The first meeting of the new year of the Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners began with a couple new faces and a new arrangement between the county and the city of Brainerd.

At the Tuesday, Jan. 8, meeting, the county entered into a shared services agreement with Brainerd for general and technical building maintenance support for some city-owned buildings.

"The city of Brainerd reached out to us last fall and asked about the possibility of providing maintenance services for ... the three buildings that have the closest proximity to our campus," county Facilities Manager Reid Thiesse said.

The terms of the year-long contract include city-owned buildings such as city hall, the police department and two fire stations. The contract renews automatically unless there is an objection, and the city will pay the county $10,000 a month for the services.

"It's mutually cancelable for any reason, so should it not work out for either party, we can cancel that agreement," Thiesse explained.

The county will remove snow, maintain lawns and irrigate. It will also make repairs to buildings, doors, lighting, circuits and generators, according to the new agreement.

"We don't have designated building maintenance personnel, so at the city hall facility, most of those duties are assigned to me," City Engineer Paul Sandy said. "Corky McQuiston, our police chief, is up on the roof on a daily basis trying to reset air handlers and things like that."

The county also agreed to maintain the buildings' interiors with tasks including painting, carpet shampooing, plumbing, and maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

"We're going to do this kind of on a trial basis for one year, but I'm excited. I hope it works out. I think it makes total sense to me," Commissioner Paul Koering said.

According to the agreement, the county will keep track of all labor hours it spends on city-related projects, and those hours will be recorded on a quarterly basis and provided to the city. The contract amount for services is based upon 2,080 hours of maintenance and administrative support.

"For example, when you're doing snow removal out here on the sidewalk, the county goes right up to where they're supposed to go. All they have to do is just go a little bit further, and they can take care of city hall and the police department," Koering said.

"We've got a joint facilities agreement with the city of Crosslake, up in Crosslake. I think we should think about more of those kind of projects. ... It's all of us working together to provide the services that citizens are expecting."

According to the shared services agreement, the county will assist the city of Brainerd in making capital equipment decisions, provide monthly reports about the work completed, and the city and county will meet quarterly for a more holistic contract review.

"We're going to start off very slow with this process. There's a lot that goes into it. ... And as Paul (Sandy) and I researched this type of agreement that's out there, there's not a lot of them. It's not a common practice in Minnesota for this type of agreement to be in place," Thiesse said.

Sandy said, "Currently, as we stand today, our department heads are the ones that are working on facilities or are making phone calls and doing things to get the facilities taken care of. Is that the best use of taxpayer dollars? We honestly don't think it is."

Commissioner Steve Barrows then made a motion to enter into the shared services agreement, which was seconded by Koering, and the board unanimously agreed to pass the motion at the statutory, organizational and board meeting.

Barrows, a former Baxter City Council member, was elected in November to represent District 3 when former Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom did not run for re-election. Commissioner Bill Brekken, a RE/MAX associate, unseated Chairman Paul Thiede of Pequot Lakes in District 2.

Judge Earl Maus administered the oath of office at the start of the meeting for Barrows, Brekken and Commissioner Rosemary Franzen, who ran unopposed last year in her bid for re-election.

Koering then nominated Franzen to be chairwoman for 2019, which was seconded by Barrows, and the board unanimously voted the District 4 commissioner for chair. Franzen nominated Koering for vice chair, which was seconded by Barrows, and that motion, too, passed.