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Becker County to hire AIS coordinator

Though the details are still being ironed out, the Becker County Board of Commissioners took action Tuesday to move forward with plans to contract for the services of an aquatic invasive species (AIS) coordinator.

The board was acting on the recommendations of the county's AIS Task Force, which has spent more than 16 months working on a comprehensive plan for combating the spread of various types of AIS, from zebra mussels and Asian carp to flowering rush and Eurasian watermilfoil.

The board spent much of Tuesday morning's session discussing the AIS coordinator position, in particular whether they would prefer the coordinator to be a county employee or a contracted position.

Commissioner Barry Nelson did asked County Administrator Jack Ingstad to come up with some recommendations for action at the next county board meeting.

"We're on the fast track now," Nelson said. "Becker County has traditionally been very slow in hiring personnel -- but this is a situation where we need to move quickly."

Commissioner Larry Knutson disagreed, noting that the county should take some time to consider all potential options before taking action.

"We need to look at all the options to contract for or sell those services," he said, also noting that he doesn't think the county can afford to hire a full-time coordinator on its own, and might look into the possibility of sharing the position with another county.

The county has set aside $50,000 in its 2013 budget for AIS prevention, but some of that would also go toward increased education and inspection efforts, which was also part of the task force's recommendations to the board.

Ingstad noted at Tuesday's meeting that similar coordinator positions in the county had a salary range of $50,000 to $60,000. He also noted that the board should consider making the AIS coordinator a contracted position in order to save some on benefits.

The possibility of allowing area lake associations to pool their resources in order to help fund the position was also discussed.

The board also acted on another task force recommendation, approving the appointment of a nine-member AIS Advisory Panel that includes Becker County Commissioner John Okeson, who has been the county board's representative on the task force.

Also appointed to the advisory panel were Leita Doran, Terry Kalil, Brad Green, Carrie Johnston, Kevin Tinjum, Neil Powers, John Skarie and Tera Guetter.