County Board votes 3-2 to increase salaries for elected department heads

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

With votes split 3-2, all four elected Morrison County department heads were authorized a 2 percent increase in salary for 2014 by the County Board, Tuesday.

During the annual salary review, County Attorney Brian Middendorf had requested no salary increase this year.

County Auditor/Treasurer Russ Nygren had not specifically asked for an increase. He let the Board know that he would still accept a 2 percent cost of living increase if the commissioners chose to do that, pointing out that every other county employee had been given a 2 percent raise.

County Recorder Eileen Holtberg, completing her first year as Recorder after 23 years in the Recorder’s office, had requested a 4 percent salary increase in addition to a 2 percent cost of living increase, for a total adjustment of 6 percent. She cited a comparison of her salary with that of recorders in area counties.

County Sheriff Michel Wetzel had requested a 4.6 percent increase, which would have brought him closer into line with similar department heads in the county as well as with sheriffs in comparable counties in the area, although still 6.4 percent behind the average.

County Commissioners Jeff Jelinski, Kevin Maurer and Randy Winscher voted to give each official a 2 percent cost of living raise, while Commissioners Duane Johnson and Don Meyer voted against each raise.

Jelinski made “what could be an unpopular motion” for the increase. “I don’t believe we can ever bring an elected official’s salary to where they want it to be,” he said. “But because of the fact that this very board granted a 2 percent raise to all other county employees, it would be a slight not to do the same for our elected officials.”

Maurer recommended that a 2 percent increase be given “as we did to the other (non-elected) department heads. We need to give them what we did everyone else,” he said. “It’s really important we treat supervisors equally.”

Winscher pointed out that he was making a 180 degree change from the opinion he gave at the previous week’s planning session.

“Giving a raise is always a difficult matter,” he said. “All my experience has been in the private sector. This is about treating people fairly.”

“This is a lot of money,” said Meyer. “A lot of taxpayers have had it.”

“I was opposed to all raises,” said Johnson. “Three of these officials received 4 percent raises last year, and (County Attorney) Brian didn’t even request a raise.”

“I’m very comfortable with this,” Maurer said. “The taxpayers — the voters — have put their trust in these elected officials. We would be remiss if we didn’t give them what we gave the others, for morale within the organization. We can’t give the people under them a raise and not them. If people have a problem with this, they can not elect us next time.”

The commissioners turned down any raise for themselves.

Morrison County Board Briefs

Other business that came before the Morrison County Board Tuesday, included:

• Approving a contract between Morrison County Social Services and Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program for Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) employment services for 2014. The contract fees of $218,553 will come from the MFIP consolidated funds;

• Adopting the revised septic system provisions in Section 1300 of the Morrison County Land Use Control Ordinance to meet the state’s deadline date of Feb. 4, 2014. “We’ve been including installers and realtors in the process all along,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “It’s been a good group effort;”

• Approving a resolution establishing a remote digital file archiving and disaster recovery arrangement with Mille Lacs County. “We discovered in June that we had this capability,” said Technical Services Director Mike Disher. “This is a virtual private network that is secure and encrypted;”

• Authorizing the issuing of a license for encroachment on a property adjacent to Lake Shamineau. The location of the existing cabin encroaches on the road. “The license will be in effect as long as the cabin remains on the site,” said Public Works Supervisor Steve Backowski; and

• Adopting a resolution that prioritizes bridge replacement in the county for the next five years. “Once a structure is included on this list, we can seek grant funding to replace it,” said Backowski.

The next regular County Board Meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 9 a.m. in the board room of the County Government Center.