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Veterans Services officer acknowledged for job well done

Veterans Services Officer David Anderson came before the Wadena County Commissioners Tuesday to share that over 68 percent of veterans in the county are working with him to receive benefits through the VA.

He brought up a host of data from the previous year, his 13th year on the job and shortly after, was given a positive performance evaluation by the board.

Anderson averages over 25 veterans per week and had over 1,400 veteran visits for 2018 between visits at the courthouse, Menahga and Sebeka. He also took nearly 1,200 phone calls from veterans in 2018.

Anderson said a plan was brought to the VA's executive board to recognize those county officers that are performing well, but that plan was not accepted.

Anderson said seeing that nearly 70 percent of veterans in the county are taking advantage of the VA benefits brought him great joy.

County coordinator Ryan Odden said those numbers are impressive. He said, looking at them, it's not that 30 percent are not being served. It's more about a few not taking advantage of the benefits.

"I don't think he could do anymore about getting the word out that he is available," Odden said.

Commissioner Kangas congratulated Anderson on a job well done.

In other actions, the board:

• Approved the purchase of four task chairs at a cost of $1,196 for the new Sheriff's Offices. They are reusing many shelves and desks. This appeared to be the main furniture cost for this remodel. The cost was to come from the MCTI fund.

• Approved the low quote of $9,777 to Aldrich Tractor for a new disc mower and approval to sell old mower on MnBid and continuing on a two-year rotation with a disk mower.

• Approved rescinding a motion set by the former auditor in Jan. 2018 that no overpayment of prepaid taxes be returned to taxpayers. That overpayment was instead put towards the next statement. Auditor/treasurer Heather Olson brought the idea, saying that while it worked then, it's not working now. She wished to have the discretion to refund those overpayments as some were significant amounts. Commissioners asked Olson to return to a future board meeting with a policy that she would follow that the board could approve of.

• After receiving bids from three services, LPS, Waste Management and G & T Sanitation, LPS was awarded the three-year agreement as the low bidder to provide garbage hauling services for the county. Their bid was $497.25 per month. Waste Management's bid was $544.11 and G & T Sanitation's bid came in at $612.64. The bid included a 6-yard dumpster, two 2-yard dumpsters and two 96-gallon cans, with slight variations in those sizes from other providers.

• Approved the 2019-2021 labor contract between the county and Law Enforcement Labor Services. Commissioners Monson, Hofer and Horsager were in favor, Kangas was opposed and Stearns was not present.

Kangas brought up discussion on the topic. He said since coming on he was put on the negotiation committee and he was concerned about the costs adding up in these labor agreements. He felt there was a lot of hidden costs within these contracts. While he requested to see the numbers "numerous times," Kangas said he still had not seen just what the county would pay.

Commissioner Jim Hofer agreed that he would like to see those numbers but he added that based on the projections they were shown, they fall within the budgeted amounts.

"I think we need to have these numbers upfront," Kangas said. "That's the reason I can't support it."

All the commissioners agreed they would like to see the numbers, but they moved forward with approving the contract anyway, with Kangas still opposed to approval.

The commissioners held three closed meetings during this meeting including one to evaluate Veteran Services Officer David Anderson, one to discuss negotiations of the law enforcement labor agreement and another to discuss threatened litigation. No action was taken and no discussion was had following the closed session regarding the threatened litigation.

The next regular board meeting is set for April 23.

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