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County to hire firm to review Planning Dept.


by Sarah Squires

The Winona County Board will consider hiring an outside consultant to examine potential collaboration and consolidation between the Planning Department and other county departments and outside agencies, as well as assisting Planning Department staff in preparing to administer the newly-approved zoning ordinance.

The board will consider the issue at its Tuesday night meeting, with a potential contract for former Becker County, Minn. County Administrator Al Roder to do the job for $40 an hour.

The need to reexamine the organizational structure of the Planning Department and other county functions partly stems from the unexpected resignation of former Planning Director Brian Bender, who resigned on October 15. Since that time, County Administrator Duane Hebert has acted as interim director of the department.

Several other factors also contribute to the timeliness of tackling the reorganization issue now, as well. The county is currently undergoing other reorganization efforts, such as the creation of a centralized finance and purchasing systems, the consolidation of Health, Human Services and Veterans departments into the Community Health Department, as well as the movement of staff into the new building addition on Third Street. According to information released Thursday in the County Board agenda, taking a closer look at the organizational structure of the Planning Department prior to hiring a new director may help guide county leaders in finding the right person for the job, with the right qualifications.

County leaders have also been researching greater collaboration or consolidation with the Planning Department and Environmental Services, Emergency Management and Emergency Preparedness, Economic Development, Sustainability and Geographic Information Services (GIS). Additionally, an open position of water planner within the Planning Department is expected to be shared with the Whitewater Joint Powers Board, and there have been talks of collaborating with the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District, an agency which just lost its manager (see story page 1A).

The County Board is also expected to review a study on the organization of the County Attorney’s Office during its Tuesday meeting.