Shutdown could force Hennepin County to close service centers

The County Board will discuss next week whether to lay off 82 workers at the service centers.

Major bridge and road projects would continue but service centers could be closed in Hennepin County if state government shuts down July 1, a county official said Thursday.

The County Board plans to discuss Monday whether to lay off about 82 employees at the centers, where residents go to get driver's licenses, passports and other documents.

The layoffs were discussed briefly Thursday during a wide-ranging two-hour board briefing on the potential impacts of a state shutdown for the state's most populous county.

Board members decided to meet again Monday and Tuesday to begin determining what level of services to provide if state funding goes dry in July.

Earlier this week, the board agreed to ask a judge to guarantee continued state funding of four services tailored to people in crisis. They include shelter for the homeless, emergency case management, mental health crisis services and a county call center.

Many of the services and programs discussed Thursday were geared to people with less urgent needs. But Board Chair Mike Opat noted that some of the programs, particularly those involving child care subsidies and housing, lend stability to struggling families.

While the board seemed poised Thursday to discuss closing service centers, Opat said that the odds were unlikely that it would move to suspend work on three public works projects: Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, Bottineau Boulevard in Crystal and the Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis.

Officials say that nearly $21 million in work remains on the Lowry Avenue Bridge. Not all of the state funds are in hand, and the county risks getting hit with multimillion dollar claims from contractors if work were to be suspended.

If a shutdown were to happen, however, the county would have to pay for inspection services that otherwise would be handled by the state, Opat said.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109

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