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Board gets new view of old buisness

Mon, May 22nd, 2000
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Monday, May 22, 2000

It didnt appear to be business as usual at last weeks Fillmore County Board meeting when chairman Gary Peterson offered a new seating arrangement to all the regular attendees of the meeting. Where traditionally the board members have occupied seats on one side of the long, rectangular table, with the county attorney on one end and the policy coordinator on the other, this weeks arrangement had the entire board gathered around one end of the table. Staff and visitors occupied both sides of the middle section, and the press was offered seats at the other end of the table, on the opposite end from Peterson.

To most, this may seem like a trivial change. But to those involved in the process it was a chance to view the proceedings from someone elses viewpoint, so to speak. This reporter was fortunate enough to get the seat that Commissioner Boyum has occupied for many years, and quickly realized the view of other commissioners from that seat was somewhat limited.

However, when the meeting began, it was once again business as usual as the board dealt with the issues of social services, solid waste and employee compensation.

Tom Boyd, director of social services, was the first visitor to the table. He requested permission to advertise within his department an upcoming vacancy for a social services supervisor. He also requested approval to purchase window blinds for client interview offices at the cost of $607. Both requests were approved by the board with limited discussion.

In other business, Boyd requested the board approve a cost allocation plan which would set the amount of annual rent his department pays to the county for offices in the new Fillmore County office building. Federal funding allows for the department to pay rent to the county because the county administers federal social programs. Boyds recommendation, approved on a motion by commissioners Robert Underbakke and Helen Bicknese, was to set the rent at the amount of $24,000 for the year 2000.

Before exiting the meeting, Boyd presented the board with a report showing the countys 1998 expenditures on social services on a per client basis as compared to other counties within the same population range. In most areas, the county was at or below the average costs of all similar counties.

Solid waste administrator Jon Martin and recycling coordinator Sandra Benson were next on the agenda to discuss special solid waste collections, and to receive approval to submit the five year solid waste plan.

On the first item, Martin and Benson were proposing the county conduct a special collection for tires, appliances, and fluorescent bulbs where there would be no fee charged to residents. The county has a line item on real estate assessments for solid waste collections and this money could be used to fund the special collection. Other neighboring counties have conducted similar, no fee collections and found them to be successful.

After a somewhat lengthy discussion on the pros and cons of having a special collection, both commissioners Don Boyum and Duane Bakke seemed favorable to the idea. However, in the end they tabled their own motion to proceed with contractor bids pending some further study by Benson and Martin. Officials of Waste Management, Inc. who were in attendance at the meeting volunteered that they have participated as contractors on these types of collections in other counties and noted that they are well equipped to assist Fillmore County with such a project.

On a motion by Bakke and Bicknese, the board approved the five year solid waste plan update for submission to the State Office of Environmental Assistance. Approval and submission of this plan does not affect the on-going study which is examining ways the county could change the way it handles solid waste.

The new county highway engineer, Steve Voigt, made his first official appearance before the board in his new position. Voigt comes to Fillmore County from the Marshall area of southwest Minnesota and assumes the position formerly held by Gene Ulring. The board welcomed Voigt and approved his attendance at a Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers conference this weekend at which he will resign his position as chapter president.

The board then entered upon a discussion about the Bjorkland compensation study for county employees. The discussion focused on how to implement the policy. The plan recommends setting a new salary structure for employee grades at 95% of the market trend and incorporating a 2.5% COLA (Cost of living allowance) increase annually. Implementing the plan in this manner also presents some challenges which the commissioners discussed at length.

Basically, the board is looking at one of two choices in implementing the new recommed pay scales; to only raise the pay of emplyees whos current pay is below the scale minimums recommened byt the report, a move which would cost the county 3.92% to implement; or raise all emplyees to the minimum pay of the next step which would cost 6.13%. As commissionwer Boyum pointed out, to implement this latter chiice in combination with the 2.5% COLA would result in an overall increase in the countys payroll of 8.63%. A move he seemed relucted to want to make, advising that perhaps a COLA should not take place until 2001.

As the board seemed unable to come to a consensus about implementation, it was decided to put the pay plan on next weeks agenda so the commissioners could further study their options.

In a final item before adjournment, the board reviewed a report from Industrial Hygiene Services Corporation (IHSC) which was investigating complaints from employees of bad air in the courthouse. After reports of bad odors and symptoms of runny noses, itchy eyes, sore throats and headaches, which seem to be most noticeable when the cooling system is engaged, the company took air samples and conducted an on-site investigation.

All tests resulted in normal readings, except that it was noted that on hot days when the chiller is on, the building experiences negative pressure relative to the outside of the building. The report also indicated that there are extreme swings in indoor humidity when the cooling system is on. It was the recommendation of IHSC that the ventilation duct work be cleaned, that the humidity and negative pressure conditions be resolved through system adjustments, and that further monitoring occur when bad odors are present. The board appeared to be relieved that there were no significant system problems in the building.

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