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Passion vs. time: Community Corrections ‘under a microscope’

WILLMAR –– An analysis of the Kandiyohi County Community Corrections Department reveals a deep “passion” by employees to help clients, along with frustration that increased data entry work is eating up time that could be spent helping those clients.

In a report Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Commissioners, Dave Paulsen said he has interviewed every employee in the department who spoke highly of their co-workers, the work environment and management style.

The message that employees have a “passion for helping clients” was seen “over and over again,” said Paulsen, who is the project manager for the county’s redesign plan that involves exploring how departments operate, identifying potential issues and developing recommendations for future changes.

Paulsen gave the board a “snapshot” of the key issues that rose to the surface, including the amount of time required to enter required data and reports that nips at the employees’ desire to spend more time with clients.

He said it’s possible that a change in technology could help alleviate that.

There has been discussion about sharing basic data of clients that receive services from multiple county agencies rather than each department entering that information. But because departments use different data systems, including some that come from the state, it’s difficult to share that data.

Paulsen said a concern that everyone brought up was employee safety.

Other ideas include finding ways to help low-risk offenders stay out of the system so community corrections officers can spend more time with high-risk offenders, creating a caseload specialization or team approach to helping clients and finding new ways to discuss cases in staff meetings.

Director Deb West and said undergoing the process seemed “daunting” at first and she was concerned about having her department “under a microscope.”

But she praised Paulsen for taking time to develop a good relationship with the staff before he began the interviews, which helped employees feel comfortable enough to provide honest answers.

“Therefore, you got information that was “very timely, very important, very visionary,” said West.

She said the department has had “many things on our plate” in the last three years but the staff has “embraced” the challenges.

“You should be extremely proud of the corrections staff I have,” said West. “They know their stuff.”

West said the process has been exciting and is presenting options and ideas to make the department better.

The analysis of the community corrections department is expected to be completed by this fall.

Also on Tuesday, the Commissioners began reviewing list of volunteers willing to serve on the county’s new Aquatic Invasive Species committee.

The 11-13 member committee will be charged with coordinating AIS efforts in the county and surrounding counties and to educate the public about the prevention and containment of AIS.

If the legislature approves funding for AIS, the committee could also have the job of allocating those funds to local enforcement and education projects.

The Commissioners agreed to join the efforts of other Minnesota counties to file concerns about a proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on streams and wetland that could increase regulations for county drainage authorities.

The Commissioners agreed to contribute $500 to a St. Cloud law firm that coordinating the written response for the counties.

The Association of Minnesota Counties is also seeking county input on the issue to develop a joint response to the proposed rule.

In other action:

n Two bids the board received for a project to cover a section of the county sanitary landfill were well under the engineer’s estimate of $255,767. Swenson & Sons Construction of New London had a bid of $164,921 and Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg had a bid of $234,763. The bids will be reviewed and awarded at the May 20 meeting.

n In hopes of saving more than half-million dollars in interest payments the board agreed to refinance  general obligation bonds from 2007 and 2004. Bids for the bond sale will be opened on June 3.

n The board agreed to sell old county office furniture and other excess equipment at an auction at 10:30 a.m. on May 28 at the highway department. Because the county has used eBay in recent years to sell forfeited items it hasn’t held an auction since 2004. The county has a large amount of unused office equipment as a result of a remodeling project and the decision was made to have an auction.

Carolyn Lange

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

(320) 894-9750