County reps to 'screen' spending

The Wadena County Board agreed to allow Auditor/ Treasurer Char West and Human Resources Consultant Mike Gibson to screen spending by county department heads.

The Wadena County Board agreed to allow Auditor/ Treasurer Char West and Human Resources Consultant Mike Gibson to screen spending by county department heads.

"We used the word screening as opposed to freezing," Gibson said about the tight spending situation.

The department heads will talk with West and him prior to spending any sum over $500, Gibson said. And that amount may vary department by department as they proceed.

"It's a screening process, it's delaying all purchases," he said. "It may be between the time we look at it and actually spend maybe some other resolution to the problem would arise."

Department heads will still come to commissioners for everything that requires board approval, West said.


The board already has to rely on the auditor for cash flow information, Gibson said.

"And number two, I'm convinced that the board is not going to become micro managers," he said.

Gibson plans on having monthly meetings with department heads so they can understand the needs of each other's departments and work together, he said. They also want to assure the department heads that they have the freedom to act professionally and get things done.

"It's just let's talk about it," he said.

Delaying spending will allow the county to earn interest on its cash balance, Gibson said. He provided an example involving a Public Health Department grant that goes from August to the end of July each year. The department receives the money up front but it doesn't have to spend it until the end of July.

"We felt it behooves us let's keep it in the bank and on the 25th of July go ahead and spend it," Gibson.

The county will earn interest on the money throughout the year, Gibson said.

The board also discussed several other matters tied in with the county's cash flow situation. At the Sept. 25 county board meeting, commissioners tabled a request by Highway Engineer Joel Ulring to approve a highway department door and window replacement project pending a review of the cash flow. On Tuesday they approved a scaled back version of the project.


Assistant Highway Engineer Jeff Adolphson said Highway Engineer Joel Ulring was still recommending the county move forward with the project that is now estimated to cost $10,405 to replace three doors and four windows instead of $15,628 for the previous project to repair five doors and six windows.

The highway department has $35,000 in its budget for building improvements. The project will make the building more energy efficient, Adolphson said.

West said she believes the project is an energy saver. The cash flow is holding its own right now, she said. Taxes are coming up.

"I appreciate the idea of scaling it down to the absolute necessity," West said about the project.

Commissioner Mary Harrison said the county is in a juggling situation, but it does have to take care of its buildings.

"We would be wise to save energy because that's going to keep on going up," Harrison said.

The board also approved payment on a 2007 Ford Explorer purchased by the Sheriff's Department for use by the jailer to transport inmates and the coroner's office. The purchase was made using forfeiture funds and not county tax dollars.

Gibson said the sheriff has previously made these purchases on his own, but now understands that the board wants to be made aware of these decisions. The purchase was made prior to a meeting with the department heads to discuss the county spending screening, Gibson said.


The board also discussed the county's payment to South Country Health Alliance, which is a major cause of the cash flow problem. It paid $293,744.50 to SCHA in May to help it meet solvency requirements. A second, equal payment is due in November.

The board agreed to inform SCHA about a plan to pay $25,000 a month for 12 months, with the final payment being less to meet the $293,744.50 total.

"That will keep the cash flow a little more stable," West said.

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