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Crow Wing County looks to phase one for community services restructuring

A search for a new community services director is part of phase one in redefining Crow Wing County’s community services department.

Tuesday, commissioners looked at a planned department organizational chart with three divisions — health and social services, customer services, employment and economic services and community corrections. All serve beneath the director, who is expected to have an administrative assistant. Also on the list was a recommendation for a policy and planning analyst, something interim director Mark Liedl also recommended for land services. That position was approved two years ago but has yet to be filled.

Tami Laska, human resources director, said the customer services division would serve as the intake area and monitor the case through service and discharge, tracking results.

Laska said beginning the new model process begins with finding a director and identifying three lead positions, using those three to help identify program leaders. The top three should be identified by Jan. 1 and the others by March 1.

A project team was identified as: Liedl; commissioners Rachel Reabe Nystrom and Rosemary Franzen, who are personnel committee members; Administrator Tim Houle, Auditor-Treasurer Laureen Borden and Laska. The project team is expected to participate in selection of unit leaders and help identify program leaders. If internal candidates aren’t identified, the search will be broadened. Thiede said his only hesitation came in having the personnel committee handle it all when a fresh set of eyes may broaden the perspective.

“Our eyes are going to be quite fresh,” Nystrom said.

Houle said commissioners were welcome to view potential director candidate applications.

Additionally, Laska said once leaders are in place a consultant will be brought in to look at job descriptions, classifications and pay. Transition options may be needed if positions are eliminated, if layoffs or voluntary resignations are involved or for training needs.

Laska referred to it as eating an elephant one bite at a time so now the county is looking at the base plan.

“Change isn’t cheap,” Commissioner Paul Thiede said adding they haven’t looked at it as just an overall savings. Thiede asked about the fiscal impact with the changes. “Are we maintaining or are we going to spend more or are we going to spend less?”

Laska said she’s put together some facts on that but would like to come back with more information later. “Obviously our goal is to improve services and lower the cost of government,” Laska said that might not be visible at the beginning but with cross-training and integration of services, as with land services, the county should be able to lower overall cost while increasing service.

Thiede noted the addition of a policy and planning analyst, something Liedl used to do himself, and questioned whether an analyst was needed to help the management team or if both departments needed one. Thiede said adding that position would be a great benefit. He asked if Houle would want an analyst in administration.

Liedl said having them in the departments is a better benefit for the organization and those staffers hired could be in training for management positions as well.

The policy analyst is a tool for the department head not as a way to bypass them, Houle said, noting if the board didn’t like a manager’s work they should replace them and not use this policy as a way to go around them. Thiede said Houle rose to his bait and he didn’t intend to add an analyst in administration. Thiede said the position gets into trouble if it removes the policy makers, meaning the board. “That’s why I am pursuing this with a little vigor this morning,” Thiede said.

Chairman Doug Houge asked if other counties had policy analysts. Liedl said larger counties do but not many Crow Wing County’s size, but having worked at the federal and state level he said it is a valuable position.

In other business, the board:

Approved a temporary on-sale liquor license application of the Brainerd Eagles for temporary sale of liquor at the Brainerd Lakes Curling Center on the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 subject to recommendation by Oak Lawn Township, county attorney and sheriff.

Authorized an agreement between the county and Minnesota Department of Public Safety for a grant for the Lakes Area Drug Investigative Division to reimburse expenses for personnel, training and “buy money” up to $67,550.

Agreed to participate in drainage improvements on County Highway 33 in Crosby to correct a problem causing stormwater to go into Graphic Packaging following numerous rain events. The city of Crosby is the lead in the $300,000 project. The county agreed to pay $37,500, as flows from the county road system contribute to the stormwater flow.

Heard DeeAnne Newville, who left as the county’s information technology director after less than a year on the job, took a 36 percent reduction in pay to initially take the job. Laska said 50 percent of candidates of interest declined because of the county’s pay range. As the county gets into recruitment, Laska said the county may want to look at that pay range, which tops out at $88,700.

Met in closed session for labor negotiations before opening with a settlement proposal with Teamster 346 corrections and dispatch supervisors. The agreement includes a memorandum of understanding to pilot a performance-based pay system for new hires and staff with an agreement all staff remain at Dec. 31, 2013, rate of pay until a successor agreement is negotiated. Laska said it was a 20 percent reduction in minimum pay rates and a 2.5 percent increase in maximum pay rates to expand the end pay range. Laska said the contract had a step increase but not a cost of living increase.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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