One by one Crow Wing County department heads took the proverbial hot seat Tuesday as they sat before the board and talked about money.
Department heads were asked to explain budget expenditures exceeding the board's proposed zero-based budget, meaning no increases in expenditures from 2007.
John Bowen, emergency management director, said he could work within those guidelines as he had considerable grant money coming in. On the other hand, small departments like the purchaser's office, with most of the budget in wages, said meeting a zero-based budget would literally mean limited funds for basic office supplies.
Don Sigety, surveyor, said eliminating overtime for his office could cost more money in the long run if a survey crew leaves the far end of the county early to beat the clock only to have to go back later and complete the work and take additional time.
Commissioners are weighing department requests with budget constraints. They will set a preliminary budget on Sept. 11. Hiring requests, such as those to replace existing positions, were deferred until the board makes a decision on the preliminary budget.
In other business, the board:
Heard from Human Rights Commission members Carol Rose and Don Wedl. Rose spoke of difficulties in filling appointments designated for area school districts. And the group is divided among themselves as to whether they should start getting meeting per diems. The county reported school districts never responded to requests for recommended names to serve on the commission. The Human Rights Commission is expected to bring formal recommendations to the board at a later date.
Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom suggested the county board may benefit from hearing more about the Human Rights Commission if they made a presentation at one of the board's monthly committee meetings. Rose said they were more comfortable talking without a public audience. Nystrom said the members should be able to give a presentation explaining their reason for being and the meeting would be open to the public.
The Human Rights Commission was interested in contacting the Crow Wing County Fair Board to protest the inclusion of booth rented by a Mille Lacs area group Rose said was anti-American Indian.
Commissioner Paul Thiede asked whether the Communist Party should be denied a booth. Wedl said perhaps if they depicted Republicans for example as evil and said they shouldn't be involved in the United States. Wedl asked if the Klu Klux Klan would be allowed a booth. He said it was a fine line between freedoms or degrading a group of people.
Asked Lyndon Robjent, highway engineer, to review the practice of granting petition requests for "one-time maintenance" on roads. The board granted the Tuesday requests for that maintenance for Sorenson Lake Lane, Cinosam Pines Road and Deepwoods Trail - all roads in the First Assessment District.
Met in closed session for labor negotiations with Law Enforcement Labor Services and International Union of Operating Engineers.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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