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County board votes against new position

After mulling a change at its top leadership position, Douglas County will hire another coordinator to replace Bill Schalow when he retires in October.

Discussions about whether to hire another county coordinator or make a switch to an administrator began in March for the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

The decision was made by the board at the regular meeting on Tuesday, May 6 to hire another coordinator in a 4-1 vote, with Dan Olson voting no. Olson and Bev Bales voted yes on a previous motion to hire a county administrator that failed 2-3.

The commissioners who voted against the switch to an administrative position voiced concern over the power granted to those employees by state law. Commissioner Jerry Johnson expressed his displeasure with the lack of flexibility the board would have over the duties of an administrator.

“Administrator’s duties are laid out in state statute; it’s pretty hard to delete some of those if the board so chooses,” he said. “But coordinator… we can give the coordinator basically the same duties as an administrator with some flexibility there.”

State law also better protects the employment of an administrator once he or she has been employed by a county for more than a year. According to Minnesota Statute 375A.06, a board can choose to remove an administrator if it chooses but “after the administrator has served as administrator for one year the administrator may demand written charges and a public hearing on the charges before the county board prior to the date when final removal takes effect.”

Schalow informed the board that a coordinator has less protection if the county board wants to make a change.

An administrator also has more authority to make decisions. Bales mentioned before the vote that a coordinator does not have the authority to approve a purchase by the county if the cost is more than $5,000. An administrator would have that authority and would save the board time and pressure by not requiring a vote to approve the purchase.

“I think Mr. Olson makes a good point; this county is growing. What better time in a sense to have more help and more direct contact with all of our departments than to start with an administrator?” Bales said.

The county hopes to find a new coordinator by the beginning of September to allow for some time for Schalow to work with the new hire.

SCHALOW RETIREMENT

The board also voted to accept the resignation letter for Schalow at the meeting. His last day of employment will be October 10, but Schalow plans to use remaining accrued vacation time through that date.

“I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and the citizens of Douglas County,” Schalow wrote in the letter. “It has been a pleasure and an honor.”

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the county board:

● Made an agreement with Central Specialties, Inc. for a bid of $1,471,697 for construction of a portion of the old alignment of County State Aid Highway 28. The bid was more than 9 percent lower than the engineer’s estimate of $1,627,568.

● Accepted a resolution supporting a grant application for cross country maintenance of ski trails in the Runestone and Spruce Hill county parks.

● Voted to contribute $500 toward a submission of comments from Minnesota counties against a proposed rule to define the scope of streams and wetlands that agencies claim jurisdiction for protection under the Clean Water Act.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

(715) 273-4334
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