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Transition means some employees will have to seek employment in another capacity

There are 330 state employees, or the equivalent of 281 full-time employees, currently on the Willmar Regional Treatment Center campus, according to Mike Tessneer, chief executive officer for Minnesota State Operated Services.

As part of the transition to a new type of services for people with disabilities, the adult mental health program is being moved from the campus and into a variety of small community-based settings.

That means the 114 employees in that program on the Willmar Regional Treatment Center campus will be looking for work elsewhere. Some are being recruited by State Operated Services to staff the community behavioral health hospitals in Annandale and Cold Spring, according to Patrice Vick, communications director with the Department of Human Services. Others will have options spelled out in their contract memorandum of understanding.

There are plans to open a behavioral hospital in Willmar, which could offer jobs here, but agreements haven't been worked out yet between the state and Rice Memorial Hospital, which might operate the program.

There are 77 other employees in the adult mental health program that are working in other community-based programs that aren't affected by the sale of the Willmar campus, said Vick.

The laundry department on the campus closed down two or three years ago, affecting 10 employees.

The maintenance department shut down a couple months ago, affecting 12 employees. Kandiyohi County has hired three of those individuals to maintain the county property on the campus. County Administrator Wayne Thompson said those former state employees took a "significant" cut in pay to work for the county.

Shutting down the power plant, which is manned 24 hours a day, will save about $300,000 in salaries, Tessneer said. The power plant had seven employees. Two have found state jobs elsewhere. The remaining five will have work until the utility conversion is completed.

"We're concerned about all our employees, but we're especially concerned about our long-term employees," said Geri Dale, secretary of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 701.

She said a majority of the jobs on the campus are currently held by long-term employees who are one or two years away from retirement. "Our concern is for these long-term employees and having their lives disrupted at this stage," she said. "Where do you find work in Willmar?"

As part of the memorandum of understanding, employees who want another job within the state system have one year to accept an offer. There is also a cash buyout option, Dale said.

The adult chemical dependency program, with 77 employees, and the adolescent behavioral hospital, with 62 employees, will remain on campus. MinnWest Technology, however, has the option to purchase the buildings that house those programs sometime in the future.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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