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County board to review Alternate Work Site plan

Cook County Commissioners will consider a plan that would define the on-site and off-site responsibilities of the Public Health and Human Services Director.

Nearly three months ago the board was asked by Sue Futterer requested the board allow her to relocate to Virginia, MN, while retaining her position as department head. She said she would still be in the county a good share of a week and would telecommute the rest of the time. Her husband recently became superintendent of Virginia schools.

Commissioners agreed to give the alternate work arrangement a three month trial. Since then, Human Services employees were asked to evaluate the arrangement thus far. The survey came back with minimal negatives, which prompted Commissioner Jim Johnson to say that department supervision did not seem to be compromised.

Commissioner Jan Hall disagreed. She has been outspoken against the county having any supervisory personnel living out of the county. The board agreed Hall and Commissioner Bob Fenwick should work with County Attorney Tim Scannell on an Alternative Work Site or AWS plan. The result is a plan that closely mirrors one offered earlier by Futterer, said Scannell.

According to Futterer, of the 21 working days in January, she spent 10 of them in the Human Services office. She spent five days attending out-of-county meetings in Beaver Bay and St. Paul and had two holidays and one planned leave day. Futterer said she worked two days off-site in Virginia and one day off-site in St. Paul.

The state of Minnesota is moving toward what’s being called a “redesign” in government. Essentially it’s a way to combine services among counties to achieve cost savings and efficiency. So far human services departments have been the focus of attention. Some commissioners believe alternative work sites are the wave of the future, hence the need for an off-site work policy.

The AWS plan being considered at next Tuesday’s board meeting is specific to the Human Services director position. It outlines what can and cannot be done off-site, what is expected of the director, her responsibilities and the nature of her worksite and which costs are hers and which are the county’s commitments.

Commissioners have said they will conduct another survey of department employees before a final decision is made on alternative work sites.