DDA service agreement approved with questions

The services include yearly job description updates, wage analysis and equity reports.

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While commissioners still have questions on the changes needed from job studies, the DDA Human Resources services for 2021-23 were approved by four Wadena County commissioners on March 9. Commissioner Jon Kangas voted against the contract.

The services include yearly job description updates, wage analysis and equity reports every three years. DDA management consultant Tessia Melvin said the company would continue market analyses, information for union negotiations, assisting with human resources reports and working on recommendations previously shared with the county.

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A list of past recommendations from DDA to Wadena County as of March 2021.

In 2018, DDA completed a market study instead of a full study for the county. This was the action requested by the board. The market study included other counties minimum and maximum salaries for comparison. Wadena County transitioned to a 10 step scale to help with pay gaps found in the study. The board sets the limits for the pay of at, above or below the market of these counties.


“The board wanted to pull the Band-Aid off maybe to see how big the problem was and then how are we going to address it,” Melvin said.

RELATED STORY: County to launch wage, classification study
With the new contract , the ongoing services will help the county move away from large studies, as Melvin said. The classification and compensation studies are often expensive and long processes that are slowly implemented—which are exactly the frustrations commissioners raised about the process. Commissioner Sheldon Monson said it’s valuable for the county to continue the process to avoid having to start all over again in the future.

“It’s like we’re on thin ice and we just don’t want to fall through,” said commissioner Mike Weyer about continuing the study process. “We just have to dig into this and do it, there’s a lot of … questions as to how things are going to fit in this. … I do think that DDA is a good tool.”

When the studies and changes are prolonged there are “huge budget disruptions,” Melvin said. Instead, the increases could be included in yearly budgets, much like road maintenance done yearly to avoid a larger cost.

The county classification and compensation study in 2005 cost $75,000. The process started with job descriptions nonexistent or outdated, as commissioner Bill Stearns said.

The 2021-23 services contract is $16,250 but possibly millions in county employee wage costs, as Kangas said. The county needs to consider the cost of the levies, which impact taxpayers—a taxbase that has low wages, he said. The contract costs are shared with Sourcewell, who will also pay $16,250.

A project that has become “dormant,” as county attorney Kyra Ladd said, is the wage scale, or new grid as it’s been called. The board requested work on the grid in September 2020. The grid would include specific wage amounts. The board, not the unions, approves the grid, according to Ladd. Melvin believed the negotiations committee was going to present the wage options to the board. The board will need to have a closed session on this issue.

In other action

The commissioners approved:


  • Renewing the Twin Lakes Lodge ‘n Resort liquor license.

  • Supporting the Minnesota Rural Counties to request the MPCA and Gov. Tim Walz to withdraw the proposed “Clean Car” rules and instead have a legislative review. The MRC would need 18-19 counties to support this as an issue to work on, as Stearns said.

  • Revoking a previous CSAH 4 portion that is for the city of Wadena. A new description and alignment of the portion were also approved.

The board also had a closed session on negotiation strategies for labor contracts.
If you’ve been looking for Zoom links to more Wadena County meetings, the links will be added to the county calendar for meetings that are open to the public.

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or
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