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Legislature OKs change to county government style

A decision last month by the Minnesota Legislature will give Dakota County some new flexibility when it comes to the ways in which it takes input from residents.

The legislature’s decision, which the county board still has to accept, allows a change to a county manager style of government. That means a lot of little things, but one of the most significant for the county, deputy county administrator Matt Smith said, is increased control over the advisory boards — like the community corrections advisory board or the library board — that the state requires counties to maintain.

“It’s really about local control,” Smith said. “More local control over what committees the county sets up to get input from citizens and over the best way to do that so the board can get more effective participation.”

That could mean changes to the length of committee terms or to the rules over how many committee members must come from any one part of the county.

Smith said the county had noticed several instances in recent years where changes to some of those committees would make sense. The library board, for example, is currently required to approve all spending for the library system. But with the county board already in charge of approving an overall budget and tax levy, Smith said, that kind of control seemed unnecessary.

The county is required to have a community corrections board, but Smith said while that board was useful when it was established it currently has “outlived its purpose.”

Under the current system, the county would have to ask state approval for every one of the changes it wanted to make. Instead, county leaders chose to ask for one big change that allows them to make the smaller changes themselves.

Some of those changes have already been identified, but there might be others that come up as the county looks at its options. No timeline has been set for identifying those changes.

“The board is looking hard at ways to get the public more engaged,” Smith said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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