WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Commissioners, department heads and other key county staff members began the task of setting up a framework of committees and work groups that will guide the county through a series of short-term and long-term goals of increasing government efficiency and combining different departments.
The group spent several hours Tuesday reviewing the outcome of the phase 2 redesign report prepared by David Ummacht, a consultant with Springsted Inc. They also identified people to serve on the various committees.
The meeting was a "roll up your sleeves" work session, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl, adding that the process will continue for another six to 12 months.
The county earlier this year began looking at ways to become more efficient by reorganizing some of the internal structures.
The first phase of the study pertained to the different departments housed in the downtown county office building.
The second phase -- the topic of Tuesday's meeting -- was focused on the likely merger of the Family Services and Public Health Departments, and the possibility of also merging those departments with Community Corrections and the Veterans Services department. Those four departments are all located in the Health and Human Services building.
Earlier this year the County Board appointed Ann Stehn as the director of Public Health and Family Services, but so far the departments are still operating independently.
Work will primarily focus on determining on how those two departments can operate as one, and how communication can be improved to also include Community Corrections and Veterans Services.
The long-term goal is to integrate the staff, programs and services "between and within" all four departments, but "we don't get there tomorrow or the next day," said Kleindl.
Commissioner Dean Shuck said he is not comfortable rushing a complete merger of all four departments. "There's no reason to push it."
Commissioner Jim Butterfied agreed. "It's not going to happen overnight," he said.
"It could be four, five or six years down the road," said Commissioner Harlan Madsen.
While this part of the project will deal primarily with the merger of the Public Health and Family Services departments, Kleindl said it was important to include Community Corrections and Veteran Services at the start of the process in order to meet the long-term goals.
The process will include some gritty work by the integration committee that will look at how to use support staff, accounting and billing, office policies and procedures, and communications.
The human resources committee will identify issues that affect the staff, such as labor contracts, the use of the merit system, workplace culture, staff development and personnel policies and procedures.
A support team committee will look at areas of information technology, space and facilities and legal issues, such as data practices.
The group agreed that a steering committee made up of seven individuals -- most likely the department heads, county administrator, human resources director and one county board member -- will provide overall direction for developing the new organizational structure, setting timelines and serving as a source of information for the other committees.
A project manager will be selected who will keep all the committees on task and the process moving.
It's not certain who this person will be, but it will likely not be Kleindl or Stehn, who already have a full plate.
Unmacht said former county administrators have been hired for jobs like this in other counties, or a current county supervisor could be given a temporary leave from that job to take on the project manager duties.
The group will communicate with Kleindl on their suggestions for a project manager and for the members of the steering committee. That list will be brought to the County Board for action at its Dec. 18 meeting.
Unmacht reiterated that the Kandiyohi County study was not initiated because something was "broken" or needed to be fixed, but instead it was an attempt to become better prepared for the future and changing dynamics in state and regional governments.
He praised the county for taking on the task now and encouraged them to keep the process going.
"Every day that slips by, you lose some momentum," he said.