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Stevens County considers full time coordinator

MORRIS – Should Stevens County return to having a full time county coordinator?

That was the question raised at a work session on Tuesday where members of the Stevens County Board of Commissioners continued a discussion on how to handle the role of county coordinator.

At an earlier work session, the county’s personnel committee recommended that Human Resources Director Janet Raguse could take on the role of coordinator, transitioning it from County Engineer Brian Giese over the next six months.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Ron Staples said that, after more consideration, he didn’t think that was the best and, instead, wanted to open a discussion about hiring a part-time or full-time coordinator

“January 1 isn’t that far away – it’s only six months – and I feel we should try to figure this out before we do our budgets,” said Staples. “It’s not going to be a small expense [to hire a coordinator].”

One discussion point from the meeting is whether the county needs to return to a model with a full time coordinator.

“You as a board have to decide what you want a coordinator to do,” said Raguse. “I think it definitely can be a full time job, but you have to decide what kind of authority and responsibilities you’re going to give to that individual if you go that route.”

Giese outlined the four main tasks in his position as a part time coordinator:

1. Clerking for the board of commissioners, which involves arranging the agenda, taking and recording meeting minutes, and following up with information from board decisions;

2. Facilitating the budget process from about May to December;

3. Offering support and advice to other county staff and department heads; and

4. Coordinating with other counties and networking with legislators and other entities.

In some other counties, a county coordinator has a supervisory role over some other departments and department heads, Giese said.

Giese also told the board there were some limits to what he could accomplish in the role, specifically with regards to the board’s goal to complete some transition planning for the county.

Commissioner Jeanne Ennen asked whether it would make sense to move the budget work back into the auditor/treasurer’s office and hire a part time coordinator to take on other tasks.

Giese said that if the coordinator continued to work like he has then a part time position would work. But he also cautioned that it might be difficult to find a qualified candidate because most administrator positions are full time.

“I’m usually not an advocate to spend money, but I think, long term, the coordinator is a position that we’re going to have to fill,” said Staples.

“I don’t like to spend the money either, but sometimes you have to pay for what you get and I think that’s what’s going to happen in this case,” agreed Commissioner Phil Gausman.

Commissioner Bob Kopitzke said he was also in favor of a full time coordinator.

“The department heads seem to be on board to that and that’s important to me – if we’re going to work together we have to have people on board,” he said.

Giese told the board he is willing to continue with the role while they decide how to proceed, but will advocate for an “exit strategy” from the position.

“I just wanted to be upfront and say that this coordinator piece is not good for the county and it’s not good for me anymore so we need to figure out a different plan,” said Giese.

One of the remaining sticking points about splitting the roles of county engineer and county coordinator is salary. Giese currently receives a salary as county engineer and an approximately $20,000 year augmentation for his role as coordinator.

Ennen argued that if Giese steps back from the coordinator role, he should no longer receive the augmented salary – “If the coordinator duties aren’t there, the augmentation goes away.”

County Attorney Aaron Jordan argued that the issue may resolve itself because the board has voted to move forward with a county-wide wage and compensation study.

Jordan said that the result of the compensation study may show that Giese’s augmented salary is actually more in line with what other county engineers with his level of experience are being paid.

The board scheduled another work session on this issue for Tuesday, July 2 at 9 a.m. at the Stevens County Courthouse.