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Stevens County reviews right-of-way program

MORRIS – Last fall, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with an initiative to reclaim county right-of-ways to increase safety and visibility on county roads.

This spring, many of the stakes posted to mark right-of-ways were damaged, either accidentally or purposefully, by farmers planting for the year.

On Tuesday, Stevens County Engineer Brian Giese asked the commissioners whether the county should implement a fee schedule to pay for damaged stakes or continue to absorb the cost in the county budget.

“It wasn’t really something, at least to this volume, that I was expecting,” said Giese. “I’m moving forward right now as if there’s not a fee or a penalty and we’re going to be marking these, but I want the board to be apprised that this is a new cost to us – not hugely significant at this point because we haven’t marked a great deal of the county, but it could get significant.”

Commissioner Ron Staples suggested the county look into stakes that are more brightly colored so they are easier to see.

“In my opinion, this is a good program and it should be continued,” said Commissioner Phil Gausman.

County approves wage study

On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners voted to move forward with a new study on wages and job classifications for county employees.

Over the last several months, the county’s Classification and Compensation Committee reviewed proposals for a new classification and compensation study from three firms and met with two firms, Springsted and Fox Lawson and Associates, said Human Resources Director Janet Raguse.

“Of the two companies we interviewed, Springsted has done a lot of surrounding counties in the area … they’re familiar with this area,” said Commissioner Ron Staples.

The committee outlined three reasons for moving forward with the study:

1. The county has difficulty doing transition or succession planning because of differences between union and non-union pay structures.

2. The county’s human resources department has challenges working with the current classification and compensation system, especially when trying to establish classifications for new or changing positions.

3. The market pay range for some positions has changed. New county employees sometimes have to start mid-way through the current pay scale to recruit a desired candidate.

The proposal from Springsted indicated the study would take between six and seven months at a cost of about $20,000.

One of the concerns with the county’s current wage study is that the company is not transparent about how positions are rated. Raguse said Springsted will be more transparent, but not entirely open about their methodology.

Powers granted to Horizon Community Health Board ahead of 2015 integration

On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that will grant the current Horizon Community Health Board specific powers and duties related to the integration until the “new” Horizon Community Health Board is formed on Jan. 1, 2015.

Under this agreement, the current board will be able to establish the “essential framework” and policies that will be needed for the integration to occur in January, Stevens Traverse Grant Public Health Director Sandy Tubbs said.

Powers in the agreement include entering into service agreements or hiring essential personnel; make employment offers; negotiate with labor organizations; develop and approve personnel policies, position descriptions and wage scales; open bank accounts; establish committees; and take “other actions that it deems are necessary and incidental to the planning and implementation of Horizon Public Health.”

Tubbs said she expects to present a joint powers agreement for the new five-county public health agency in late July or early August.

Other business

  • The Stevens County Highway Department has started working on dust control applications around the county. Stevens County Engineer Brian Giese said he expected work to begin on a mill and overlay project on CSAH 4 or CSAH 22 to begin by the end of the month.

  • The board approved a proposal to work with Terracon Consulting (previously Liesch Associates) to complete the county’s Demolition Debris Landfill and Transfer Station permit. Environmental Services Director Bill Kleindl said Terracon has provided consulting services for the county since 1990. The cost to complete and submit the permit should not exceed $17,428, Kleindl said.

  • The board accepted a resignation from Ann Vipond, administrative assistant in the Stevens County Sheriff’s Department. Vipond has been working for Stevens County for 19 years. The board voted to advertise externally to fill the position.