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Nobles County administrator contract signed

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News Worthington,Minnesota 56187
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Nobles County administrator contract signed
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Commissioners unanimously approved an employment agreement with Thomas Johnson of Eagle, Colo., to serve as the county's new administrator during Tuesday's board meeting.


The contract spells out the terms of Johnson's employment, including that he will collect an annual salary of $116,970 ($4,481.60 per pay period). Johnson will begin work with the county on Feb. 25.

The compensation puts Johnson at the top of the pay scale at a Grade 33, Step 12. Deputy County Administrator Sue Luing told commissioners Johnson is "taking quite a cut in salary to come to Nobles County," enduring a $14,000 per year pay cut. Johnson has served as the public works managing director in Eagle County since January 2007.

In addition to the salary, the compensation package includes up to a $6,000 moving allowance; 120 hours of banked annual leave at the start of Johnson's employment; and a $400 per month county reimbursement for Johnson's family health insurance plan.

Interim Nobles County Administrator Vijay Sethi said the reimbursement was negotiated because Johnson currently pays just $200 per month for health insurance, whereas the Nobles County health insurance plan will cost him $1,000 per month. The $400 per month reimbursement from the county will split the difference in the added cost.

"Given the fact that Mr. Johnson is working on a substantial reduction of salary and significant increase in his health insurance policy -- and given the fact that Mr. Johnson was the top choice of the county board and the management team, we thought it was justifiable," Sethi said.

The agreed upon severance package for Johnson states he will receive six months of severance pay if his job with the county would be terminated without cause.

In addition to the compensation, commissioners reviewed a list of goals expected of Johnson during his first six months and one year of employment with the county.

Those goals include meeting with all county commissioners, department heads, staff, and local and federal representatives. He will be tasked with developing a cross-functional team to improve overall culture, work to build trust and credibility with the county workforce, conduct a strategic planning session, attend civic and community group meetings, visit the county's cities, townships and other agencies, become involved in regional leadership groups, coordinate the completion of the county's comparable worth study, provide leadership in the library process, pursue economic development opportunities and supervise the completion of construction and improvement projects spearheaded by the county.

Johnson will undergo a performance evaluation at the end of six months of employment.

With the approval of Johnson's employment agreement, Sethi asked about his own contract with the county. In December, commissioners authorized to keep Sethi on board through the end of February, with the understanding that he could leave sooner if the new administrator was in place.

With Johnson not slated to start until Feb. 25, Sethi said there would be just three days of overlap.

"What I'd like to do, with your permission, I'd like to contact him and see what he's comfortable with overlap," Sethi said. "If he has a preference of wanting an extra few days, I just want to see what your thoughts would be along those lines."

"If you're available and willing, I'd like to see you stay for at least a couple of extra weeks," responded Commissioner Marv Zylstra.

Zylstra moved to extend Sethi's contract through mid-March, again with the understanding that Sethi may leave early if his assistance is no longer needed. The motion was approved unanimously.

In other action, the board:

l Received an update from Commissioners Bob Demuth Jr. and Gene Metz regarding a recent meeting of the Library Board. A three-hour meeting recently conducted included extensive discussion on the size, scope and site for a possible new library. Demuth said a couple of sites were eliminated because of their potential for prime retail sites, and talk has again surfaced about locating the library on the former outdoor swimming pool site.

The size of the building was also altered, reduced from the 34,000-square-foot facility proposed to a 27,000-square-foot facility. The reduction would mean that the Plum Creek Library System would remain in its current location.

Library Director Julie Wellnitz and Sethi will meet with city officials after more specific information is available. The plan is still to present a revised report to the county board by April 15.

l Received an update from Steve Johnson of Vetter Johnson Architects regarding the building improvement plan. Johnson said several projects will be completed this year, including the replacement of toilets and refurbishing of the two public elevator systems in the Nobles County Government Center, and improvements to the ventilation system at the Prairie Justice Center. Commissioners also authorized moving $500,000 worth of projects slated to be done in 2014 to this year in hopes of getting better bids on the work. The work will be paid for through the county's building fund reserves.

l Authorized payments of $17,100 to Jones Caulking and Tuckpointing for Nobles County Government Center masonry restoration; $33,014 to Prairie Sons, Inc., for energy improvement projects in the government center; and $10,483 to Vetter Johnson Architects for work performed in December.

l Approved the following appropriations: $13,307 for the first half appropriation to the Nobles County Historical Society; $3,565.50 for the first half appropriation to the Nobles County Art Center; $11,110.50 for the first half of the Nobles County Fair Association; $1,000 for the annual appropriation to the Civil Air Patrol; $1,000 for the annual appropriation for the Travel Southwest Minnesota; $1,250 for the annual appropriation to the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council; and $4,076 for the annual appropriation for the Southwest Minnesota Foundation.

l Received a report from Mary Fischer, executive director of Southern Prairie Community Care, regarding the 12-county collaboration hoped to reduce the cost of care for Medicaid clients.

l Appointed Nobles County Emergency Management Director Joyce Jacobs as the alternate on the Southwest Minnesota Emergency Services board.

l Appointed Commissioner Matt Widboom to serve on the Mental Health Local Advisory Council.

l Approved a consolidated contract between the Nobles County Assessor's office and Vanguard for the computer aided mass appraisal system program.

l Received agreement from Commissioners Gene Metz, Donald Linssen and Widboom to attend certification training related to Board of Appeal and Equalization conduct.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at
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