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    Commissioners approve search firm for county engineer in 3-2 vote



    Steele County is one step closer to finding its next county engineer, a notoriously difficult position to replace.

    The Board of Commissioners approved a bid from South Central Service Cooperative (SCSC) at its Tuesday meeting, authorizing the North Mankato-based firm to conduct a search for county engineer. It proved to be an usually close vote for the board, with Chair Jim Abbe and Vice Chair James Brady dissenting.

    SCSC will conduct the search for $17,530, with a two-year guarantee clause that it will resume its search if the original finalist leaves the position within that time.

    The county engineer oversees the highway department. Steele County has been in the market for a new engineer since Greg Ilkka, who was hired for the role in 2017, announced his upcoming retirement. Ilkka plans to stay on full-time until summer, shifting over to part-time on June 17. His retirement is scheduled for Oct. 1, with the option to move forward if the county hires his successor before then.

    Ilkka said his stint as engineer has been a great finish to his 31-year career in local government.

    “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the county and its residents. I’m looking forward to retirement and being able to do other things, on my schedule,” he told the People’s Press.

    SCSC was one of three firms to bid for the job. DDA Human Resources, Inc. submitted a bid of $12,000 with no guarantee clause, and the stipulation it would conduct a recruitment-only search, turning the process over to the county once candidates were identified. GovHR USA submitted a $25,500 bid for a full search with a one-year guarantee.

    Hearing the bids, Commissioner John Glynn asked Human Resources Director Julie Johnson for a recommendation.

    “I’m torn. For what you get for services for the cost, I’m inclined to think South Central Service Cooperative, but then there’s the negative of they’ve never done a county engineer search before,” said Johnson.

    The commissioners discussed the possibility of conducting an internal hiring process for county engineer, but Johnson said that could delay the search if it doesn’t prove fruitful. Without a county engineer in place, the county would be at risk of losing state aid dollars.

    “At department head level, we typically advertise for three to four weeks, and I didn’t think we could afford to lose a month in the process,” said Johnson.

    While they ultimately opted to hire a search firm, the commissioners also discussed making separate recruitment efforts to cast the widest net possible.

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