Meeting marks last for longtime county commissioners

While blizzard conditions ramped up across the state, the Potter County commissioners met on Dec. 27 to review year-end business and honor a member retiring after 31 years on the board.

Highway department supervisor JD Long was first on the agenda, telling the commissioners that the school bus route would be one of the first cleared as needed during snowy weather. He also presented them with bids for replacing windows in the highway shop, along with information on two pickups for sale on surplus. He mentioned two part-time employees, Roy Combellick and Ken Hawkinson, who were finished that week.

While the commissioners reviewed the bids for the window replacement, it was pointed out to Long that they were not all for the same amount of windows. A low bid was accepted to do the replacement work.

A brief discussion about the cost of gravel and reclamation work for a project was held, which will be discussed in more detail at the next meeting.

Long told the board that he had a request from Demots  that the county widen a few hundred feet of road for a shelter belt. He was not sure why they wanted it widened but thought it was because the trees were growing up to the road. It was commented that the county did trim trees for a house to be moved. It was also requested to pour concrete to rip rap between culverts, and he talked about the water running in the spring over the road across a pretty long stretch, especially when the snow breaks away. Long added that the pipes were moved up a foot, and it was suggested to see how the new culverts do in the spring and go from there, and that type of work has never been done on a county road, but it could be a one-time, fix-all for the problem.

He also talked about a 14 foot disc they could purchase for $300 that would help with the blading, which was approved for purchase. He also reported that the mowing is complete, and approaches were widened for area farmers.

Long told the board that he believed they average about 1200 hours per year on the blades, and they are trading off a blade that is off warranty. A phone call was made to representatives from Butler/Cat regarding a warranty that was about to expire on a blade. A bid for an extended warranty was reviewed.  Since the warranty was about to expire, it was agreed to put it in place right away. It was decided to go with a 12 month, 1000 hour warranty. A new 2019 motor grader bid was reviewed and approved for the amount of $269,240 with a trade-in and a five year, 7500 hour warranty.

Long talked about problems with trailers when it froze, saying that they can get the trailer in the shop, but not the semi. They do have a tool that they can hook to the trailers, but it sticks out just far enough that they can’t close the door, so they can’t warm up the equipment. He said he would like the board to think about increasing shop space at the highway department. He talked about the need for keeping salt and sand inside and out of the elements, along with the need for a stall with a pit and wash bay. The board told Long they have talked about extending space for the shop in the past. Auditor Shawna Shaw told the board that they have general fund money available. Long said the blade barely fits in the door. No details on the amount of additional space needed were provided.

Executive session

The board moved into executive session with Long to discuss personnel.

Following executive session, the board moved to hire  Number One and Number Two as employees for the highway department. Auditor Shaw told the board that they needed to provide names, but they were not read into the record.

States Attorney

SA Craig Smith joined the meeting to address a few “housekeeping issues.” One was regarding an easement for 1.2 acres at a gravel pit, which the board will wait and talk about with Brownlee, who is a contractor for gravel crushing. Another matter involved a curve on Potts land, which needs to be platted. The history of the road was discussed, saying the county bought it from Mac White, who later bought it back from the county, but the county still had the road. Smith said there is an acre or two involved there, and recommended that it be taken care of properly. He will offer alternatives to the land owner.

Smith said there have been some questions about the health insurance and how it applies for those eligible for Medicare. He believed there are two separate issues, and was not sure if they had all the correct information but would address it further at the January meeting. He wants to bring it to the board to make sure they are on the right path for the employees and the county officials about what they can and can’t do. He said there are things they need to know not only for the current situation but also for employees going forward.

He also said that Judge Brown, who is the presiding judge in the sixth circuit, is retiring in June, and Judge Barnett who has been coming to preside over court from Pierre is retiring in March. He said that court will continue to be held only once a month in Potter County, which does slow the process to get things done through the court system.

Sheriff report

Sheriff Curt Hamburger talked about the jail situation, saying that it sounded like a couple counties have committed to the Walworth County jail project. The sheriff said that there was discussion of a transport bus, and 10 beds were confirmed in Faulk County a day, which he said would create problems for Potter County because on a daily average Walworth County has 11, and there may not be jail space. He said he realized it is hard to commit to the jail project, and the commissioners said they thought they did commit, although they did not sign anything. The Walworth County project is initially asking for a $30,000 annual commitment. If that amount is not all used for inmate costs, the balance goes to jail repairs and upkeep. Last year Potter County spent close to that number and it was decided to commit to the annual amount.

Sheriff Hamburger also said he has two applicants for a deputy position in Hoven.

Weed Board

Keith Eidam, Jason Nagel, and Paul Oberlitner met with the commissioners on behalf of the county weed board. Eidam said that the weed board is without a supervisor and they would like to hire somebody part time, but Auditor Shaw told the board that she thought Long had been hired as both weed and highway supervisor. The commissioners also had talked about having former supervisor Steve Smith help with the weeds on a part time basis, but members of the weed board have been unable to get in contact with him. It was explained that the weed board has been run through the highway department since they are on the roads, and a lot of the work is hired done. The group also discussed a surplus pickup and advertising for help, adding that they have some time to think about it. It was said by the commission that it would be nice to tie it in with the highway department because if they couldn’t be spraying, they could be doing something for the roads, adding that there are many days when it is not possible to spray. It was also suggested that the highway crew talk to the weed sprayers and keep in communication to let them know where the problem areas are. Commissioner Bruce Williams commented that Steve Smith did a really good job keeping on top of the weed problems across the county. The weed board will meet with the commissioners again at an upcoming meeting.

Contingency transfer

Only $7,2013.40 was necessary for contingency transfer, indicating that the budget was very close to being on point.

Wages

It was decided to give a 50 cent per hour wage increase to employees who were past their probation period. Since the starting wage was increased to $16 for the highway department, it was agreed that the new hires would not be given an increase at the first of the year. Auditor Shaw again told the board that they needed to publicly give the names of the new employees hired by the highway department. It was then announced that the new hires were Colton Lesmeister and Lenny McCurdy.

Executive proclamation

While waiting to adjourn, members of the Williams family joined the meeting to hear Chairman Bill Frost read an executive proclamation from the governor of South Dakota honoring the retiring commissioner for his service as District Three county commissioner since January of 1987. The proclamation hailed Dec. 27 as Bruce Williams Day.

With that, Williams motioned to adjourn the meeting for his last time.

Commissioner Delvin Worth also retired from the board.

Because of the New Year holiday, the minutes for the meeting were not available at press time and will be published in an upcoming edition of the News. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. in the commissioner chambers on the third floor of the courthouse in Gettysburg.

-Molly McRoberts

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