Davison County panel puts building purchase back in 2012 budgetCounty plans to buy Centrel Electric co-op building and renovate it at a cost of $717,650.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
The purchase of the soon-to-be-evacated Central Electric co-op building on North Main Street in Mitchell was left out of Davison County’s 2012 provisional budget, but $717,650 for the purchase and renovation of the building appeared in an amended provisional budget published Monday by Auditor Susan Kiepke.
Kiepke said she had to include the changes to meet a publication deadline.
The commission’s original intention, stated last week by Commissioner David Weitala, was to have the $575,000 purchase of the Central Electric building taken out of capital reserves at the time of the sale, next spring or summer. Renovation costs would be left in the budget.
Kiepke, who was absent from last week’s meeting due to medical reasons, later said omitting the building’s cost was incorrect, since its purchase is an anticipated expenditure.
The building’s cost, the commissioners’ said Tuesday, will instead be taken from available cash at the time of the sale, and not from capital reserves as previously noted.
Kiepke said budget changes are inevitable at this time.
“It’s still a work in progress,” she said. “The provisional budget is not set in stone.”
From this point on, Kiepke said, any changes to the published provisional budget have to be re-published in the legals section of the county’s official newspaper, The Daily Republic.
In another budget-related move Tuesday, the commissioners amended the date and time for a public hearing on the 2012 provisional budget to 10 a.m. Sept. 6. That information was incorrectly set last week, according to Kiepke.
County Treasurer Brenda Sanders told the commissioners Tuesday she hired former clerk of courts Carol Mertens as a part-time employee in her office at a rate of $10 an hour.
During previous meetings, the commissioners refused to give Sanders permission to replace a former full-time employee Sanders fired, but they gave her authority to hire a part-timer.
Sanders said she received several applications for the job, but Mertens, who had prior experience processing passports, was the only person she interviewed, because she deemed Mertens the most experienced and qualified person for the position. The other applicants weren’t as qualified and did not have the availability she wanted, Sanders said.
That didn’t sit well with commissioners Denny Kiner, Jerry Fischer and Gerald Weiss, who voted against the hire, but Mertens will be hired even though the majority of commissioners opposed her. As an elected official herself, she can choose her employees against the wishes of the commission as long as the commission has budgeted for the position.
The matter boils down to a “procedural error” on the commissioners’ part, Kiner said, since they gave Sanders hiring permission but did not ask to see the applications. “We should have had an opportunity to see the applications.”
The commissioners’ “no” votes will put their position on the official record, Kiner said.
Mertens left the clerk of courts position in 2008 abruptly and without public explanation. Neither she nor anyone involved with her departure would comment at the time to The Daily Republic.
Sanders said Mertens is doing well in her new position, and will have her passport training updated this week. The U.S. State Department has approved the treasurer’s office to process passports.
The office will be ready to process passports by Sept. 1, she said.
In other personnel issues, the commissioners heard a plea from Planning and Zoning Director Dan Sudrla for trained office help.
Sudrla said his office has become an “island” without administrative support since it was moved to the main floor from the Office of Equalization in the basement.
In addition to handling planning and zoning, Sudrla is the county’s 911 address administrator, drainage administrator and floodplain administrator.
When he leaves on vacation or must be in the field, Sudrla said, his office virtually shuts down until he returns. That delay means residents may have to wait weeks for routine matters such as building permits and variance applications. No action was taken by the commissioners.
No highway monitors
The commissioners decided Davison County will not be in the motor carrier enforcement business.
Commissioner Jerry Fischer represented Davison County in a recent meeting of 12 counties at Huron to determine if there is interest in hiring personnel to monitor overweight trucks on county roads.
Fischer learned that any such operation, however, would fall under the authority of the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
Any “motor carrier assistant” hired would wear a uniform and would be directed by the Highway Patrol, Fischer said. The Highway Patrol would require a three-year commitment with an annual financial obligation of $90,000 to equip and pay a carrier assistant. That obligation could be split between the counties involved.
Kiner said the bottom line is that the counties involved would be funding state carrier enforcement.
“We’re gaining nothing,” he said.
“There’s no way I’d go for this,” Fischer said.
The other commissioners felt likewise and voted unanimously against further participation.
Also Tuesday, the commissioners:
• Voted their unanimous support of the “9/11 National Moment of Remembrance.”
The measure, introduced by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, DN.J., calls on Americans to come together as a nation for a Moment of Remembrance at noon Central time Sept. 11 for the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
The Moment of Remembrance is asking Americans across the country to memorialize the anniversary with a minute of reflection, marked by the ringing of bells, sounding of sirens and other actions to remember the victims. The commissioners supported the sentiment but said they had no authority to authorize the sounding of sirens.
• Postponed a closed executive session with Veterans’ Services office personnel.
• Approved, on the recommendation of Maintenance Supervisor Mark Ruml, a low bid of $10,279.24 from Floor to Ceiling Interior Design Showroom, of Mitchell, for carpet for the Sheriff’s Office. Ruml said the carpet is old, frayed and is becoming a safety hazard. Other bids were $10,821,68 from Centennial Carpet and $10,940 from Montgomery Furniture.
• Approved, at the request of Jail Administrator Don Radel the hire of Kelly Hohn as a part-time corrections officer at the jail, at a rate of $10.70. A request for a temporary registered nurse was tabled pending receipt of more information.
• Spent an hour discussing pending litigation against the county in closed executive session Tuesday with deputy State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins, and attorneys from the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, the county’s insurer. Miskimins was assigned to replace State’s Attorney Pat Smith and Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Taylor, who were in court on other business. Commissioner Weitala declined to release information about the case at this time.