Lyon County Board to seek feedback on appointment, election issue

MARSHALL – Lyon County Commissioners are seeking to revisit the question of whether certain county officials should be appointed instead of elected. But first, commissioners said they wanted to hear from county residents.

As part of an ongoing discussion on the issue Tuesday, county board members directed Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg to schedule a series of public hearings in locations around the county.

Commissioners have been talking about the possibility of making the Lyon County auditor/treasurer and county recorder appointed positions for some time. Last year, Lyon County was one of several Minnesota counties that had jointly requested state legislation allowing the change. That request wasn’t acted on by the Legislature. Stomberg said he wanted to know whether to pursue the issue again in this legislative session.

Commissioners said they were in favor of pursuing the legislation but also in seeing whether there was public support for it.

“That’s the main thing that’s asked in committee,” said board chairman Rick Anderson. “This is a big issue. Everyone should have a chance” to give their feedback, he said.

Stomberg and commissioners said public hearings would also provide a chance to educate county residents on the decision. For example, state legislation would not make the two positions appointments instead of elected positions. But it would allow the county to decide, he said.

Commissioners said meetings should probably be in several locations, to allow as many members of the public as possible to attend. They suggested the cities of Marshall, Minneota, Cottonwood, Russell and Tracy. They also directed Stomberg to schedule hearings.

In other business, commissioners revisited the possibility of hiring an assistant county engineer, a position that has been vacant since the previous assistant engineer retired in 2011.

Lyon County Public Works Director Suhail Kanwar asked that a search for an assistant engineer be opened internally. A current county employee has met additional requirements the board set for new engineering hires last year, he said. Filling the position internally would help retain talent in the county engineering department, and an assistant engineer would be able to fill in for Kanwar if he was absent.

In August, the board had voted 3-2 in favor of hiring a project engineer, with the condition of the new engineer getting a commercial driver’s license within a year of being hired.

After discussion Tuesday, commissioners voted to open the position to external applicants. However, the county is also currently in the search process for a project engineer, and the assistant engineer search could delay the process of making a final job offer for project engineer. Commissioner Rodney Stensrud said project engineer applicants should be notified if that was going to happen.

Commissioners voted to open the search for an appraiser for the county assessor’s office. Stomberg said it’s possible that Lyon County may take on additional assessing duties in the future, as local assessors for cities or townships retire. In that case, additional staff may be needed at the county level. Sharing assessing duties with the city of Marshall might be another possibility. Commissioners voted to make an official request to consider sharing assessing duties with the city, as well.

Commissioners approved a request to write a letter of support for the city of Cottonwood, as it applies for a grant to renovate its branch of the Marshall-Lyon County Library. The city is working on an application for a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation to help pay for the costs of expanding and renovating the current library facilities, as well as adding updated equipment and furnishings.

Commissioners approved a proposal from the Lyon County Agriculture Society to apply for a grant for a new building at the county fairgrounds. The society will be applying for a Legacy grant to build a 60-by-80 foot hoop structure, open at the ends, to shelter free stage events at the county fair. The shelter could be used for other events as well and would be located between the current commercial building and FFA barn, society members said.