County considers staffing

Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Houston County commissioners accepted the resignations of two license center clerk/deputy auditors on Tuesday, July 11. After nearly twenty years with the county, Darlene Peter’s last day will be July 14, while Renee Wagner’s resignation becomes effective on July 24, personnel/facilities director Tess Arrick-Kruger reported.

The board approved a competitive search to fill both positions.

The affected department includes auditor Char Meiners and four full-time deputy auditors, two of whom are assigned to the License Center. Contacted after the meeting, Meiners said that, “We are researching options (to maintain staffing levels) at this point. I plan to update the board next Tuesday (July 18).”

A notice at the historic courthouse states that the State of Minnesota is “converting all motor vehicle transactions to a new system effective in late July. License Centers will be unable to process motor vehicle transactions Thursday, July 20 and Friday, July 21, however, we will be open these dates for driver’s licenses, game and fish, ATV, boat and snowmobile transactions.”

The placard also states that the License Center “will be closed Monday, July 24, in order to enter our inventory into the new system. We will resume normal functions on Tuesday, July 25, however, expect delays.”

Arrick-Kruger also discussed hiring a second appraiser for the Assessor’s Office with commissioners, utilizing a search already in progress to fill the position which became vacant when Cynthia Cresswell-Hatleli accepted the job of county assessor (after Tom Dybing retired).

“When I started, there were four appraisers and a temp and the assessor,”  Cresswell-Hatleli stated. The staff has since gone from the aforementioned four appraisers to just two.

The assessor explained in detail why it takes one full year of training before a new appraiser could do the job in the field and on their own.

Commissioners tabled the suggestion, asking staff for a cost estimate and ideas on how to pay for an additional appraiser before moving forward.

County librarians meet with commissioners

Librarians from Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Houston, and Hokah briefed commissioners on the dizzying array of materials and services which library patrons can now utilize. The group asked the board to consider raising its  contribution to the county’s library system during the next three year pact (fiscal years 2018-20). The proposal calls for an annual increase of 5% during that time frame, boosting the county’s contribution from $151,144 in 2017 to $158,701 in 2018, $166,636 in 2019, and $174,968 in 2020. The board made no immediate decision on the matter.

Other news

Commissioners approved final payments for a pair of flood repair projects along area roadways. Both were completed by Generation X Construction (Rushford), totaling $37,130 and $46,730, respectively. The board also approved a confidentiality agreement with Mack Trucks (Volvo), which will give the county’s highway department mechanic access to information such as parts and specifications.

In other highway news, county engineer Brian Pogodzinski reported that Jefferson Township has approached the county for snow plowing next winter. “We do not have the staff to take on more than one township,” he said, adding later that the county has done occasional plowing on township roads when asked, and “whatever our costs are, we bill back to the townships.” By consensus, commissioners agreed that Pogodzinski could make arrangements to add Jefferson Township roadways to the county’s work list.    

The board also voted to appoint Paul Fruechte to the Crooked Creek Water and Soil District’s Board of Directors. Fruechte will fulfill the remainder of Robert Mierau’s fifth term, which expires on November 30, 2019.