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County redesign study brings departments together

WILLMAR –– It wasn’t necessarily easy at first for county departments with seemingly different jobs and missions to come together to find ways to merge or integrate services, but the process has been positive for employees and the public will see the benefits, according to several county department heads.

“I’m just thrilled we’ve been through phase II,” said Deb West, director of Kandiyohi County Community Corrections, while addressing the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners this week. “It works really well.”

The county has been involved with a two-pronged redesign effort for the last two years.

Phase I involves the current remodeling of the county’s downtown office building. Eventually, four different departments — auditor/treasurer, assessor, records and environmental services — will share a common work area with a receptionist, which all will provide customers with a “one shop” experience, said Dave Paulsen, project manager for the redesign process.

Also in the plans are digitalization of tract books, increased use of GIS mapping and allowing customers to make a single payment for transactions that currently require stopping at multiple departments and making multiple payments.

The license bureau has already made the transition to a new location in the downtown office building. The move provided employees with more and better organized work space, which in turn has allowed them to be more efficient and faster in processing customer requests.

It’s hoped the same improvements in efficiency and organization will happen on the other side of the building when renovations are completed in early June.

“It’ll be a “big change” for staff but the goal is to improve services to taxpayers, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

There will be “tweaks and adjustments” as departments learn to work side by side, but Kleindl said the commissioners have made it clear there’s no going back and that’s the message he’s giving county employees.

“We’re not stopping. We’re going forward,” said Kleindl. “We have the vision to go forward.”

At the Health and Human Services Building, the task has been even more daunting as the county takes steps to merge the Family Services and Public Health departments and integrate staff and programs in the Community Corrections and Veterans Services departments, which are all housed in the Health and Human Services Building, located on north Business 71 in Willmar.

Paulsen said employees worked on committees to look at challenges and opportunities in areas of human resources; in support — such as information technology, legal and facilities; and in integration, including cross-training of employees in different departments and programs.

The process has encouraged employees to consider communication and cooperation between departments who serve many of the same people — and how to coordinate efforts across departments, said Paulsen, who praised the county staff for its “incredible” dedication and creative solutions.

Sitting at the same table with people from different departments has improved relationships between employees and departments, said Ann Stehn, who oversees the Public Health and Family Services departments, which are separate entities but operate under the common name of Health and Human Services.

Stehn said the process has helped employees understand perspectives from different departments and work together to “look for solutions.”

County Board Chairman Jim Butterfield praised the employees for sticking with the process, which he called a “total effort” of the entire county staff.

Carolyn Lange

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

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