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Commissioners look to change county operations

Hubbard County is continuing its discussion to change the way it delivers services to taxpayers.

At Wednesday's board meeting, commissioners passed a resolution stating its goals in updating its organizational structure.

"Our goal is to create an organization that will best serve the public and is efficient and cost effective for the taxpayers of the county. The goal is not to lay off employees to make cost cuts. We must make the best use of the knowledge, skills and abilities of our most valuable resource: our employees," the resolution states.

Commissioner Kathy Grell said she has received positive feedback from department heads as the discussion progresses.

"It's a win-win" to look at cross-training personnel, she said.

Commissioners would eventually like to see a one-stop shop for services, they said.

Next steps for investigating new ways to operate include asking staff for ideas on how to save money, streamline and become more efficient and cost effective. Also, commissioners discussed studying how structural reorganization could streamline services, reduce administrative overhead and increase the county's ability to provide customer-friendly services.

"We have a lot of good, creative people in the county and we need to be thinking about these changes," Grell said.

According to the resolution, variations could include consolidation of departments, cross-training of personnel and utilization of staff across two or more departments.

The Hubbard County Courthouse's current first floor layout is the old model, said commissioner Dick Devine. In Bemidji, the office has one big desk for people to go to, he said.

Commissioners will discuss these issues next week at a meeting in Bemidji.

The Association of Minnesota Counties is sponsoring local government redesign innovation sessions across the state. A session will be held at the Beltrami County Administration Building in Bemidji Thursday, Nov. 10 and commissioners announced they will be attending and there will likely be a quorum. The meeting begins at 5 p.m.

Commissioners also discussed encouraging further education among the county's employees and partnering with M State to establish a presence in Park Rapids.

Grell said an Intro to Leadership course will be offered in Park Rapids during the spring semester. She thought this would be a good program for some county employees.

She suggested offering reimbursement or incentives for furthering education. The county is still looking at the budget and dollars could be placed in a training fund.

The class would be outside of regular work hours.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with expecting people to further their education," Grell said.

She will work with County Coordinator Deb Thompson and M State to find out more information for the next board meeting.

In other business, the board:

n Requested County Engineer Dave Olsonawski review and correct County Road 18. Commissioners have received several complaints that it was in rough condition after haulers used the road this summer during the Highway 34 construction project.

n Adopted a resolution authorizing the repurchase of the Edward J. Lowen property in Arago Township, contingent upon payment.

n Adopted a resolution authorizing the repurchase of the Duane Lampl property in Henrietta Township, contingent upon completion of paperwork and payment.

Approved a right of way easement to Schoolcraft Township.

n Accepted the resignations of Highway Shop Foreman David Weaver and Maintenance II employee Edward Branham with regrets. Olsonawski was also authorized to fill the positions.

n Authorized Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes to negotiate a renewal purchase for the food service contract with A'Viands LLC. He will return to the board with a contract.

n Approved a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Space Analysis & Planning Services for the Hubbard County Courthouse. It will be advertised in the Park Rapids Enterprise and Northwoods Press.

n Approved the re-filling of a vacant Social Services child support enforcement aid position.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561