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Thompson may delay retirement from county

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Administrator Wayne Thompson may consider delaying his retirement from the county's top job for up to a year.

Last year Thompson said he intended to retire sometime in 2006 from the job he's held since 1977. But on Wednesday, Thompson said he would be willing to stay on the job longer to help the county through a snarl of complicated financial contracts and unfinished mechanical improvements at the Willmar Regional Treatment Center.

The county purchased seven buildings on the campus and is in the process of converting the heating, hot water and emergency energy system from the centralized system to individual units. It's a process that Thompson said is not going well and may need an extended timeline to finish. He said there is $2 million in expenses the county needs to reconcile with the state.

The county also needs to negotiate new lease contracts with the state for using some of the buildings. The state is also paying $900,000 for the county to build a new maintenance facility on the campus, and the county is building a new road to the Prairie Lakes Youth Program facility located on the campus.

Thompson said much of the paperwork with the state won't begin until February or March.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said it wouldn't be fair to expect a new administrator to take over that WRTC projects without assistance from Thompson, let alone deal with the annual budget and upcoming union contract negotiations.

Although the board has not officially voted on it, Family Services Director Larry Kleindl has been identified as Thompson's successor.

During the county board meeting Wednesday, Thompson told the commissioners he would be eligible for the "rule of 90" retirement benefits by Nov. 1 and could retire then.

The board briefly discussed options to continue to use Thompson's expertise on issues during the transition. Madsen asked if Thompson would be interested in working on a contract or "as needed" basis with the county in 2007.

Commissioner Richard Larson said it would be "very valuable" to have Thompson stay until this time next year.

Madsen said it would be good to have Thompson serve as a mentor for the new administrator.

In an interview following the meeting, Thompson said he would consider delaying his retirement until June 30 next year.

Thompson and County Board Chairman Dean Shuck will meet in the next week or two to work out options for the transition. They're expected to present those recommendations Aug. 1.

As part of the shift in personnel, Thompson asked the commissioners on Wednesday to consider creating a new human services board that would essentially merge two, and possibly three departments and their boards into one. State law allows the community corrections, public health and family services to operate as one human services board.

Currently each department has its own director. The county board could serve as the human services board.

The board is expected to discuss the human services board proposal at their July 18 meeting.

In other action the board:

- Approved a proposal to charge $45 to administer a dose of a new vaccine that's now available through the county public health department that combines vaccine for tetanus, pertussis (whopping cough) and diphtheria. The vaccine can be used as a booster for children and adults, especially those who work with children.

- Approved a contract to provide nursing services to Prairie Lakes Youth Programs for $40 an hour, with a minimum of one hour of services.

- Approved $480 in funding from the water planning task force for water testing on Big Kandiyohi Lake; $3,000 to Whitefield Township for professional services on a municipal sewage system for Svea and Blomkest; $1,750 for water testing on Lake Wakanda; $3,000 every year for the next four years to study water pollution from turkey manure, commercial fertilizer and no fertilizer that's applied to land.

- Heard a report on the "Family Group Decision Making" program in the county and the possibility of reduced federal funding next year.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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