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Becker County gets ready for Senate recount

The Becker County Board on Tuesday geared up for the big Senate race recount.

Commissioners approved a request from County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen to allow election judges who will be taking part in the U.S. Senate election recount next week to be reimbursed for their time at the same rate -- $9 per hour, plus mileage -- as Absentee Ballot Board members.

The recount starts today in most counties, but not until next week in several counties, including Becker County, because Tangen has to be out of town this week and needs to be on hand for the recount.

The recount for Becker County will begin at 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24, in the courthouse. Tangen said in an interview that he expects the process to take about 20 hours.

The ballot counting will be entrusted to three teams of three persons apiece. Attorneys for both Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken will be present during the counting, and will be allowed to challenge the inclusion of any ballots they believe should not be counted.

The team leader will then give their explanation of why they feel the ballot should be included; if the attorney decides that the challenge will stand, the ballot will be placed in a sealed envelope and sent to the State Canvassing Board for review.

The recount proceedings will be entirely open to the public, including members of the press. For that reason, the recount is tentatively scheduled to be held in Courtroom 1 at the county courthouse.

Tangen said there are about 17,750 ballots that will need to be counted by hand.

In other business:

Becker County employees can relax and enjoy the Christmas holidays. A new two-year labor contract has been ratified.

The County Board voted Tuesday to ratify labor agreements between the county and Teamsters Union Local 320; separate contracts were negotiated for Human Services Department employees and courthouse staff.

Though the language of both agreements was essentially the same, Human Resources Director Nancy Grabanski said there were a few differences.

Employees at the courthouse and human services will all receive a 3 percent raise for 2008, and another 3 percent raise in 2009.

All employees covered by these agreements will also receive up to 16 hours of additional leave for a death in the family, where previously they had only been allowed to take a maximum of 3 days for funeral leave. They must have the approval of their department head for the additional hours, however.

Both contracts also included a provision that will allow employee sick leave to encompass taking care of stepchildren. Accrued vacation time that can be carried over from one year to the next was increased from a maximum of 24 days to 28 days.

One provision that was not included in the human services contract was an allowance for boots and protective clothing for those courthouse employees required to wear them in order to meet federal Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) standards.

Also on Tuesday, the county board approved a resolution allowing the use of a portion of the old Highway 10 right-of-way as part of the proposed Heartland Trail Extension that would connect Detroit Lakes and Frazee. The state has set aside $1.7 million in funding for the project, which would extend the current trail from Park Rapids to Moorhead (through Detroit Lakes).

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