The Morrison County Board of Commissioners discussed renewing a contract with Scott Marlin to fill the role of county surveyor during its planning session, Tuesday.
Marlin, the former Stearns County surveyor, owns Community Land Solutions, Inc. He first started working with the county in 2018, when he was brought in as an outside consultant to help with a disputed boundary line between Morrill and Hillman townships.
Since that time, Marlin has been kept on retainer by yearly contracts with the county.
“What he’s looking for is a three- to four-year commitment this time, just so we’re not having to revisit this every year,” said Land Services Director Amy Kowalzek. “And it gives us, also, a little bit of continuity, too, with the surveyor.”
She presented the Board with Marlin’s proposal for services. It was an opportunity for them to review the contract and give feedback regarding any changes that need to be made before they are comfortable entering into a longer-term deal.
As part of the contract, Marlin will maintain standard office hours in Morrison County — which includes four half-days per month and being available to staff via phone and email at all times — reviewing plats, performing public land survey system work as necessary or required and miscellaneous services that include right of way platting, boundary staking, private monument replacement and ditch staking. He is paid $2,300 per month by the county.
Kowalzek said the contract is mostly unchanged from what the county has agreed to in the past — including no change in cost of services.
“We’re spending ($2,300 per month),” said Board Chair Mike Wilson. “Are we getting a good value for all the information that he does for us?”
Kowalzek said having his presence in the office once per week has been valuable to members of her department as they’ve been able to pour over documents with him. She said staff members often save certain questions for days when they’ll be able to go over everything with Marlin.
She added that the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office also utilizes him quite often, as does the Recorder’s Office. She also, at times, refers private residents or surveyors to him when they have questions that go beyond what they can answer in the Land Services Office.
“For me, personally, I bounce ordinance amendment things off of him when it comes to subdivisions, and we’re starting to see some more plats,” Kowalzek said. “So, that resource has been extremely valuable to me.”
Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski said he was supportive of a longer contract with Marlin. However, he wanted to know if his prices were going to stay the same throughout the length of the deal, or if they are going to increase after the first year.
Kowalzek said there was no language in the proposal that indicated prices would go up at all throughout the length of the contract.
County Administrator Deb Gruber said she felt Marlin’s first step was to gauge whether or not the county was interested in an extended contract. After it was decided that it was, she felt it was a valid question to go back to him and verify that those costs would not change before anything was officially approved.
“I agree with Commissioner Jelinski,” said Commissioner Greg Blaine. “Was he looking at the numbers that are provided to us this morning as — this would be those same numbers locked in over a three or four year period? If he was fine with these numbers looking into the future, we’ll take that upon recommendation. If he is looking for the opportunity to add adjustments to that, we’ll want to be able to see that.”
Kowalzek said she would discuss pricing on a longer term contract with Marlin and bring an update forward at the Board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24.
Commissioner Randy Winscher also asked about the conflict of interest clause in Marlin’s proposal. Since Community Land Solutions is a private company, the contract stipulates that the company, nor Marlin himself, will “utilize the appointment to actively market residential and commercial land boundary surveying services inside of the boundary of Morrison County.”
Kowalzek said the provision is there in case Marlin is approached by a private entity within the county. If that happens, he will consult with the county administrator prior to accepting the job to ensure there are no legal or even perceived conflicts of interest. County Attorney Brian Middendorf added that the clause spells out the fact that he won’t use his contract with Morrison County as a means for advertising his services or getting private work within the county.
“He’s very conservative when applying this, as we would be also,” Gruber said. “He’s taken an approach where, whether it’s actual legal or perception — we all know how it becomes reality — at times where he’s been very conservative in applying it, he hasn’t engaged in much, if any, private work in Morrison County for that very reason. This allows that opportunity if something would come up that seems appropriate to do and we agree that it’s appropriate.”