County merges offices, forms Public Works

Meet the new Mower County Public Works.

Commissioners approved a merger of Environmental Services and the Highway Department Tuesday, a move board members said will streamline services and save money.

“It’s going to be a new era,” Commissioner Ray Tucker said.

The move, according to County Coordinator Craig Oscarson, will trim the departments by about a position and a half and could save about $100,000 a year.

While staff in the departments said the move could work, they warned growing pains will be likely.

“I think it’s going to work, but we might have a few bumps in the road,” said Environmental Services Director Angie Knish.

Knish will now be a supervisor, not a department head, and will report to County Engineer Mike Hanson, who will now be the public works director.

While Knish admitted she’s nervous about the move, she said she wants to be a team player because she understands the reason for the consolidation.

“I know we’re facing some very difficulty financial and fiscal issues in the future,” she said.

“I want to do what’s best for the county,” she added.

Despite her nerves, Knish said she’s will to give it her all.

“We’re willing to give it our best shot, and hope we’re going to succeed,” Knish said.

Environmental Services offices will be moving into the Highway Department building, which is a positive for Knish. Her department is small and often on the move, so it will ensure someone is always in the office to meet with the public and answer questions.

That move is also expected to reduce building costs, which will save money. While about a position and a half will be cut, the moves were able to come through retirements and merging positions.

Such public works departments are not a new concept. In fact, about a third of the counties in Minnesota have such offices.

“We’re not the first county in the country to do this,” Oscarson said.

Along with saving money, the Environmental Services offices will be moved into the Highway Department building.

The offices will be consolidated into one office by or before October 1.

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