ST. PETER — The Nicollet County Board voted Tuesday to adopt its Strategic Plan to restructure its various county departments over the next two years.
In the wake of the Feb. 14 retirement of Nicollet County Auditor-Treasurer Bridgette Kennedy, the Board sought to work towards making major efficiency improvements to the county. Specifically, the Board wanted to combine departments to improve services, increase coordination and save money in several areas.
The plan calls for major changes to be phased in over several years. The changes included:
• Merging the Auditor/Treasurer, Assessor and Environmental Services Departments into one Department with multiple Divisions called Property and Public Services.
• In the future, appointing someone to the County Recorder’s Office and merge it with the new Property and Public Services department.
• Creating a Finance Department.
• Moving benefits administration to Human Resources.
The benefits and Finance Department proposal will be tackled this year, with their final implementations completed into next year. The rest of the proposals will be implemented in 2015 and slowly phased in over the subsequent year.
The plan was passed in a split 3-to-1 vote with Commissioner Jack Kolars abstaining. He said he supported the plan, but voiced concerns about its speed and the amount of board input in the decisions.
Commissioner Marie Dranttel, who voted against the plan, said she was concerned the plan would increase government involvement in the private sector.
Nicollet County Administrator Ryan Krosch disagreed, noting the shared responsibilities in the combined offices would reduce the size of county departments. He also noted the plan would save the county around $250,000 to $350,000 per year through efficiency improvements.
The plan will not eliminate any existing staff, but it will gradually reduce one to two full-time county positions by not filling select retirements. The process will also combine approximately 11 managerial positions into 6 managerial positions. Some department heads may be shifted down into supervisory positions in the newly created combined departments.
The proposal for the elected Recorder's position will likely become an appointed position when it is combined with the other departments. The county will have to seek legislative approval for the proposal.