Wadena County commissioners discussed the county fee schedule and a job classification and compensation study amidst allocating CARES Act funds on Nov. 17.

Fee hearing

The Wadena County fee schedule included two departments with fee changes that were approved by commissioners. The public could ask questions or make comments during the fee hearing though none did. The changed fees are effective as of Nov. 17.

  • Highway Department: Added fees for tandem trucks ($150/hr), excavators ($200/hr), skid steers ($100/hr), blades/graders ($200/hr) and brooms rental ($60/hr) and highway maintenance workers ($40/hr up from $35/hr). The fees are used for township owned bridges since the county has received increasing requests to maintain the bridges.

  • Solid Waste Department: A mixed load of demolition and household waste can be charged by ton ($270) or per hour for the employee to sort it ($100 up from $50), if the person dropping off the items chooses not to sort the mixed waste themselves before arriving or choosing to return after sorting. The white goods, most electronics, most furniture, tires and mixed debris fees also increased. Commissioner Bill Stearns said the parcel service prices have increased over the years to pay for the recycling program and equipment with the commercial fee changing to $60 for the first ton (up from $50) and $55 per additional ton (up from $45).

DDA classification and compensation study update

Newsletter signup for email alerts

DDA Human Resources management consultant Tessia Melvin discussed the appeals made by employees on updating their job descriptions and what their pay will be. There were 22 employees who updated duties, education and experience to job descriptions and seven whose duties lead to possible pay changes.

Commissioners continuously circled back to the purpose of the study, which is to update job descriptions and salaries to help with pay equity standards, recruitment and retention of employees and fair compensation, according to Melvin. County attorney Kyra Ladd said the last study with board action was completed 15 years ago. The study in 2017 brought salaries to 90% of the market, according to Stearns.

RELATED: County to launch wage, classification study

“This is one area of being county commissioner that I guarantee you’re going to get scrambled eggs brains because it’s hard to keep track of and it’s impossible to stay on top of but it is ordinary and necessary that we do this because if we don’t we get sued and if we don’t we get grievances filed and all kinds of things like that,” Stearns said.

The pay grade scales have shifted over the years as well and employees may have actually been on a higher grade than associated with their job description due to longevity, which means comparing the specific employees’ upgraded changes is difficult. Commissioner Jon Kangas said a comparison in dollars instead of grades are needed.

“If we follow through with the first big increase which we had couple years ago and then we do another big increase now I don’t know how this county’s going to stay afloat without more state aid and money coming in from somewhere,” Kangas said. “Whether it’s a levy or state aid, it’s tax dollars and I’m concerned about it.”

The commissioners did not take action on the changes since the process is ongoing.

In other action

The board approved:

  • Accepting a $100 donation from John Arnold to Human Services for purchasing turkeys for families receiving children services.

  • An annual contract for children’s mental health services with the Minnesota Department of Human Services for Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2021 including a grant of $40,795. The grant is for mental health screenings and assessments.

  • The transit safety and security charter.

  • The hiring of Human Services eligibility worker Rebecca Crooker and the hiring of Tanya Nelson as a child protection social worker.

  • The Public Health Family Services Collaborative Joint Powers Agreement for Jan. 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2023.

  • Removing a conditional use permit for an auto repair shop at Dawn Houchin’s property in Wing River Township.

  • Designating county engineer Ryan Odden or his designee as the pipeline inspector for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project that has 7.07 miles in Wadena County. If a land owner in the county has concerns about the pipeline Odden would inspect the area(s).

  • Nominating Sheldon Monson for a Sourcewell Board of Directors member seat. The term is for four years if elected by Sourcewell members.

The board also had a closed session to review Wadena County Human Services Director Jennifer Westrum as well as a closed session on negotiation strategies for labor contracts.

The truth in taxation hearing is on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m., which the public can attend in the Wadena City council chambers at 222 SE 2nd St. or on Zoom.