HERON LAKE — More than two months after the sudden retirement of its administrator, the Heron Lake Watershed District’s board of managers took steps during a Wednesday morning meeting to begin the process of filling the vacancy.
Prior to working on a job description, however, the managers discussed updates to the district’s personnel and benefits policies, including changes in the accrual rate of paid time off (PTO). Any new hire will earn eight hours of PTO per month, with only 40 hours allowed to be carried over from one year to the next. Another change is that anyone who vacates the position will receive a payout of PTO to a maximum of 40 hours, providing the employee is “in good standing” and “gives plenty of notice” prior to his or her departure.
It was also noted that it’s up to the board whether an employee gets a performance evaluation each year.
As for health insurance, the board voted to provide 100% of the premium for single coverage, or up to that amount for family coverage, with another $200 per month placed in the employee’s Health Savings Account.
Board Chairman Wayne Rasche said the watershed board can change its mind about health benefits for the employee at any point in time.
A motion to adopt the policy changes as written were approved by managers, and will take effect on May 1.
Once the policies were approved, managers discussed the job description for the administrator’s position. Ultimately, they decided the individual must have an associate’s degree in natural resources or a closely related field — or related experience. It was mentioned that computer experience is a necessity, while water sampling and data collection is “not high on the priority list,” Rasche said.
Initial applications for the job must be submitted to the district by May 17, though managers said late applications will be accepted. Compensation for the position will range from $18 to $26 per hour, depending on experience.
Also on Wednesday, the board voted to cancel the district’s agreement with the Conservation Corp.
Manager Mark Bartosh said the district signed a contract with the Conservation Corps in late January for an intern to be employed during the summer. The intern’s job would include collecting water samples in the watershed.
“It’s not going to be a helpful learning situation here for an intern without an administrator,” Bartosh said. “After we get someone hired, we can revisit the water monitoring and have a longer discussion on that and see how the watershed wants to move forward.”
Bartosh said the district was spending $11,300 a year to interpret the data collected from the water sampling.
Bartosh also said the district was conducting pesticide sampling at two sites — one on Jack Creek, and the other on Beaver Creek, west of Currie. At this point, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said it would find someone to do that sampling.
In another matter, Rasche and Bartosh shared with managers that they want to reach out to the commissioners in Nobles, Murray and Cottonwood counties about establishing drainage agreements. The district has already approved a drainage agreement with Jackson County — one of the first actions taken following the departure of its administrator.
Bartosh said the district is considering inviting representatives from those three counties to the district’s May meeting.