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Stevens Co. Commissioners discuss emergency management changes

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MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners will continue explore changing the structure of the county's emergency management department after county staff raised questions about how a new position would impact chain-of-command in an emergency.

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Human Resource Director Janet Raguse presented the board with a job description for a new Emergency Management Director/Safety Coordinator at their meeting Tuesday. Currently, Sheriff Randy Willis serves as the county emergency management director, but earlier this month suggested changing the structure of his office.

Willis proposed making the sheriff deputy emergency management director and creating a new, full-time emergency management director position.

Raguse told the board Tuesday that both she and County Coordinator Brian Giese thought the proposal deserved more discussion, noting that there could be some question of who is in charge during emergencies - the elected sheriff or a hired emergency management director.

The board agreed to discuss the proposal with the personnel committee before moving forward.

Area Agency on Aging represents local seniors

State funding for programs for seniors in west central Minnesota dropped $130,000 for the next fiscal year, Mark Tysver, program manager for Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging, told the board Tuesday.

The state looks at allocations to area aging agencies every ten years, explained Tysver. The most recent census showed that although there are more seniors living in Land of the Dancing Sky's 21-county region than 10 years ago, the rest of the state has also aged, leaving this region with a smaller percentage of the state senior population than the last calculation, Tysver said.

Stevens County has not aged as quickly as some of the other counties served by the organization. Stevens County also has a smaller percentage of residents older between 65 and 85 than the state average and a lower Elderly Dependency Ratio - a comparison of the population over 65 to the population of women between 15 and 65 - than the statewide average.

Tysver said that the demographics for Stevens County are likely impacted by the population of students at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

One area the office helps manage is a state initiative called the Senior LinkAge Line, a free information service that can be accessed by calling 1-800-333-2433. Another state initiative Tysver and his staff work with is Own Your Future - www.mn.gov/ownyourfuture - a process for helping seniors start planning for their long-term care needs.

Commissioner Phil Gausman, who serves on the organization's board, said funding cuts will continue to be a concern.

"Everything is so much up in the air, depending on what the state decides to do," said Gusman.

Other business

• The board approved bills $139,222 for bills in the Human Services department.

• Set a special meeting on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 4:00 p.m. for county elected officials - attorney, auditor/treasurer, sheriff, and recorder - to give presentations to the board.

• Approved $400 in dues to the National Association of Counties.

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Kim Ukura is the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune. 

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