asked to contact a number of electrical engineers and find out what they would charge to evaluate the project and prepare specifications for it.  “Plans and specs,” Stearns said.  Odden and Manderschied will collaborate on drafting an RFP for the electrical engineering services, at the direction of the board.

Manderschied also presented information on the proposed total replacement and upgrading of the county’s security cameras and monitoring system.  Presently, not all county buildings have security cameras, and some of the ones that are installed are getting old.  Manderschied estimated the project to cost about $70,000.  The building services committee believes that all county buildings should be included in the security system, although the upgrade is not included in the county’s five-year plan for facilities and equipment. The board decided to arrange a meeting among Manderschied, West Central Telephone who will likely be the supplier of the equipment, and BKV architects regarding the effect of the courthouse remodeling on the security system upgrade.

The board was informed that the roof of the social services building needed replacement this year.  Maintenance supervisor Sean Uselman said he did not know whether the roof was insulated under the current roofing material. He indicated it would cost about $50,000 to replace the roof, and asked the board to authorize him to get quotes from several companies.  Commissioner Jim Hofer said that the roof is in the 2014 building services plan but does not think that the project requires an architect.  

Stearns pointed out that an architect was needed to draw up specifications for the roof materials, the drainage system, the insulation, the flashing, etc., so that contractors would know what they were bidding on. Odden agreed the project should be bid out if the cost would be close to $100,000, but he did not think it would be that expensive.  He also did not think getting an architect to draw up specs was worth the cost.  Commissioner Ron Noon thought quotes would be enough.   

Uselman was asked to get information on the roof insulation and contact a few contractors to see what they think the project would cost.  Then he will return to the board with that information.