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Goodhue County Board talks intern wages and future plans

Melissa Cushing, Goodhue County staff director of human resources, and Greg Isakson, director of public works, advocated for higher student intern wages at the regular Goodhue County Board meeting Feb. 20. They said the county's current introductory wage for a first-year intern is $10 per hour and that's far below what a student could earn working elsewhere. They wanted to offer first-year summer student employees $13 instead. This would help the county entice and retain better quality candidates, they said, that could hopefully someday work for the county.

Isakson said some competitive applicants in the past have accepted a Goodhue County internship at first, but later withdrawn from the position because they were able to find better paying work elsewhere. County Board members were overall unwilling to adjust the budget to accommodate the public works request this year, but they said they would consider planning for higher student wages in next year's budget.

Board members passed a different request for public works funding, however, to support the installation of new ADA compliant pedestrian signals and ramps at the intersection of Highway 58 and Pioneer Road near Red Wing High School. The project will address three corners of that intersection and also include flashing yellow left turn signals. The county's commitment will be approximately $40,000 and Isakson said it would more likely cost $32,000. This commitment is contingent on the City of Red Wing and Minnesota Department of Transportation to supply the project's remaining funds.

During a call for old and new business, County Board member Paul Drotos announced that, while he is recently retired, he has accepted a part-time role as Sustainability Commission coordinator for the City of Red Wing. A legal team looked over the position and determined there is no conflict of interest and he can remain in service with the Goodhue County Board as well.

County Board member Ron Allen reported that he has attended two of the recent public meetings for Red Wing 2040 and he believes this model, which sparks innovative ideas through pointed community discussions, might be worth adopting for the county. He suggested a "Goodhue County 2050" campaign that would engage voices from across the county to help plan for our overall future. No plans were made based off of his suggestion, but council members seemed overall receptive to the idea.

County Board member Brad Anderson made a suggestion that members of the board should not be able to write into the paper to have their opinions published without first having their facts vetted by county staff. However, others on the council disagreed and cheekily said that their position is no different from a senator or congressperson who has no obligation to provide accurate information. Allen also cited his personal freedom of speech and said commissioners should have the option to write an article from their own point of view. No motion was made to adopt Anderson's suggestion.