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 moving minnesota through employee communication
 July 10, 2002
No. 68 
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New 511 service offers one-stop shopping for traveler information

Man on phone

Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg tests the 511 traveler information number at the July 1 news conference kicking off the new service. Photo by Gary Andrist

"Build it and they will come."

That could be the rallying cry for Mn/DOTís new 511 traveler information service that was launched on July 1.

Mn/DOT built a new Web site and phone system to provide weather-related road conditions, construction and congestion information. The public came and kept on coming ó using the new Web site and phone system at more than 10 times the rate they were using the old sources for traveler information.

During the first week of operation there were 13,686 calls to 511 and 18,832 hits on the Web site.

The service is part of an effort to provide consistent and reliable traveler information nationwide. Minnesota was one of six states selected to launch a 511 service after the Federal Communications Commission in July 2000 officially designated 511 as a nationwide number for travel information.

"Providing quick and convenient access to road, traffic and weather information is one of the most important services Mn/DOT can provide," noted Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg at a news conference on July 1 to launch the service. Tinklenberg leads the national 511 Deployment Coalition.

In testimony before Congress in Washington D.C. in May, he noted that advanced technology, including 511, is key to meeting the transportation challenges of the 21st century.

"We need to do more than simply build and maintain highways and transit systems," said Tinklenberg. "We also need to develop and deploy state-of-the-art technology to improve safety, security and reliability for travelers and to better manage the resources we have."

2 women talking

From left, Ginny Crowson, 511 program coordinator, answers questions from St. Paul Pioneer Press transportation reporter Toni Coleman at the July 1 news conference. Photo by Marsha Storck

"At the same time 511 is helping drivers plan their routes, it is also serving as an important tool to reduce congestion and improve safety," said Ginny Crowson, coordinator of Mn/DOTís Advanced Traveler Information Systems and the 511 program.

The Web site and phone number work together to provide travelers with a one-stop source of traveler information.

"Generally, the phone system performed very well and was able to handle the high volume of calls we received during the holiday weekend, " notes Crowson. "Typically, we would have only received 100-200 calls per day compared with the 2,000-3,000 calls we actually received with the new system."

The phone system uses voice recognition to allow callers to navigate through a series of menus to get to the information they need.

"Voice recognition is definitely a work in progress," adds Crowson. "As we continue to improve this service, we'll introduce additional help prompts that will make the system even easier to use."

Crowson noted future plans include adding public transit and tourism information

"Check out the Web site at http://www.511mn.org or pick up the phone and give it a try. Be sure to take advantage of the telephone prompt and Web links to comment on the system. The system will continue to improve with help from our customers," said Crowson.

By Kay Korsgaard


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Transfers of employees to Metro, districts delayed until mid-July

Shaping Our Future changes requiring the transfer of temporary and permanent employees or functions from Program Support offices to the districts and Metro Division have been delayed until mid-July. Shaping Our Future transition plans for each office were approved June 28.

Offices and districts will review a process for transfer of employees, financial resources and functions by July 17. After that time, the Office of Human Resources will work with offices to help them begin the transfer of affected employees between July and November 2002.

"The purpose of delaying all position transfers until that time is to look at all positions collectively to ensure equal opportunities for affected employees," said Marthand Nookala, assistant director, Program Support Group.

"Every effort will be made to find positions for employees whose skills are transferable or who can be retrained," said Rich Peterson, acting director, Office of Human Resources. "Human Resources representatives will meet with office directors to identify positions that can be adequately filled by employees whose positions have been eliminated."

Temporary assignments may be required to ensure affected services and functions continue until they are officially transferred to their new location.

Also, employees who are working on time-sensitive projects or initiatives will not be moved until their assignments are completed. This means some transfers may not occur until after November 2002.

From now until July 17, Human Resources will examine ways to make the transfer of employees and functions go as smoothly as possible.

According to Jim McKane, labor relations manager, Mn/DOTís management also met with union representatives to discuss ways to minimize the impact of change on employees.

"I understand change isnít easy and I want to keep you informed as we implement changes that will directly affect the work of some employees and almost certainly affect all of us in how we operate and deliver the program," said Deputy Commissioner Doug Weiszhaar. "Our employees are our greatest assets and we want to consider everyoneís needs before making transfers."

"I also want to thank you for all the hard work you do. Although the current administration may change in 2003, the majority of you will continue the work you do for Mn/DOT. We canít continue without you and the important work you do every day to meet customer needs."

The transfer of employees and functions due to Shaping Our Future changes should not be confused with pending office relocations within the Capitol Complex. For more information about these moves, go to http://ihub.dot.state.mn.us./commissioner/messages2002.html on the Intranet.

For more information about overall Shaping Our Future efforts, visit the Web site at http://ihub.dot.state.mn.us./shaping/. Talk with your supervisor to get more information if you donít have access to the Internet.

By Donna Lindberg


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Mn/DOT renews commitment to a more diverse workforce

A renewed emphasis on achieving greater diversity in the agency was stressed during the Commissionerís Forum held on June 26.

The meeting focused on the roles and responsibilities of management and strategies the agency will adopt in order to achieve a more diverse workforce.

"A diverse organization will help us take advantage of the broad array of skills and abilities and experience represented throughout our community and will make it possible for us to serve the needs of this region and this state long into the future," said Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg.

The face of Minnesota is changing, according to data from the 2000 Census which show a more racially and ethnically diverse Minnesota. Statistics reveal that minorities comprise approximately 11.8 percent of Minnesotaís population. Mn/DOTís workforce consists of approximately 6.8 percent racially and ethnically diverse employees.

"Our agency must reflect the communities we serve," said Tinklenberg as he addressed management staff.

Keynote speaker Lee Butcher, Medtronicís senior diversity director, described the companyís diversity efforts and outlined the techniques his company developed in order to make its efforts a success. Techniques mentioned included 10-hour training sessions for all staff, peer and mentorship programs, and accountability and support of managers, supervisors and directors to achieve diversity goals.

Janet Bouyer, Affirmative Action officer, presented Mn/DOTís new Diversity Strategic Plan outlining four strategies the agency will implement to integrate diversity into existing business practices and human resources systems.

"In many of the agencyís job classifications, we have not met our hiring goals," she said. Thatís why it was necessary to develop a plan that focused on the strategies of recruitment, good faith hiring efforts and planning and development for succession and retention."

"Increasing diversity within Mn/DOT is not a new initiative, said Chief of Staff Margo LaBau. "However, with a solid diversity plan in place, the agency will establish real goals and provide measurable means of evaluating and quantifying diversity efforts."

The agency plans to launch a department-wide diversity campaign in mid-July in response to the overall diversity strategy of becoming a more diverse agency.

For more information about Mn/DOTís diversity efforts and the Diversity Strategic Plan, visit the diversity Web site at ihub/diversity.

By Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo


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Pay stub information will not be mailed to employees beginning this pay period

July 12, 2002, is the first pay period that paper direct deposit information or paychecks will not be mailed to employees by the Department of Finance, whether they are on direct deposit or receiving a paycheck.

"The format of paychecks will change to postcard size, similar to the format used for state tax rebate checks," said Rich Peterson, acting director, Human Resources. "This change will eliminate any pay stub information on the paycheck.

Employees can now access recent pay stub information and information dating back to January, 2002, on the Web at www.state.mn.us/employee from their work location on Mn/DOT's Intranet site at http://ihub.dot.state.mn.us./ or from their home computer on the Internet at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/. Employees can sign in by typing in their user ID (their eight-digit SEMA4 employee identification number). The initial password will be the last four digits of their Social Security Number. (Employees can find both their employee ID and their SSN on their recent paycheck or stub.)

Employees can also access pay stub information directly by going to the Department of Finance Web site www.finance.state.mn.us/paystub. The site includes an online guide to help them become more familiar with the process. It also includes general information and answers to many common questions.

"If you are unable to see pay stub information, it may be in the process of loading. Just try again later," said Michael Garza, director, Information Resource Management. "If you do not have access to the Web, work with your supervisor or payroll administrator. If you encounter a technical problem, contact MIS personnel in your local desktop support services office."

Garza notes the pay stub Web site belongs to the Department of Finance, not Mn/DOT. He said, however, that Mn/DOT network staff helped DOF identify and eliminate several bugs that prevented users from accessing the site.

By Donna Lindberg


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Floods plague state highways as costs continue to mount

A worker with the city of Warroad uses a backhoe to build a dike to keep floodwaters from Lake of the Woods at bay. Photo by Roger Hille

Widespread flooding or threats of floods continue to plague Mn/DOT maintenance forces in early July, even as officials begin to assess the cost of flooding during May and June.

Some highways remain flooded in northern and north-central Minnesota while other areas such as Warroad brace for yet another flood.

As recently as Monday, flooding from heavy rains forced the Brainerd District to close Hwy 27 between Isle and Woodland.

With recent rains in the Detroit Lakes district, water again covered Highway 113 east of Waubun and Highway 200 east of Mahnomen. Crews have made repairs to area roads since flooding that plagued the region during the last few weeks of June.

Maintenance Superintendent Dennis Redig doesnít anticipate much more damage to area roads from the recent rainfall, because water isnít rushing over the road. "However, that could change if heavy rains were to occur," says Redig. "Weíve been lucky so far with only about $10,000 in damages."

In the Bemidji District, Hwy 9 near Ada remains closed four miles south of the city and between Borup and Felton. And Hwy 200 between Hwy 32 and Mahnomen is still closed. Recently, water covered Hwy 11, the major east-west route along the Canadian border, near Baudette, slowing traffic.

The district faces renewed flooding at Warroad where strong winds and high water on Lake of the Woods threaten the city. To thwart the threat, maintenance crews from the Bemidji and Duluth districts delivered and helped install nearly 1,500 feet road barriers and helped build earthen dikes during the 4th of July weekend, said Roger Hille, marketing and operations engineer at Crookston. Crews from Bemidji placed 800 feet of concrete Jersey barriers while crews from the Virginia Maintenance Area installed nearly 700 feet of water-filled Triton barriers

The barriers provide protection from waves for a clay dike placed behind them. Their use allowed the city to keep travel routes open by building narrower dikes placed on city streets.

Hille said Mn/DOT forces worked with crews from Warroad, Roseau County and the Corps of Engineers to help protect the city.

Preliminary estimates place the cost of the flooding to Mn/DOT at more than $1 million, said Bob Vasek, maintenance operations support engineer, Maintenance. Additional costs stem from bridge and culvert washouts and damage to roads, shoulders and slopes. Other costs came from assistance to cities, counties and other government units.

Vasek said Mn/DOTís work with other agencies drew praise from Public Safetyís Division of Emergency Management for assistance provided to local agencies.

Division officials, Vasek said, credited Mn/DOT crews with being among the first to respond in flooded areas such as Ada, Borup and Mahnomen where combined efforts helped prevent major residential losses due to flooding.

Mn/DOTís efforts also elicited praise from highway users such as Roxanne Melton of Waverly who commuted on Hwy 12 after floods left it water-covered.

"I drive from Waverly to Delano each day. With the water over Hwy 12, it can get kind of scary," she wrote to Mn/DOT. "Each day the Mn/DOT crew is always there to make sure everyone is safe. Itís very nice to know that someone is there just in case someone gets in trouble."

By Craig Wilkins


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Hughes succeeds Rohrbach as director of Materials and Road Research

Pat Hughes, formerly Mn/DOTís design-build director, succeeds Gerry Rohrbach as director of Materials and Road Research. Rohrbach retired on July 9, capping a 35-year career with Mn/DOT.

Rohrbach served in his current role since 1998. He previously served as director of Technical Support, the departmentís paving engineer and in other managerial and engineering roles.

In addition to assuming leadership of Materials and Road Research, Hughes will also continue to assist Program Support Group office directors develop quality assurance plans for functions being transferred to the districts.

Hughes previously served in various engineering and management positions including District 8 engineer and assistant commissioner for Program Support and for Program Delivery.


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Process under way to improve GroupWise address book information

Staff in the Office of Information Resource Management are addressing problems concerning inaccuracies in employee information found in the GroupWise address book.

Nearly a year ago, selected information in the GroupWise address book (for most employees) was compiled using information contained in the employee profile in SEMA4, the stateís personnel management system. The information being updated includes an employeeís phone number, fax number, mail stop number, office address and job classification.

The synchronization process involves a nightly download of information from SEMA4 that compares and then updates the GroupWise address book, said Sarah Kline-Stensvold, network infrastructure manager, Information Resource Management.

The majority of the inaccuracies to date have been traced to user network accounts that had not been associated with an employee identification number, Kline-Stensvold said.

In order for the update to proceed correctly the employee identification number must be available. OIRM staff will develop methods to monitor user accounts to verify that employee identification numbers are added. In the interim, OIRM staff are working through existing accounts, adding employee identification numbers to these accounts, Kline-Stensvold said.

Some users have already reported that previously incorrect information in GroupWise has been changed. However, because there are a large number of accounts without identification numbers, it will take awhile to resolve all the account issues.

Users who find that their GroupWise address book information is incorrect should continue to notify their office managers. Because issues related to inaccurate data in SEMA4 also contribute to the inaccuracies found in the GroupWise address book, office managers should be sure to check SEMA4 information for accuracy when there are discrepancies with GroupWise address book information.

By Craig Wilkins


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