County board adds numbers to library proposal

MARSHALL – The public bodies trying to decide the fate of the Marshall-Lyon County Library may have some more specific information to go on, after action taken by the Lyon County Board on Tuesday. County commissioners said they would inform MLCL that they would put $205,000 of maintenance of effort funding toward the library – provided it is part of the Plum Creek Regional Library System.

The decision has implications not only for MLCL and its branches, but for the city of Marshall, and the public libraries in Minneota and Tracy.

Lyon County is required by state statute to support libraries in a regional public library system. Before MLCL withdrew from the Plum Creek system in June, the county had been able to meet state requirements by giving its maintenance of effort money to MLCL. After that point, commissioners voted to put the funding toward libraries that were part of Plum Creek. Currently, that would include only the Minneota and Tracy public libraries.

Losing county funding would have a significant impact on MLCL and the city of Marshall. The state currently calculates Lyon County’s maintenance of effort funding for libraries at more than $228,000 a year. A joint MLCL/Marshall/Lyon County committee has been formed to consider options, including rejoining Plum Creek.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg urged county commissioners to consider how they wanted to address the library funding situation.

“I don’t have much for suggestions,” Stomberg said.

“I don’t think the city is going to move until we do,” said Commissioner Rodney Stensrud. Furthermore, he said, it looks like it’ll be up to the Plum Creek governing board to decide whether to take MLCL back.

Commissioner Charlie Sanow said he felt commissioners needed to decide Tuesday how to distribute funding to area libraries, including MLCL. Sanow and Stensrud said they were concerned about maintaining library service in Cottonwood and Balaton, which are both branch locations of MLCL.

“Balaton and Cottonwood are very concerned, and we need to take care of them,” Stensrud said. Part of the county’s past support of MLCL was meant to maintain service outside of the Marshall city limits.

Sanow moved that the board tell MLCL and the city of Marshall that if the library is part of Plum Creek, and it maintains current services in Balaton and Cottonwood, it will receive at least $205,000 in maintenance-of-effort funding. Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

Later on Tuesday, the board reconvened for discussion of the proposed 2015 budget and levy. A draft budget proposal Stomberg presented called for a $13.49 million levy, a 6.4 percent increase over 2014. Anderson said increased county program costs and a big reduction in Local Government Aid from the state of Minnesota were major factors in the proposed levy increase.

A large part of the budget discussion Tuesday focused around staffing needs in the county highway department. County Engineer Aaron VanMoer presented commissioners with a workforce plan they had requested from him earlier this summer.

The county Public Works department last went through a workforce evaluation in 2010, VanMoer said. That plan left some vacant positions in the highway department, and instead tried to use other county employees to help with snow removal and parks maintenance. The plan also called for the highway department to develop a list of on-call temporary workers to assist with snow removal.

VanMoer said the department has had time to learn which of the 2010 plan’s recommendations did and did not work. Leaving some positions unfilled put a strain on existing employees. VanMoer said this was especially true for a vacant sign maintenance worker position. The sign worker was responsible for inventorying and maintaining more than 4,000 road signs in Lyon County, and VanMoer said it proved too big a job to share among existing highway employees.

Maintaining a list of on-call snowplow drivers also didn’t work out so well. VanMoer said the highway department wasn’t able to recruit as many temporary workers as hoped, and inexperienced workers meant lots of training time and high equipment repair bills.

“Snow plowing is high risk and high stress,” VanMoer said. Having a list of on-call workers might work out better for summer projects.

On the positive side, he said, the department did find a few reliable on-call workers with additional mechanical and fabrication skills.

VanMoer recommended that the county advertise for both a highway maintenance superintendent and a lead highway shop mechanic. He also recommended that the county fill the vacant sign worker position internally.

Commissioners voted to advertise for a new highway maintenance superintendent.