County Board approves raise for commissioners, other elected employees

The Chisago County Board of Commissioners and the county’s top elected officials will be making more money next year as the result of votes the board made at its Dec. 18 meeting.

Commissioner Mike Robinson first suggested commissioner pay remain the same as it was last year, $27,683.

The board, except for Commissioner Lora Walker, who was absent due to an illness, agreed with Robinson’s suggestion and kept the pay rate the same.

But later in the meeting, Commissioner Rick Greene said he wanted to revisit the vote, which can be done under Roberts Rules of Order when a member on the prevailing side of a vote requests that the vote be reconsidered.

The board then voted 3-1, with Robinson dissenting, to give the commissioners a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment for 2014.

Robinson said he wanted “anyone who didn’t vote for (the COLA)” to have their 1.5 percent pay raise, which equates to $409 for next year, to “be given to a local food shelf.”

Commissioner Ben Montzka told Robinson said he didn’t think it was legal to require board members on the losing side of a vote to take such an action and told Robinson he could donate that portion of his pay to a food shelf after it had already been paid.

Robinson explained he thought it would be better to donate the portion pre-tax, but the board did not consider his pre-tax suggestion.


Pay for other top elected officials

The board also unanimously voted to give COLAs to the county’s other top elected officials — county auditor, county treasurer/recorder, county sheriff, county attorney, chief deputy sheriff and county administrator — in addition to a 4 percent step increase.

The pay increases are as follows:

• County auditor 2013 wage: $94,448; 2014 wage: $99,945.

• County treasurer/recorder 2013 wage: $88,010; 2014 wage: $93,132.

• County sheriff 2013 wage: $106,120; 2014 wage: $112,296.

• County attorney 2013 wage: $95,504; 2014 wage: $101,062.

• County chief deputy sheriff 2013 wage: $86,977; 2014 wage: $88,499.

• County administrator 2013 wage: $110,843; 2014 wage: $117,207.


‘Vaping’ restrictions

The board also chose to address “vaping” in the county government center at the meeting, which is the term generally used for when people use e-cigarettes. Users of these devices inhale a water vapor that is oftentimes laced with varying levels of nicotine.

“It is becoming a significant issue in the workplace, both for employees and for citizens or people who visit,” County Administrator Bruce Messelt said.

Messelt explained the Association of Minnesota Counties recently took a position that vaping at county buildings should be treated the same as smoking cigarettes.

“It means they’re not prohibited, they’re just regulated,” he said. “If you want to vape, you go to the smoking area.”

The board approved the policy change by a unanimous vote.

Commissioner George McMahon asked Messelt if the policy would cover e-cigarettes that emit only flavored water vapor, not a vapor mixed with nicotine.

“It may not have nicotine, but it may be offensive enough that we will treat it like someone coming in heavily perfumed,” Messelt said. “That’s a respectful workplace policy.”

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