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CROW WING COUNTY BOARD: Direction for government redesign considered

Underwhelmed by a consultant’s results and looking at a $15,000 price tag, Crow Wing County commissioners examined whether staff had time to tackle one more project. 

At issue is a goal to redesign government — focusing on health and human services. The county reported a smaller percentage of clients consume the majority of resources and it is considering options to get families to stable situations in the most effective and cost efficient manner. 

At issue is a decision whether to be part of a $55,000 fee paid to a consultant or whether to do the work in-house.

Board members met Tuesday as a committee and reviewed the number of projects before Community Services now. 

Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said the list of projects before Community Services is a plateful and she was concerned about capacity. 

Community Services is part of the county’s Managing for Results effort, which looks at what the county is attempting to accomplish.

Another project, Lean, is aimed at how the  work is done to eliminate waste in time and effort. The income maintenance unit in the Community Services department is also working to implement the onBase/Compass project — aimed at a paperless application process and another known as Case Banking. 

In addition, the department is looking into a proposal by Cass County to allow residents — about 700 cases from the Pillager area — to apply for federal and state programs in Brainerd. The department is also working on the creation of a central access point for services, with the detox center relocation options along with other initiatives. 

With all of those projects, Tim Houle, county administrator, said the Lean process doesn’t have to begin now and there are a couple of staff members who could work with a consultant. Staff members previously gathered information for the consultant’s first effort, a concept study. 

The study for a government redesign project was funded in part by a grant through the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce from the Bush Foundation. Crow Wing County was joined by Todd County in providing funding for the initial report by The Reardon Group of Golden Valley. 

Board Chairman Paul Thiede pointed to the county’s dramatic change in Land Services going from five departments to one. Thiede said it was done successfully, showing the county’s capacity to do the work. 

Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said spending the money was a concern as was putting staff hours into a project a consultant was paid to do. Houle estimated three staff members worked on the concept study and participated in a two-day meeting project. Houle said an outside perspective can be beneficial. 

Nystrom noted Beth Wilms, new Community Services director, has those fresh eyes. 

Wilms said if the board wants coordinated case management to be a priority her staff doesn’t have the ability to do it in three months but could do it farther down the road. 

“It’s a pacing question,” Houle said, if the board wants to move the process more rapidly outside help is needed, or the county could look at it in September. “It’s a question of timing.”

The board members also discussed whether the option may be to find a different consultant. The board directed Houle to provide a summary of the discussion and list the options at the April 26 board meeting.

Commissioners Phil Trusty and Doug Houge were absent.