By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Carlton County approves limited hiring freeze


In response to the COVID-19 impact on the local economy and health, the Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved a limited freeze on hiring with the County Board pledging to make a step-by-step study of each position before a new person is hired.

There was lengthy discussion on budget and personnel during the regular meeting of the Board on May 12th. Acting Auditor/Treasurer Kathy Korteum reported that spring property tax payments are about 5% below other years and the final figure will not be known until after May 15th plus those payments made by mail and some arriving later than that date.

“Flexibility in this age of the COVID-19 is needed,” said County Coordinator Dennis Genereau, “and a flat hiring freeze is not the answer. We need to have a careful decision making process about who are essential employees to keep important County services functioning until the epidemic has passed.”

Some of the programs in Carlton County generate the money to run their departments. The Recorder’s Office has a revenue stream from recording fees and the sale of copies of recorded documents, for example. The Tax-Forfeit Land Department uses revenue from timber sales and tax forfeit land sales to cover the wages of two staff. There had been one staff member to answer calls, work on special projects, and fill in when a forester was needed on a sale site. This position remains unfilled and will not be considered again until after the pandemic is over.

Director Dave Lee of Health and Human Services explained, “My team and I assess every position that is under consideration to fill. During this period of tight funding we have decided not to fill two positions. But that cannot go on indefinitely. A financial worker has retired and the Board will get a request to fill that key position.”

Commissioner Dick Brenner via live-streaming felt that there should be no new employee positions filled and refills of current positions should be scrutinized closely. Commissioner Gary Peterson made a motion which passed to have the Management Team discuss possible staffing changes and efficiencies as a cost-cutting measure. The report is to be presented to the Adjourned Session of the County Board on May 25th.

In a related item of news focusing on a response to COVID-19 by the County following Governor Walz’s health guidelines, the beach will be closed in the County’s Chub Lake Park. No large events will be held there and no groups of more than 10 people will be allowed at the park.


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