Board seeks better communication with media outlets

Chisago County Administrator Bruce Messelt is soon to don another “hat” — public information officer.

By a unanimous vote July 3, the board appointed Messelt as its media liaison.

County Board Chairman Ben Montzka said as the public information officer, Messelt will occasionally draft summary reports of board actions that will be available to media outlets and any other interested parties.

“I think this is something we should have done for years,” Commissioner Lora Walker said.

Messelt said he’s fine with the additional job duties, but he did add a caveat.

“I’m going to be very fact-based in my report,” he said to the board. “Please endeavor to depersonalize it.” He noted that if he went beyond simply reporting board actions, commissioners could disagree with him on certain topics and possibly become angry.

“I think it is important that we communicate accuracy, and this is the way we can do it,” Commissioner George McMahon said.

After the board meeting, Montzka mentioned other Minnesota Counties, such as Washington, have been implementing the practice of drafting summary reports for years.

Social media policy

Also during the meeting, the board unanimously decided without a formal motion to have county staff research how and if the county should be using social media to communicate with the public.

The board decided to have staff present a recommendation about a policy at a county board meeting in one to two months.

Voting machine maintenance

The price of maintaining the county’s voting machines raised the eyebrows of Commissioner Mike Robinson.

He asked County Auditor Dennis Freed why it costs $24,000 a year to maintain the machines, which are used once every four years.

Freed explained the maintenance is based on a state contract, and the county has no say over how much it costs.

He said he’d rather the county not have to pay the $24,000 to maintain the machines but noted they need to be in top working order to avoid Election Day snafus.

“I want equipment that works on Election Day,” Freed said.

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