By Dan Reed 

County board approves pay increases


December 30, 2022

County commissioners set the salary rates, per-diems, meal reimbursements and mileage for the next year at its final regular meeting of the year Tuesday.

Department heads, confidential, and other non-union employees received a 2.75-percent increase in their wages for 2023.

Sheriff Kelly Lake’s salary was set at $131,352 for 2023 based on a 40-hour work week at $63.15/hour. The county attorney, Lauri Ketola, the only other county elected official, was set at $144,227 at $69.34/hour based on a 40-hour work week.

Peterson originally made a motion to set Ketola’s salary at $140,000, which was seconded by Thell.

Ketola told the board she understood the salary would be set after a recommendation from Keystone Compensation Group, which set guidelines for each county job. The Keystone firm rated her job description as a grade 260, step 8, the highest in the county workforce. Such a position should be paid $152,422 per year. The 2022 salary was $134,005.

Ketola said she was honored to serve as county attorney, yet she was concerned about the salary keeping up with market forces when a new county attorney comes on board. Salaries in surrounding counties and overall salaries in all judicial jobs affect who is interested in running for office, she said.

Peterson withdrew his motion for the step 5 salary, and the step 6 salary at $144,225 was approved unanimously.

Commissioners’ own salary raise reflect the 2.75-percent increase negotiated earlier with the local unions and will now be $25,624 per year.

Commissioner per-diem payments for attending various boards, commissions, committees and meetings authorized by board action will be paid at $60 for in-county meetings and $75 for out-of-county meetings in 2023.

Non-commissioner per-diem rates remain the same. Meals have been adjusted to reflect inflationary pressures and are reimbursed for a maximum of $12 for breakfast, lunch $17 and dinner $30. The mileage is federally set at 62.5 cents per mile for 2023.

• Land commissioner Greg Bernu reported to the board Tuesday that 2,744 cords of wood on three parcels were sold from county lands at the last timber sale. The wood was appraised at $56,072.50 and sold for $119,559.40. Aspen sold at $45 per cord and pine bolts at $83.87 per cord.

Bernu explained that sawmills, including the stud mill out of Bemidji, were crying for logs to fill a big demand for national building materials. Bernu said he was very satisfied with the results of the timber sale from tax-forfeited lands under county management. After some of the money is set aside for timber development and parks and recreation, proceeds are divided according to a state law formula. The county, school districts and townships get a percentage of the timber revenue in their jurisdictions.

• County engineer JinYeene Neumann got approval for three or four of her snow plow crew to take vacation hours in January because the Christmas holiday period was filled with many hours of snow plowing.

Neumann also got approval for the low bid by Landwehr contractors of four bridges in Lakeview and Clear Creek townships and on Hunters Creek and Cub Lake southeast of Barnum at a total cost of nearly $1.45 million, which was 40 percent under engineering estimate.

• Bonnie Peterson, a former employee of the county zoning office, was approved to fill a vacancy on the Board of Adjustment.

• This was the last meeting for commissioner Mark Thell. Peterson thanked him for all the work he has done in the position. Those opposing the Green Burial venture in Blackhoof Township expressed appreciation for his help on the issue.

• The reorganizational meeting for the new county board will be held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, at the Transportation Building.


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