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The Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved resolutions to appoint a temporary county auditor-treasurer and an interim county highway engineer during its regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 6.

The positions became vacant after the former Mille Lacs County Auditor-Treasurer Phil Thompson announced his retirement last month and current County Highway Engineer Bruce Cochran decided to resign from his post effective Aug. 23, 2019.

The board previously voted not to reappoint Cochran in May of this year.

“Thus, I am unemployed effective January 1,2020. I took a proactive approach and found another job with the City of Willmar,” said Cochran via email.

Current personnel director/assistant administrator for the county, Holly Wilson, was appointed as interim county highway engineer–a move the MNDOT is aware of and is comfortable with according to County Administrator Pat Oman.

According to Oman, appointing a county auditor-treasurer has been on the county’s legislative platform for several years.

The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC), which represents all 87 Minnesota counties, has had this issue on their legislative platform for more than 10 years.

The Minnesota Association of County Officers, which is comprised of county auditors, treasurers and assessors, have partnered with AMC over the past five years in developing the most recently approved legislation, said Oman.

Paul Prokosch, who most recently served the county as the fiscal supervisor in the community and services department, was appointed as the temporary auditor-treasurer.

Prokosch, who holds an accounting degree from St. Cloud Technical College, said his focus will be maintaining the county’s financial systems and providing great customer service to the county’s residents.

“It will be a challenge to learn all of the duties and absorb even a fraction of [Thompson’s] vast

knowledge of the position, but I’m excited for the opportunity,” said Prokosch via email. “I look forward to helping out until a permanent replacement is hired.”

That replacement for auditor-treasurer may also be appointed by the board, the position is currently an elected position, as the board is in the beginning process of reviewing whether to move the position to an appointed position or have it remain an elected position.

“A number of counties in the State of Minnesota have already secured special legislation and implemented appointing a County Auditor.

Crow Wing and Pine counties are the ones in the immediate region. The county board has agreed to move forward with the review process as outlined in the legislative statute,” said Oman via email.

“The benefit to all counties is to ensure a long-term appointed County Auditor that meets the education, training and work experience requirements for the position," Oman stated.

The county is currently on the first step of this process which includes providing public notifications for two consecutive weeks.

Oman said the resolution will be made available for pickup, posted on the county bulletin board, posted on the county website, on social media and are running a two-week advertisement in the Union-Times.

The public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27 at 9 a.m.

The board is required to hold a public hearing on the matter and the resolution requires a supermajority 80 percent of commissioners to vote in favor for the resolution to pass.

A public petition could overturn a board decision in favor of that resolution if 10 percent of eligible voters sign a petition within 30 days.

The public can also initiate a reverse referendum to return the office back to an elected position at any time after three years.

In other board action, the board:

•Approved a payment of $90,782 to Nolan, Thompson & Leighton PLC for legal services relating to the federal lawsuit filed by the Band of Ojibwe against Mille Lacs County regarding policing rights on the Ojibwe reservation;

•Approved an amendment to the current joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the county sheriff which increases the inmate rate per day from $55 to $57.5 per offender;

•Approved a foster care contract with the Milaca School District;

•Approved a housing support agreement with 31 providers for 2019-2020;

•Authorized street closures for the annual Milaca Mega Meet;

•Authorized excess County State Aid Highway (CSAH) municipal construction funds to CSAH regular construction;

•Approved a policy supporting breastfeeding employees and applied for recognition a breastfeeding friendly workplace;

•Approved the combination of tax forfeited parcels in the county;

•Ordered a hearing for the repair of County Ditch No. 2;

•Adopted a revised the solid waste ordinance

•Approved reimbursement for a temporary employee for the Mille Lacs County Fair;

•Authorized a special county board meeting Aug. 13, 2019.

Mark Wasson is an APG of East Central Minnesota freelance contributing reporter who covers municipal and county government.

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