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Salaries approved for Wadena County elected officials

Wadena County Commissioners sworn in for 2019 include Chuck Horsager (from left), Bill Stearns, Sheldon Monson, Jon Kangas and Jim Hofer. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Most of Wadena County's elected officials are still being paid less than the state average, but all got at least a 3 percent increase Tuesday.

The Wadena County board hurried through recommendations by commissioner Jim Hofer to approve increases to all elected officials during the regular board meeting this week. Commissioner Hofer said while wages have been studied and most are low in comparison to other counties, there was insufficient data to adjust salaries to make them comparable at this time. He noted that the county has been making percentage increases for the past three or four years.

Hofer recommended the flat 3 percent increase to all elected officials. That increase was approved for the following:

• County Attorney Kyra Ladd, for a total salary of $103,886.51,

• County Auditor Heather Olson, for a total salary of $74,597.18,

• County Sheriff Mike Carr Jr., for a total salary of $94,690.16.

After hearing concern from County Recorder Soledad Henriksen over her comparatively low salary, commissioners approved a roughly 6.3 percent increase from 2018, for a total salary of $61,500.

Henriksen noted other nearby counties (Todd and Douglas) have a starting salary that is higher than her salary after four terms in her position. She considered the 3 percent increase a slap to the face.

"If you recognize that my salary is so low why not increase it?" Henriksen asked. "Why am I still low?"

Commissioners agreed that there was a need to get her wage to a higher level.

The board also approved County Engineer Ryan Odden's salary at $101,649.75 prorated at 60 percent, with 40 percent of his salary coming from county coordinator position, that brings his total annual combined salary to $109,919.77. Negotiations are still ongoing that could adjust his and other salaries within the county.

In other board action:

• Bill Stearns was nominated and approved as 2019 board chair and Chuck Horsager as vice chair of the Wadena County Commissioners.

• Commissioners Monson and Hofer agreed to continue to serve on the community corrections executive committee and advisory board for 2019.

• Hofer recommended a $3,000 stipend for the Morrison Todd Wadena Community Health Board (MTW CHB) Community Health Services Administrator role filled by the Wadena County Public Health Director for 2019 and 2020. All commissioners were in favor. The payment and stipend is for additional duties and responsibilities; and the administrator must meet minimum requirements for the position.

• Commissioners approved the sale of Friendly Rider bus #1, a bus that is currently out of service. The board set the minimum bid amount at $1,550.

• Approved Human Resources department to purchase new HR/Payroll software using funds from the 2018 budget. They requested rolling over $35,000 from 2018 budget to cover this cost. Any funds not being used roll into the 2019 budget.

• Board approved agreements with G & T Sanitation, Long Prairie Sanitation and City Dray for waste hauling. The board was also informed that City Dray made another payment of $40,000 to Prairie Lakes Municipal Solid Waste Authority and the current balance they owe is $60,000.

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