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Goodhue County commissioners tackle communications issues

The Goodhue County Board approved the creation of a communications captain position in the sheriff's department during the April 16 meeting.

According to a document sent to the county's human resources director and county administrator by Sheriff Marty Kelly, the person hired will be responsible for the county-owned radio system. He said this will eliminate some of the costs of contracts with private contractors. The captain also will oversee the dispatch center and attend related meetings, which Kelly said will reduce some of the overtime.

After discussing the need of this position and what it would look like, the board approved it on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Paul Drotos was the only board member not to vote for the communications captain.

"That's my main concern is just the cost of someone that would be competent to do these duties that I've seen, manage the radio system and also be supervising the dispatch sergeants ... so I continue to find that a real impediment as far the cost to taxpayers," he said.

Commissioner Barney Nesseth replied, "I think if you're going to compare cost, if you're going to go with a true IT person, I would guess would be very equivalent."

After the discussion, the board turned to a conversation on the "role of the board versus the role of staff." Nesseth said he wanted to find a way for board members to know about statements before staff make them on behalf of the county.

According to Administrator Scott Arneson, the county informed the state that the Goodhue County opposed to a bill related to solid waste. Nesseth explained that this statement seemed to imply that the board was opposed to the bill, including him.

"When (staff) are communicating on behalf of the county, there needs to be some sort of feedback to the commissioners," stated Nesseth.

Arneson explained that this is not always possible because staff members are asked to comment on or reply to questions about bills and legislation every day. Arneson said he cannot send all of these actions in an email to the commissioners because if three or more of them reply, the Open Meeting Law would be broken.

The only way to share every request for or decision to comment on something with the board would be to holding daily meetings, Arneson said.