Mower approves staffing change
By Tim Ruzek
Mower County’s next leader of environmental services will likely head the feedlot program, replacing the previous feedlot officer who was paid last month to resign.
Merging the two positions into one will reduce 32 hours of employee time a week, creating an estimated savings of $35,000 to $45,000 a year, county officials said.
On Tuesday, the county board voted to reorganize environmental services.
The office will have five positions, with some taking extra duties. Under the plan, the board will look at future downsizing of environmental services through attrition, such as retirements and resignations.
Board members started considering changes for the department because its head supervisor, Daryl Franklin, will retire this month after 37 years with the county and the feedlot officer Lowell Franzen was paid $56,000 on March 11 by the county to resign.
Franzen was placed on paid administrative leave in early August after numerous citizens filed complaints about him in regard to a major hog feedlot in which Franzen got the permitting and sold his land.
Damage claims against Franzen and Mower County related to the project still are pending in civil court.
Under the reorganization, the county will transfer its water-plan management and agricultural inspection, which mainly involves weed issues in rural areas, to the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District office in Austin.
Board member David Hillier said the duties will fit in well with the SWCD.
No jobs will be transferred or eliminated with the switch, officials said.
SWCD officials last week asked the county to let the SWCD handle the county’s entire Local Water Management Plan as well as take back the feedlot program. They told the board the feedlot program needs a "fresh start" with a new office and new face.
The feedlot program permits and provides help to livestock producers.
About 14 years ago, the feedlot program was developed in Mower County and began in the SWCD office.
County leaders remain hopeful they can find someone to take on the new duties of the environmental services head, which will include feedlot, shoreland, planning and zoning issues.
They hope to hire a new department head within four to six weeks, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said. The transfer of the duties to the SWCD likely won’t happen until after hiring that person, he said.
Mower County will continue its contract to get feedlot services from Steele County until the new person is hired, Oscarson said. Mower also might contract with another county, he said, to help with the next round of zoning permits.