Possible merger being explored by Employment Enterprises Inc. and WACOSA of Stearns County

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

 

Morrison County Commissioners learned Tuesday that Employment Enterprises Inc. (EEI) of Little Falls is investigating a plan of merger with WACOSA, a non-profit started in 1963 in Waite Park (WA), Cold Spring (CO) and Sauk Centre (SA) to provide employment for disabled adults.

Longtime EEI Executive Director Byron Quinn is retiring in June.

“We had the choice of looking for a new executive director or looking at a merger,” Quinn told the Board.

EEI and WACOSA are both non-profit organizations which coordinate employment opportunities for disabled adults in their communities.

New regulations go into effect in the next year which would add expenses to the organization in the long run.

“There will be a total rate reconstruction,” Quinn said, “with current per diem reimbursement changing to an individual rate for each of about 70 people.”

Some of the services EEI provides are mandated —provided there is money to cover it, said Social Services Director Brad Vold. Although the overall effects of upcoming changes are projected to be budget-neutral for the state, smaller agencies such as EEI will be affected.

“There is a minimum wage increase being discussed along with a legislative budget reduction,” Vold said. “Licensing fees are projected to increase 264 percent as the costs are moved from the state to providers.”

EEI is looking at the sustainability of trying to continue providing services over the next three to five years.

“We think a merger would put both EEI and WACOSA in a better position to weather storms,” Quinn said.

“Technically, this would not be a merger,” Vold said. “Since both organizations are non-profits, EEI would be dissolved and WACOSA would be acquiring the EEI assets from the EEI Board.”

“If we disband we have to donate the assets to another non-profit,” said Quinn.

Those assets would remain in Morrison County, Vold said. The contract with EEI would be closed out and a contract with WACOSA would take its place.

“WACOSA would have two board seats to be filled by EEI board members for a total of 14,” Quinn said. “The EEI Board would be an advisory committee to the WACOSA Board.”

Board member Jeff Jelinski pointed out that change is hard for everyone, but there is no other alternative to WACOSA in the area.

Quinn said there are no plans for any layoffs. “We would have a memorandum of understanding between the two organizations,” he said. “We have to maintain certain consumer to staff ratios.”

Beyond that, Quinn could not offer any more concrete answers, as both organizations are still working on the process.

“We are still exploring this option as a possibility,” Quinn said. “We’re still investigating each other.”

The topic will be discussed at the County Board’s May planning meeting, Tuesday, May 14 at 8:30 a.m. in the board room of the Morrison County Government Center.

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