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County approves contract for Somali translation services

WILLMAR -- A new for-profit business in Willmar that provides Somali translation services has secured a one-year contract with the Kandiyohi County Family Services Department.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday approved the contract with the Somali Connection LLC.

Business partners Abdulcadir Gaal and Abdirahim Mohamud said they have been providing translation services for several years on a volunteer basis to Somalis who need help with paperwork for immigration issues or for obtaining local assistance.

With an increasing Somali population in Willmar, they said the need for the service has grown. Also, mistakes or misunderstandings on program requirements have resulted in problems for clients and agencies that required additional work and time to correct.

The two men said they started their new business in June in downtown Willmar to better address those needs and prevent spending time making corrections. The two also said they could no longer afford to provide the service for free.

Larry Kleindl, Kandiyohi County Family Services director, said the Somali Connection will be used for face-to-face and telephone translations and to translate letters or forms that are used to participate in county family service programs.

A negotiated pay plan for the various translation services was approved with the total amount not to exceed $9,000.

"It's a cost-effective way to meet the need," said Corinne Torkelson, family service supervisor. She said Spanish translation for the department is provided by Spanish-speaking employees. The county currently does not have an employee that speaks Somali.

Gaal estimated there are about 50 Somali families living in Willmar.

In other business Tuesday:

- The commissioners heard a report on the 2005 expenditures for the Family Services Department. The total expenditures were $74.5 million. Nearly half of the revenue came from the federal government and 42 percent came from state funds. Kandiyohi County contributed $5.2 million, or 7 percent, of the money to cover the expenses. The largest portion of the expenses was Medical Assistance benefits, which made up nearly 53 percent of the total expenses. Medical Assistance is the state's Medicaid program for low-income families, seniors or people with disabilities

- The board conducted a public hearing to rename Mud Lake, in northern Kandiyohi County, to Lake Monongalia. The request, which was supported by the state Department of Natural Resources Waters Division, was originally made in 1969 but the paperwork had not been completed.

- The board will hold a joint meeting with the Meeker County Board of Commissioners later this month to discuss a cooperative project to replace Judicial Ditch 11, which crosses both counties.

- The commissioners agreed to conduct a study to assess the cost and amount of work that would be required to operate the county's emergency service radios in an 800-megahertz system. The $26,000 cost of the study will be covered by a grant.

Carolyn Lange

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

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