On a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Crow Wing County Board delayed a decision on hiring for an analyst position it first approved last summer.
Commissioners Rosemary Franzen, Doug Houge and Paul Thiede voted in favor of waiting until the first quarter of 2011 to make a decision. Commissioners Rachel Reabe Nystrom and Phil Trusty opposed.
The vote appeared to be momentarily deadlocked as Trusty, board chairman, had to ask Franzen how she voted since her response wasn’t audible.
Thiede said he realized the position of a program and policy analyst in the land services department was approved in June but said he was discomforted and felt the board was not in the driver’s seat regarding the position.
The analyst was proposed as a new position to look at best management practices within the county for performance measures and grant writing.
Tami Laska, human resources director, said the position was critical to the mission of improving operational excellence. Laska said the goal was to look for greater efficiencies with departments.
Administrator Tim Houle said it was a way to streamline as businesses have done with the Lean process, avoid duplication, and be more effective with a guided effort.
Thiede was concerned about a position with discretion for decisions that reported to the land services director and/or the administrator. Laska noted her own position was probably the closest. She said she believed the county could quantify and report the savings the position generates.
“I do believe this is a position we can fill with existing staff,” Laska said.
Thiede said he wanted to put the a decision off, saying he didn’t think it was essential to move immediately. He suggested waiting until the first quarter and wait to see what the Legislature does.
Nystrom agreed it may be too quick to vote Tuesday but was against putting it off well into 2011.
“I think this is money very well spent for taxpayers,” Nystrom said. “I think it’s a good investment for Crow Wing County.”
The county previously budgeted for the position.
Thiede said he wasn’t sure there was enough definition for the position. Nystrom said if Thiede hasn’t moved forward in the last six months she didn’t have any confidence he would given another three. She questioned why Thiede hadn’t looked into his questions during the last six months. Thiede said he was busy with the budget.
Houge stated the position appeared to be changed from what was discussed in June. Houge said some of the job responsibilities seemed to fall on the administrator and he wanted to see if it was duplication of effort or streamlining and wanted more time to look it over.
Houle said the position was a concept in June while Tuesday the board was getting a job description, which was a normal part of the process. Houle noted he always talked about a role that served land services and moved to an organizational role for the entire organization, helping with the 2012 budget. He likened the county’s efforts thus far to wringing out a sponge and said more effort was needed now to squeeze out the excess water after all previous county work to streamline.
Nystrom suggested bringing the position back for the Jan. 25 board meeting. Trusty felt the board could vote on the issue Tuesday, noting the need for assistance in grant writing.
Franzen also said she didn’t think the position was the same she saw in June and asked about the grant writing. Grant writing was one of the bullet points listed for the position presented Tuesday.
Houle said if it was a question of who the analyst position reported to, the board could pick one rather than delay a vote.
“I’m not picking fights, but you are about to pick one with me,” Thiede said, adding he wanted better tracking and accountability in the position.
Nystrom said the board was putting off its responsibility if it put off a decision for three months and give up 25 percent of the year.
She asked the board to have the courage to vote it up or down rather than leave it hanging on a clothes line whipping in the wind. Nystrom said with all due respect Thiede requires information that isn’t germane to her in the least and if she were Thiede she would have spent the last six months picking the issue over.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.