Region restructuring moves forward

Field Editor

St. Paul The DNR’s restructuring of its regional framework going
from six regions to four is moving ahead, but the agency expects it
will take six months to complete the transition. The reorganization
was necessary to meet the constraints of budget cuts without
affecting natural resource management in the field.

Coordinating the restructuring is C.B. Bylander, formerly
director of the now defunct Central Region headquartered at
Brainerd. The Brainerd and Rochester regional offices will close,
but the offices will continue to house DNR staff. The new regions
will be Southern, based in New Ulm; Central, based in St. Paul;
Northwest, based in Bemidji; and Northeast, based in Grand
Rapids.

Budget cutbacks were not evenly distributed among the DNR
divisions, with those most dependent on General Fund appropriations
suffering the greatest funding losses. Addressing cutbacks was
largely left up to division directors.

“Commissioner Garber wisely didn’t apply a one-size-fits-all
approach, but allowed the divisions to plan the restructuring,”
Bylander said.

Last week, the commissioner and his staff met with division
leaders to discuss the restructuring. Garber largely agreed with
the plans he was presented. DNR leaders also decided to try to
announce most lay-off notices at one time to minimize turmoil
within the agency.

Lay-offs are likely, but many employees who receive the notices
will not be out of work. Those with seniority can “bump” other
positions. Bylander did not have a specific date when lay-offs will
be announced, but it will occur “sooner rather than later.”

The loss of a half-dozen regional administrative positions at
Brainerd and Rochester allowed restoration of the regional
information officer jobs that were eliminated earlier this year,
says Operations Manager Laurie Martinson. The job descriptions may
change somewhat to reflect the public affairs needs of the new,
larger regions, she said.

Overall, the restructuring has caused a slump in morale,
especially in the Rochester and Brainerd offices. Bylander says the
DNR plans to do all it can to help employees who are laid off due
to the reorganization.

“This is a tough time for the agency,” he says. “But it is
important to note that we’re doing this (reorganization) in
response to a real budget problem. We’re doing everything we can to
minimize the impacts to people.”

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