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Tense talks in IT department decision

Discussion was tense at the Wadena County Board meeting Sept. 11 during discussion of the IT department.

Curt Kreklau, IT director and Personnel director, presented the board with position descriptions for the IT department. The descriptions were for an IT Coordinator, System Analyst, Network Support Technician Project Lead and Systems Technician. Ryan Odden, county coordinator, told the board the recommendation by the consultant from MARCO was to hire two people to keep up with work. Odden requested the board post for two positions—the system technician and IT Coordinator and depending on candidates, allow the hiring committee flexibility in hiring two system technicians and no IT Coordinator. Bill Stearns motioned for Odden's recommendation. When Commissioner Sheldon Monson asked for a second, none of the commissioners spoke up. The motion failed.

"This is ridiculous. We brought in an expert who gave a recommendation and we are discussing things other than what we recommended," Commissioner Dave Hillukka said. He then made a motion for the board to post for two positions at grade 53 in the IT Department. Again, no one seconded the motion.

Stearns then motioned to hire an IT Coordinator. Monson seconded the motion, which would be a grade 56.

"This hire will get us a leadership position in that department," Stearns said. He changed his motion to posting for up to step 5, grade 56 IT Coordinator and grade 53 Network Support Technician Project lead, with Kreklau being full time HR director and phasing out MARCO after a period of time. This motion passed 3-2, with Chuck Horsager and Hillukka opposing the motion. After the motion passed, Hillukka expressed his disappointment that the board didn't follow the recommendation of the consultant brought in, an opinion echoed by county employees in attendance at the meeting.

Sheriff's Department asks for upgrade to panic button system, portable and mobile radios

Odden told commissioners they found a way to upgrade the panic alarm system in the courthouse, Public Health and Human Services buildings instead of replacing. Sgt. Brian Savaloja said the alarm right now lets them know what department is having the issue, but doesn't tell law enforcement where in the department the issue is. The upgraded system will give a more specific location of the problem within the departments. Response Technologies, Ltd., can upgrade for $22,756. The current system was installed in 2006, Savaloja told the board. It still works, somewhat, but is failing, he said. Savaloja asked for the upgrade to be paid for from the non levy building fund. The upgrade was approved unanimously by the board.

Sheriff Mike Carr and Savaloja then spoke to the board about the need for new portable and mobile radios for the Sheriff's Department. They spoke about instances such as the 2013 Green Valley Fire. There were three counties working on that and communication between them was poor. Radio systems are used countywide for all emergency personnel, Carr told the board. The VESTA is the next generation 911 upgrade. The portable radios are starting to show their age, starting to fail, Savaloja said. It costs $500 per time to get a radio fixed.

The total cost to upgrade portable and mobile radios is estimated to be $89,796. The Sheriff's Department included $25,000 in their 2019 budget to offset these costs for upgrading.

"This is a huge public safety issue," Savaloja told commissioners.

Discussion about how to fund the upgrade ensued. The MCIT fund has about $90,000. Portable radios are the priority, Carr said. They need to be replaced first. A decision was tabled until the next board meeting. Commissioners asked Odden to provide the exact amount of MCIT Fund to determine if the upgrade could be paid from that fund.

More poll pads needed

Odden talked to the board about the KNOWiNK poll pad. The pads were used in the primary election quite successfully, he said. Odden told commissioners that two precincts were interested in purchasing a poll pad, the City of Sebeka and Staples. Each poll pad costs $1,280. Staples is requesting assistance with purchase. Odden said there were three options: the precincts could purchase a poll pad at their own expense; the county could split the cost and pay for maintenance; or the county could purchase the poll pads by themselves and pay for maintenance. If the county splits costs, Odden said, they would pay half. Horsager recommended splitting the cost of up to four poll pads a year and any precinct that requests an additional poll pad could have one to use.

"We are already way over budget, so this will put us more over-budget for the election fund. They didn't put in election salaries in the budget in 2017, " Judy Taves told the Board.

The Board approved the purchase of four more poll pads. Hillukka voted for the motion, but said, "we aren't being fiduciary."

SWCD asks for grant matching in the budget

Darren Newville and Tom Schulz, SWCD, requested a BWSR grant match from the county. The money might be used for parks projects, nitrates in water issues, surface water runoff in smaller cities, potentially put rain garden in small cities like Nimrod, etc.

"We don't have to define this money for one project, can use for several projects," Newville said. Horsager lobbied the board keep the grant match money in the budget for 2019. Hofer cautioned that the county had unexpected expenses in other departments and said, "we want to keep our tax rate going down. We have a responsibility to our taxpayers."

No decision was made at this meeting. In other news, the board:

• Approved change in the Kitchigami Library Levy in the minutes. The budget amount listed in the minutes was incorrect, but the budget was correct. The amount should've been $97,737.

• Approved a request from Deanna Malone to have Scott's Paint and Tile be awarded the pavilion project for $3,500 for cleaning and staining pavilion before winter hits. The Old Wadena Society donated $2,500 to assist in the project.

• Approved a request by Malone for the purchase of a box blade purchase for a tractor at the Nimrod Shop. The cost is $3,550. The board was requested to pay half, $1,775 from the Tax Forfeit Parks Reserve fund.

• Received and discussed the report on the preliminary levy. The total levy amount for 2018 was $8,813,963. The preliminary 2019 budget is $9,085,660. The levy would increase 3.08 percent ($271,691). The board asked Odden to double check the numbers. The levy was not approved and the board will make the decision at the last meeting in September.