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County board approves 3 percent wage hike for sheriff's deputies, supervisors at meeting

DETROIT LAKES - After a brief closed session Tuesday morning, the Becker County Board of Commissioners approved a pair of union contracts with employees of the Becker County Sheriff's Department.

In separate contracts with Minnesota TeamstersPublic and Law Enforcement Employees Union, Local No. 320, sheriff's department deputies and supervisors were each given a 3 percent general wage increase for 2008, and an additional 3 percent raise for 2009. They will also receive an increase of $50 in their uniform allowance for 2008, and another $50 increase in 2009.

Deputies and supervisors working between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. will also receive an additional 70 cents per hour for nighttime pay (up from 60 cents per hour).

Another personnel matter, which would normally appear to be routine, generated slightly more scrutiny from the commissioners than expected.

Human Services Director Nancy Nelson came before the board to request approval for hiring a full-time financial worker to replace an employee who is retiring.

Commissioner Barry Nelson questioned whether the funding for this position might be affected by Gov. Tim Pawlenty's recent declaration that the state has a $1 billion budget shortfall.

County Administrator Brian Berg noted that it was likely the Legislature would target "big ticket" budget items -- such as human services -- for cuts.

Nancy Nelson, however, noted that filling the position would be essential, as her department was already down one full-time financial worker position due to the long-term illness of another employee.

"We might be able to get by with being down one person, but I don't know how we can do it if we're down two," she said.

Ultimately, the board approved a resolution allowing Nelson to fill the vacancy.

Also during the human services portion of Tuesday's meeting, Community Health Supervisor Ronda Stock gave the board an update on the roles and responsibilities of a public health board (the commissioners also act as Becker County's public health board).

Commissioner Karen Mulari said she felt it was important for all five county commissioners to keep themselves informed on public health issues.

"I think we should have a specific time set (during future county board meetings) to talk about public health," she said. "This is our responsibility, as the board of health for the county.

"We have delegated a lot of these (board duties) off to Ronda, because we haven't been a very active public health board," she continued.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the board:

n Approved the appointment of Merle Earley of Detroit Lakes to the County Board of Adjustment. Earley will fill out the term of departing board member Eugene Pavelko.

n Agreed to allow County Highway Engineer Brad Wentz to "write off" two outstanding debt accounts on the highway department's books, and to add five other outstanding accounts to the individuals' property tax assessment for 2009. (The two accounts to be written off are for people who do not have property in Becker County.)

n Approved a bid from Mid State Insulation, Inc., for making repairs to the Lake Park highway shop, in the amount of $14,900.

n Authorized Wentz to purchase hydraulics, box pre-wet system, snow and ice equipment and radio for the highway department's new tandem truck, at a total cost of approximately $90,000 plus tax.

n Approved a resolution in support of West Central Initiative's 2007 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the region containing Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Travers and Wilkin counties in west central Minnesota.

n Heard a report from Brianna McAleer, donor services officer for West Central Initiative, on the agency's activities in Becker County since 1986. During that time, WCI has provided 300 grants to Becker County, totaling nearly $2.3 million, and has made 54 loans in Becker County, totaling nearly $2.4 million. McAleer also noted that the board has not yet filled the vacancy on its board for representing Becker County since its most recent representative, Paul Sukke, passed away in January.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454