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Kandiyohi County officials are taking further steps as they look at consolidation

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Board has decided to hire Engan Associates architects of Willmar to study the organization and use of the county's office building in downtown Willmar.

The county will pay Engan $10,000 to do a study of electrical systems, air flow and ergonomics in the building, County Administrator Larry Kleindl told the board at its meeting Tuesday.

The study is to be finished before the board's workshop retreat this fall.

Springsted Inc., the county's financial adviser, has been studying the county's organizational structure. A first phase, looking at the auditor/treasurer, recorder and assessor offices has been completed. Kleindl said a second phase, looking at the family service, public health and community corrections departments will be delivered to the board at 9:15 a.m. Aug. 28.

Bids on County State Aid Highway 9 improvements will be opened at 9 a.m. that day.

The office building is a former bank building on Benson Avenue in downtown Willmar. When the county first purchased the building, little remodeling was done. The county even used some of the furniture that had been left in the building by the bank.

The architects' study should give the county practical advice about how to move ahead with Phase I of the Springsted study, as all of those offices are located in the county office building, Kleindl said.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said he would welcome the advice from Engan. "None of us have the skills to be looking at this," he said.

In other business, the commissioners voted to accept a $50,700 Toward Zero Deaths grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The county received about $15,000 more than it applied for, said Sheriff Dan Hartog. The funding is used for special enforcement efforts targeting speeding, distracted driving and driving under the influence. The grant expires on Sept. 30, 2014.

The board also heard updates on the activities of the Southwest Initiative Foundation and the Willmar Area Food Shelf.

The foundation is requesting $12,670 from the county in its 2013 budget, said administration and grants officer Nancy Fasching. The foundation works with a number of community organizations in Kandiyohi County, including Music Matters in Willmar and Early Childhood Initiative efforts in the BOLD, KMS and Willmar school districts.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson called the county's donation "a good investment for the county, some of the best money we can spend."

Christie Kurth, executive director of the food shelf, said the organization is asking for $14,000 for the coming year, the same amount received this year. "We understand tight budgets," she said, and local donations have helped the food shelf keep up with demand.

In 2011, the food shelf distributed 873,635 pounds of food to 9,274 households. Both numbers are records.

The food shelf has three employees, and logged more than 10,500 hours from volunteers, she said. More volunteer help is needed, she added, because some of her faithful summer volunteers will be returning to high school in a few weeks.

Grants have helped the food shelf improve its building near downtown Willmar. One of the developments is a "clean room" where the food shelf will be able to package and redistribute leftovers from area restaurants. The program is in development and should be in operation soon.

A donation from Jennie-O Turkey Store led to the installation of a walk-in freezer, increasing storage capability. Jennie-O has also helped fill the freezer, Kurt said.

Board Chairman Richard Larson said he was impressed that the volunteer hours were the equivalent of five full-time employees.

The board set a number of meetings to be held later in the month. The board will meet to discuss the 2013 budget at 9 a.m. Aug. 23.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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