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County Board Meeting August 3 and Elected Officials Annual Budget Review

Posted: 08/03/2021

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments

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Once a year, the Douglas County Board meets with elected officials to review their budgets and hear their salary requests. At its August 3 meeting, commissioners reviewed the budgets of the Auditor/Treasurer, County Attorney, Recorder, and Sheriff. There is more information on that later in the article, but first the more routine agenda included:  

Sheriff’s Office

LaGrand Township donated $1,000 to the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Dive Team. Commissioners passed a resolution to accept that donation.

Auditor/Treasurer

Vicki Doehling asked the board to approve a permit for Alexandria Industries Charitable Foundation for a raffle at Smith Lake Public Access in February, 2022.

Doehling also asked for approval to pay for continued use of online training for election judges. The online option supplements in-person training. Doehling said it proved to be very popular in 2019. Commissioners approved the requests.

Social Services

Director Laurie Bonds asked for approval on two items to continue to move forward with a new provider of document management services. One item will pay for the extraction and temporary storage of documents. Content Services estimates the fees will be $16,000 - $19,000.

Bonds also presented a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with Lutheran Social Services for the Senior Companion Program. The program halted in-person services during the height of COVID-19 in 2020. Those in-person meetings are now scheduled to resume. The MOU spells out the details which include up to 10 senior companions to serve special needs adults.

Assessor

Assessor Stacy Honkomp requested and was given permission to fill a vacancy for Assessment/Property Records/Tax Specialist. This is a result of the person previously in that position applying for and being chosen for the staff appraiser position.   

Public Works

County Engineer and Public Works Director Tim Erickson requested approval for payment to AAA Striping Service which provided pavement marking services. The board approved the final payment of $8,165.95.  Erickson said the work was very well done and came in under the estimated cost.

Erickson then asked the board to fill the GIS coordinator position left open recently. They agreed the vacancy needs to be filled and that the GIS position in the IT department is a stand-alone position.

Todd Hagen with Ehlers Public Finance Advisors discussed the best option for $1.1 million in general obligation bonds to pay the upfront costs of repair work on Ditch 17.

Ehlers provided advice on a 20-year bond that is guaranteed by the state of Minnesota. Those who are benefitted by the ditch actually pay the cost of the ditch repair, but it’s assessed over a period of years.

Finance

Finance Director Jill Frisell asked for permission to pay the monthly bills. Commissioners motion to approve that, carried.

Land and Resource Management

Director Dave rush asked for and was given approval of an excavator/landscaper license for Precision Grading.

Next was approval of a preliminary plat for Rasmussens Hope. The Planning Commission gave the go ahead at its Tuesday evening meeting. The owners will subdivide two lots from an 8-acre parcel. They had previously been given permission for those lots to not need to meet the 150-foot minimum lot width.

Commissioners agreed with the Planning Commission’s approval of a preliminary plat for Pilgrim Point Shores on Lake Ida. This plat is for a 28 plus lot residential development on the lake. There are ten conditions which must be followed that concern stormwater management, tree removal, lighting restrictions, that the south side of the county road right of way shall be noted as a controlled access and that Douglas County be made a party to any future restrictive covenants.

Board of Commissioners

Edith Kelly served as the first woman commissioner on the Douglas County Board. Elected in 1974, she served two full terms. In an interview with Senior Perspective in 2019, she said “You learn you must work with people – all kinds of people. Listen to them. You might not always agree but be sensitive to what they are saying.”

Kelly died in July and her loved ones have asked the current board to create a memorial in her name.

The county has a memorial park, named after Deputy Sheriff Curtis Felt who died June 29, 1978 while serving on duty for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.  The park is in Alexandria and is a popular gathering spot. The commissioners tasked Park Superintendent Brad Bonk with creating a memorial for former commissioner Edith Kelly.

Elected Officials Budget And Salary Requests

Auditor/Treasurer

Auditor Treasurer Vicki Doehling outlined her proposed 2022 budget. This is the first full year the Auditor/Treasurer has been separated from the Finance Department since the retirement of Char Rosenow.

Doehling says she left in the budget a salary for an elections’ administrator, but she hasn’t decided if she will actually fill that position. Doehling has extensive elections experience and has hired a new counter service staff member who may be able to assist with election duties. Doehling predicted an increase in absentee voting in the years ahead and put funding in her budget for small, portable voting machines at the 822 Douglas Street location. After sharing her research on other comparable auditor/treasurers in Minnesota, she requested a salary of $93,450 in 2022. She said that compares to the average of other counties which is $108,069,  

Recorder

After reviewing the revenue generated at the Recorder’s Office and the expenses incurred, Recorder Mary Skillings praised her staff for a job well done. Skillings told the commissioners the last year has been very busy. She presented salary information from other Minnesota recorders elected the same year as voters put her in office. She says the average is $72,000. She is asking for $70,000 which she said she believes is fair.

County Attorney

County Attorney Chad Larson said he will accept the same percentage increase in salary as county employees get. He said his primary concern is being allowed to replace a vacant assistant county attorney and hire another assistant county attorney first thing next year.

He said finding talented attorneys is very difficult and he has now interviewed two he believes would be great additions to his staff.

Larson said his office is busy and anticipates being even busier in 2022 with criminal prosecution of child protection cases and impacts on the court system from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sheriff’s Office

Sheriff Troy Wolbersen shared with commissioners that proposed personnel changes and additions make up the biggest share of his budget. He told the board his office has applied for a grant to hire a fulltime DUI Enforcement Officer. He said while the grant would cover the cost of the additional position, he would have to back fill for it and buy an additional squad car.  

The sheriff is asking for a Compliance Training sergeant position at the jail. Wolbersen said the Department of Corrections continues to advise him to staff that position. He also asked to make all current 80 percent positions full time.   

The sheriff requested $140,000 for salary in 2022. He is currently paid $125,460. The sheriff shared several examples of other sheriff’s pay and using a pay equity study and his longevity he said his position could be valued at $146,000.

Wolbersen told the board he has 34 years of experience, and through his management and leadership as sheriff, his office is widely recognized as a professional organization. He told them many hours of his work are not seen and his position requires him to be constantly available, including having to leave family events. He says he’s not complaining about that but said he feels he’s earned the compensation he’s asking for.

All elected officials’ requests are informational only at this time. Action will be taken at a later board meeting.

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