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Clay County leaves more positions unfilled

The vacancy rate in Clay County government is growing.

Since getting hit with cuts in state revenue, the county has been trying to hold off filling positions when they become vacant.

Before Tuesday, the county had about 12 positions unfilled.

The Clay County Commission approved spending cuts Tuesday that will leave another six full-time-equivalent positions vacant, and officials warned that future cutbacks in state aid will likely mean even deeper cuts in positions.

"At some point, people are going to be affected," said Commission Chairman Kevin Campbell.

Deciding where to chop is not something department heads have relished, and when it comes to potential reductions in staff, they want commissioners to tell them where to cut, County Administrator Vijay Sethi told commissioners Tuesday.

The cuts approved Tuesday included not replacing one of three positions expected to become vacant in the Sheriff's Department.

That would bring to three the number of positions in that department going unfilled.

Campbell said he didn't want to vote on the staffing options presented to the board Tuesday until he could hear concerns Sheriff Bill Bergquist might have, but he was outvoted by commissioners Grant Weyland, Jon Evert and Jerry Waller.

The cuts approved Tuesday would save about $545,000. They include not staffing 1.6 full-time-equivalent positions in the county attorney's office, and three full-time positions in the Social Services Department.

Campbell warned there will be more decisions to come.

"We've only done a temporary measure to offset the 2009, 2010 program aid cuts," he said. "The state has kind of made it perfectly clear that the next four years are going to be even worse.

"We're not going to be able to go out to our taxpayers and say increase taxes to cover these (cuts)," Campbell said.

In other business, the commission reappointed Dave Overbo as county engineer.

The position comes up for such review every four years.

The commission also voted to continue funding the Sentencing to Service program, which provides for jail prisoners to perform community service to help offset the amount of jail time they must serve.

The state is now paying a smaller share of the program, so Tuesday's decision means the county will have to spend about $19,000 above the $38,000 it now pays to participate each year.

Officials said the benefits to communities around the county in the form of things like buildings getting painted and flood dikes getting built far outweigh the additional cost to taxpayers.