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Douglas County commissioners dole out $687,792 in appropriations to 15 organizations/agencies

Elected county officials, commissioners receive raises ranging from 3.78% to 7.27%.

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Douglas County elected officials
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DOUGLAS COUNTY — Douglas County commissioners appropriated $687,792 to 15 different entities at their regular board meeting Tuesday, Aug. 16. This is $33,000 less than the $720,792 requested by the organizations/agencies.

Each year, leaders from the various organizations/agencies present their funding requests to the Douglas County commissioners. They typically present what the money will be used for, along with whatever other information they feel would be pertinent to the commissioners in their decision-making process.

For example, during her presentation about the Lakes Area Humane Society, Executive Director Christin Klimek explained that the funds she received would be used to replace a second air conditioner, a kennel door and the cat room floor, as well as offsetting costs associated with assisting Douglas County residents in areas of the county where no impounding services are provided by the townships or cities they reside in.

Those costs typically run anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 annually, Klimek said.

Klimek also talked about figuring out ways to help reunite pets with owners as well as provide safe and healthy pets for adoption and reducing the number of unwanted animals through education and spaying and neutering programs.

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Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

A significant issue that has been identified is the number of residents struggling to obtain low-cost options for spaying and neutering their pets as well as obtaining veterinary care for their pets as costs have greatly increased over the past few years.

In her letter to the commissioners, Klimek said, “Due to this, we have been extensively researching the possibility of providing some of those services. To do so, would require the acquisition/construction of a building space, equipment and staffing. Although this is a significant undertaking, we have been working with private donors to build the necessary funding. Our goal is to have a clinic up and running by the end of this year.”

Klimek didn’t specify an amount during her request to the commissioners, but said that any amount is “greatly appreciated and extremely important.”

For 2022, the Lakes Area Humane Society received $10,000. For 2023, the organization will be receiving $12,000 — a 20% increase.

A newcomer to the appropriation request process was the Alexandria Senior Center. Executive Director Shelli-Kae Foster, along with David Dilly, a board member, presented information to the commissioners. Their request for the senior center was for $20,000.

Since Feb. 1 the Alexandria Senior Center has been led by executive director Shellie-Kae Foster

In a letter to the board, Foster said the senior center was grateful to the commissioners who were on the board back in 1984 when they provided significant seed funds to build the current center, which sits at 414 Hawthorne. Since that time, the center has supported itself. However, because of increased costs to maintain and operate an aging building, as well as a need for new programming and a change in fundraising, among other things, Foster and Dilly said they were making the request to the county for an appropriation of funds.

The county commissioners were hesitant at first as they didn’t know the legalities of appropriating money to the center. Douglas County Finance Director Jill Frisell said she spoke with County Attorney Chad Larson and said that the commissioners could choose to provide funds to the Alexandria Senior Center.

The commissioners approved $5,000 for the center — $15,000 less than what was asked for.

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See related chart for the rest of the appropriations, including the amount appropriated for each entity in 2022, the amount requested for 2023 and the amount approved for 2023.

Salaries approved for board, elected officials

Raises for elected officials and the Douglas County commissioners ranged from 3.78% to 7.27%.

At the Aug. 2 regular board meeting, the four elected officials — Chad Larson, county attorney; Vicki Doehling, auditor/treasurer; Mary Skillings, recorder; and Troy Wolbersen, sheriff — made salary requests to the county board.

Larson didn’t actually ask for a certain percentage or dollar amount, but requested that his salary be somewhere in the ballpark as the sheriff’s.

“There shouldn’t be a discrepancy,” he said.

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Chad Larson

Larson’s received a 4.3% raise — going from $129,910 to $135,500.

Wolbersen also didn’t request a dollar amount or percentage, but included some salaries of sheriff’s in comparable counties, including the Otter Tail County sheriff, who he said makes $162,000 a year.

He told commissioners he takes his job very seriously and that he has 94 staff members and 30 volunteers that he oversees. “The hardest part is to talk about yourself, but I have been in law enforcement for 35 years, I am dedicated and professional and stay involved in the community and at the state level,” said Wolbersen. He added that he is in his 16th year as sheriff and that he is experienced.

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Troy Wolbersen

The sheriff’s salary increased by 7.27% or $9,500 per year. His salary in 2022 was $130,500 and now for 2023, it will be $140,000.

He received the largest increase out of the elected officials.

Although Doehling made a request for a 2.5% raise, she ended up getting a 3.78% increase. Her new salary for 2023 is $96,000 — $3,500 more than this year’s salary of $92,500.

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Vicki Doehling

Skillings raise, which is slightly higher than she requested (3.7%), was 4%, going from $67,500 in 2022 to $70,200 in 2023.

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Mary Skillings

Commissioners salaries went up 4% – from $29,800 this year to $31,000 in 2023. The commissioners did not raise their per diems, however. For 2023, the per diem rate was set at $100, which is the same amount for the past five years. The per diems are paid out for committee meetings commissioners attend.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects lead and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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