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Hubbard County employees to be reclassified

County employees are being reclassified in a long-term study of what they do and what to pay them.

By Sarah smith

The Hubbard County Board began the arduous task of reclassifying its employees.

The board retained the services of Fox Lawson & Associates, who have offices in St. Paul and Phoenix. It is a firm that specializes in compensation and human resource counseling.

The fear is that as the county pares down its workforce, some may lose their jobs through consolidation or reorganization.

The county has 204 employees, 154 of which are eligible for benefits.

Because the compensation structure and classifications have mushroomed over the years, many employees have their own classifications and pay grades, even though some perform similar tasks.

It’s just not workable, county commissioners have agreed, taking baby steps to remedy the complexity.

Fox Lawson will determine what each employee does and how much they should be rewarded.

If certain employees from various departments perform similar tasks with similar responsibilities, they will be grouped accordingly.

And that is where the controversy starts.

Not one single employee wants to be reclassified, demoted or paid less money. That’s why the county is tip-toeing into the waters, guaranteeing employees that won’t happen.

“Fox Lawson & Associates helps companies strategically align their employee compensation and benefit dollars with their company’s business plan,” the company’s website states.

“We do this by actively engaging the client in challenging the way employees have been rewarded in the past,” the company continues. “Together, we chart a direction that focuses and rewards employees for their contribution to company success. The result is that our clients spend their employee compensation and benefit dollars more effectively.”

Fox Lawson will start by conducting an employee survey of neighboring counties and towns to see what two dozen benchmark positions do and what they are paid.

Company representative Greg Mangold listened patiently while the board meticulously examined each of the benchmark positions, eliminating some that didn’t apply and consolidating others. The goal is to spend the county’s payroll more efficiently and get the maximum benefit from the benefits plan.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board agreed to let Fox Lawson condense job descriptions for the benchmark positions. Thirty-four county positions have been identified that have redundancies or could be combined due to overlapping responsibilities.

This is seen as an opportunity for job consolidation.

Generally, Hubbard County employees are well compensated. It has only been in the last few years during the recession that they have been asked to contribute to their benefits packages.

A brief survey of neighboring counties and towns showed that Hubbard County salaries rank slightly above the average salary total of $24,794, 768.

The Hubbard County payroll is $25,431,124.

The average budget expenditures of the eight counties Hubbard is compared to were $30,485,905, which is above Hubbard County’s payroll.

The counties preliminarily surveyed were Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Otter Tail and Wadena. The board voted to add Aitkin County to the list Fox Lawson will evaluate.

Cities surveyed will include Detroit Lakes and Bemidji in addition to Park Rapids.

The board also established a Classification & Compensation Review Committee to consist of one commissioner; the coordinator; two department managers; and two known labor union stewards representing Teamsters 320 and Local 49 for review of study results.

In other business, the board:

* Started the process to move the courts to the third floor of the courthouse while a two-year renovation project continues.

* Accepted a low bid of $279,800 for construction of two new Nevis Shop garage stalls. The successful bidder was JP Structures of Menahga.

* Approved a low quote of $70,030 for a Caterpillar 416F tractor/backhoe/ loader to be purchased for the Solid Waste Department, with the trade-in of a 2000 model Cat.

* Heard an update report from Department of Corrections district supervisor Marc Bloomquist about crime and corrections.

Bloomquist said juvenile placements were down, but the system still needs transportation getting juvenile offenders to and from court appointments.

Recidivism rates are below 5 percent, so anti-crime programs and caseworkers are having an effect.

“If programs don’t show results we’re not gonna keep ‘em,” Bloomquist said.

He also discussed the possibility of beginning specialty courts such as DWI courts and forums to deal with chemical dependency issues.

“Ten years ago we were placing a lot of kids,” he said. Last year the county placed only 35 in juvenile detention. The county is on track to place that many this year

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364