Board OKs Hansen for county job

NEW ULM — Brown County commissioners unanimously approved an employment agreement with former St. James city manager Sam Hansen Tuesday.

The action, on a motion by Commissioner Scott Windschitl, seconded by Commissioner Tony Berg, comes after an ad hoc committee including Commissioners Windschitl and Dave Borchert met with Hansen and agreed on a $112,365 annual gross salary effective May 20.

Hansen and Winthrop City Administrator Jennifer Hazelton were finalists for the job. Hazelton was offered the Brown County administrator job on April 10 after commissioners interviewed both people for nearly an hour. Hazelton declined the offer a couple days later.

Borchert and Windschitl said they certainly supported hiring Hansen.

“I’m very excited to have such a high-quality candidate to hire,” Windschitl said. Borchert said he felt the same way.

Commissioners also unanimously approved:

• A state of emergency declaration due to spring floods and Winter Storm Wesley. It was requested by Brown County Emergency Manager Shawn Stoermann and passed on a motion by Windschitl, seconded by Commissioner Dean Simonsen.

Stoermann said Brown County estimated damage surpassed the $48,937.77 state assistance threshold for damages and the $97.875.54 federal assistance threshold. Stoermann said Brown County’s winter storm and spring flood damages are now $133,537.75 but the final amount will go higher.

Damage amounts include the Brown County Rural Electrical Association estimates of $40,000 for flooding and $35,000 for Winter Storm Wesley; $24,668 for City of New Ulm flooding and $15,000 for Bashaw Township flooding and $5,000 each for Leavenworth and Mulligan Township flooding.

• Approved an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) transition plan to continue receiving federal highway funds Tuesday, April 23.

Brown County ADA criteria include conforming to ADA practices for all new construction and reconstruction projects. ADA improvements on resurfacing projects will be addressed case-by-case. Public requests will be evaluated by county staff.

Pedestrian ramp locations included 149 in New Ulm, 114 in Sleepy Eye, 39 in Comfrey, 34 in Springfield, 24 in Hanska, and two each in Essig and Evan.

Of 364 Brown County pedestrian ramps, 40 were rated largely or fully compliant, 184 substantially compliant and working well, 125 had several elements not compliant and 15 were not evaluated, according to a transition plan prepared by Stonebrooke Engineering presented to the board April 2. No formal complaints were submitted at the public meeting.

• Family facilitator contracts with New Ulm, Sleepy Eye and Springfield school districts. The formula agrees to subtract revenue Brown County receives for each worker and splits the remaining cost 50/50 with schools. Comfrey Public School decided not to participate in the project many years ago.

• A grant request to Families First Collaborative and authorize Brown County Human Services/Probation to apply for grant funding to operate the truancy program out of the Brown County Probation Department instead of Human Services.

Due to an overload of mental health and truancy cases, Human Services requests the Brown County Probation Department take over non-mental health truancies. The current program addresses truants with mental health issues and truants without a mental health diagnosis.

In the past two years, about 60 cases a year were referred for truancy services. Currently, referrals must meet the statutory definition of truancy: a child over age 11 without lawful excuse for one or more class periods on seven different school days.

Referrals not meeting the definition are screened out. Some truancies are resolves with a diversion contract, others can result in many hours of case management and/or varying levels of costly out-of-home placements.

Time spent on truancy case management is not billable or refundable by any Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) program or funding mechanism. DHS does not define truancy as a Human Services function or service.

The proposal would transfer all non-mental health truancy cases to probation on or about Sept. 1. Probation would run a different style of truancy program similar to one in Nicollet County that has been very successful.

A truancy/probation offer is assigned to work with pre-truants and those that meet truancy guidelines. Nicollet County early intervention has saved out-of-home placements and deterred adolescents from criminal acting out and drug use. They will also work with any youth with attendance issues.

Transferring the non-mental health cases to probation would allow three children’s mental health caseloads to come down to the state-mandated case load of 15 per worker. This would have a positive impact on state and federal reimbursement for the social workers.

If the board agrees, $25,000 in local grants would be sought. In addition, Families First Collaborative funding is requested for reimbursement funds not now received from the Department of Corrections.

• Adding a fifth child protection social worker. The request was referred to an ad hoc committee March 26. The consensus was to approve adding the position.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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