Houston County commissioners addressed a slew of personnel concerns on Dec. 11, including agreements with some of their bargaining units.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the county and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was approved.

The document adds seven positions to the union, including victim services coordinator (an hourly job) and six exempt (salaried) positions. Those include: E911 coordinator, fiscal officer, WIC peer counselor coordinator, economic development coordinator, health educator and zoning administrator.

The MOU was ordered by the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, personnel director Tess Kruger reported.

The agreement also covers overtime and pay schedules, vacation use, sick leave and other details pertaining to the affected employees.

Other than the victim services coordinator, the MOU states that all other members of the County Attorney's Office are excluded from the bargaining unit.

Commissioners also formally accepted and signed the final version of the MAPE (Minnesota Association of Professional Employees) labor agreement without further discussion.

A draft version of a compensation guideline for non-union employees and elected officials was approved as well.

The document does not necessarily guarantee wage hikes, but includes a set of wage grids with step increases.

A proposal to set next year's elected official salaries was tabled until next week for further study.

Kruger included examples for the board to consider, including 2 and 4 percent raises.

Because other county employees have received COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) increases, which elected officials did not get in recent years, a 4 percent increase would be needed to put those employees "at par" with others, she stated.

The board approved hiring Sandee Feuerhelm as a 67 temporary day jailer/dispatcher, an "on call" position. It was the second time they have approved the addition, since Feuerhelm originally retired and then agreed to cover some hours as needed.

Kruger explained that a gap in employment with the county was necessary before adding Feuerhelm to the list.

The board accepted the resignation of probationary social worker Susan Rockers-Wittkopp and approved utilizing a recent search to locate individuals to re-interview.

Commissioners also voted to close the courthouse on Monday, Dec. 24. County employees have a half-day holiday on that date and can opt to take vacation hours or work behind closed doors for the other half-day.

OSHA complaint made

Kruger reported that a complaint was filed on Nov. 14 with OSHA, charging that conditions at the Highway Department building in Caledonia do not meet safe work standards, specifically air quality. The problem is a leaking roof that could produce mold.

Kruger said that county staff and insurance representatives inspected the building and filed a recommendation to replace the roof, which resulted in OSHA closing the case for now.

"If you stay there that the roof needs replacing," she cautioned commissioners, "the response was a stop-gap measure. OSHA will return to check on the building."

The item was information only, since the board has not yet decided what to do about the condition of the building.

Grant funding in flux

Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter told the board that a Homeland Security Emergency Management grant that was to have been used to pay a portion of Emergency Management/Courthouse Security Officer Kurt Kuhlers' salary is not allowed to supplant wages.

The money is just for equipment purchases, Yeiter reported. Only $2,500 of the $17,697 total has been used for that purpose so far.

The board approved the grant, but told Yeiter they are willing to forgo $15,000 worth of funds if they can't be spent for needed items before the end of the year.

"If we don't need it, I don't want to spend it," Commissioner Tom Bjerke said.