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Yellow Medicine County tables plan that looks at merging family services with its nearby counties

GRANITE FALLS -- The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners tabled a proposal Tuesday to study the possibility of joining its family services operations with those of Lincoln, Lyon and Murray counties.

The commissioners indicated they wanted to leave open the possibility of exploring this and other options in the future. But they also made it clear the county is not yet ready for the move, according to Peggy Heglund, Yellow Medicine County Family Services director.

She said commissioners did not want to undertake the expense of a study and have it become outdated before the county would be willing to act on a recommendation.

The commissioners cited a range of concerns about a possible merger. Collective bargaining issues and whether the county would have a strong voice within a merged system were among them, she said.

Lincoln, Lyon and Murray counties have been operating their family services programs together for many years. Many of the employees in the merged system are members of a collective bargaining unit.

The family service employees in Yellow Medicine County are not.

The study would have looked at both the costs and benefits of joining with the three counties. Heglund said she believes a merged system could offer improved efficiencies, especially in terms of how workers perform their duties. Most of her employees take on a variety of duties. A merger would allow them to focus more on particular types of cases or supervisory duties, and not have to split their time and attention on competing assignments.

Heglund said a larger, merged system also offers a greater pool of employee resources and could help if budget cuts force further reductions.

The Yellow Medicine County staff currently numbers 30, and the director described it as "right sized.'' Any reduction in staff would be very difficult, she said.

Yellow Medicine County currently cooperates with the Lincoln, Lyon and Murray Family Service office in some areas.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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