Osakis Voices: County chair has extra duties
I have had the honor of being the Todd County Board chair three times. In Todd County, the commissioners are on a rotation to serve as chair. Being the chair brings on a lot of extra responsibilities and duties. You have more committee assignments and you are in Long Prairie a lot more.
One of the responsibilities is approving the County Board meeting agenda for the first and third Tuesdays and if there is a need for a special meeting that the board would have to call. You also run the meetings.Then there are the personnel meetings, which happen about once a week where you deal with employee issues. You are a lot more involved with the day-to-day operations within the county. You work close with the administration department and with the other elected officials and department heads. You have to make a decision if the county should close if the weather is bad in the winter months. You have over 35 committee assignments with some meeting weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly and twice a year. You get used to changing clothes a lot and taking multiple showers in a day. Here is how a typical day would go. Get up, shower, be at county by 8 a.m., in a meeting till 10 or 11 a.m., go home, change clothes, work on farm/snowmobiles/ATVs at the shop till 3 p.m., go home, shower, leave for meeting at 4 for a meeting from 5 to 6:30 p.m., get home by 7, change clothes and back up to shop.
Then there are things that you are told that you cannot discuss, such as if there is a lawsuit filed against the county; the county's insurance provider, Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust, will notify the county attorney and County Board chair. MCIT then will appoint an attorney who specializes in that type of lawsuit to represent the county. Most will come from metro area and Fergus Falls. We had a situation last summer that happened on I-94, resulting in a lawsuit. Three miles west it would have been in Douglas County and two miles east in Stearns County. It happened in Todd County and was settled out of court by our MCIT attorney for $1.8 million. So when you are chair of a County Board there are a lot of issues and things going on that you have to share with the other commissioners. Most of these meetings are also attended by the vice chair who at the first meeting in January becomes the new County Board chair. So my meetings now are 25 committee assignments and five alternate committee assignments, which mean a little less changing clothes and showering!
In my last article I talked about our county based purchasing South Country Health Alliance and told of a cash call with Todd County's payment possibly being over $500,000. Well, in December I was told it was $1.3 million, and then on January 24 I was told it is now $1.9 million, and then January 30 was told that the loss for South Country was an additional $2 million for a total of $16 million, which would put our cash call in Todd County to over $2 million. Commissioner Barb Becker and I were invited to a special Wadena County Board meeting on January 25 where they voted to withdraw from South Country Health Alliance. Their cash call was $800,000 in December, but was $1.3 million when they voted on it. Todd County Commissioners will be voting on South Country at the February 5 meeting. I will not support the cash call and will support Todd County's withdrawal. There are no guarantees that in 2020 they would not do another cash call. I can tell you that the Minnesota Department of Health and Human services has not been very supportive when it comes to county based purchasing. This will affect 4,314 Todd County residents. I wish our neighboring counties to the west that belong to Prime West, also a county based purchasing group, good luck and do not let the state take you down!
I missed the January Sauk River Watershed meeting but I did receive a call from Douglas County Commissioner Jerry Rapp, who told me what I had missed at the meeting. Concerns we both have are that Sauk River Watershed hired an architect to design a new building in Sauk Centre for around $50,000 and where the funding will come from for this new building. I will share more when we find out the architect's estimate and if the watershed puts the building construction out for bids.
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Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.