Davison County commissioners pass on drainage boardCiting potential county liability, Davison County Commissioner Denny Kiner on Tuesday advised fellow commissioners to move slowly when it comes to creating a county drainage board.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Citing potential county liability, Davison County Commissioner Denny Kiner on Tuesday advised fellow commissioners to move slowly when it comes to creating a county drainage board.
Kiner’s advice, given during the commission’s weekly meeting at the courthouse, came on the heels of information Kiner received at a drainage seminar at the annual state convention of county officials in Rapid City.
“I think we need a drainage ordinance, but more for clarification of purpose, than for regulation,” Kiner said.
The county has received letters of interest from three county residents who have volunteered to serve on a county drainage board. Kiner asked Drainage Administrator Dan Sudrla to notify those individuals to be patient until the county determines its need — if any — for a drainage ordinance or a drainage board.
Kiner said he learned during last week’s seminar that drainage law is a state responsibility and that the county could be held liable for property damages that could result from a county-issued drainage permit.
“That’s because you granted the permit without the education to make such a decision,” he explained.
Kiner said the county’s role shouldn’t be to manage drainage problems but, “to provide resources on how to resolve potential drainage issues.”
That will take more training and experience than the county currently has available, he said. A drainage board, with the proper training for its members, could be a resource for landowners planning drainage projects, Kiner said. A board could also be used to help neighbors resolve disputes arising from drainage matters.
Any final legal remedies, however, would have to be decided in court.
Kiner said that only 11 of 66 South Dakota counties have drainage ordinances on the books and others have revised their ordinances. Turner County’s ordinance, for instance, has a disclaimer of liability and states that any party affected by a drainage board decision, can appeal that decision to circuit court.
“I still think we need a drainage board for educational purposes,” Kiner said, “but for educational purposes, and not to make drainage decisions.”
In other business Tuesday:
n Commissioner David Weitala, prior to passage of a resolution approving a general fund budget of about $7.853 million, floated amotion adding another 25 cents an hour to the 1 percent raise the county will give to its employees in 2012.
The raise passed with a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners John Claggett and Gerald Weiss dissenting. The additional quarter will cost the county about $40,400 next year.
Road equipment goes unfunded in 2012
The commissioners were not, however, able to honor Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg’s request to put some cash aside to replace aging highway equipment.
Auditor Susan Kiepke advised otherwise.
“There’s no money left to put into a capital outlay account,” Kiepke said. “You’re already supplementing the general fund with $1.3 million from the highway budget.”
Claggett said that mandated costs for welfare, hospitalization and jail expenses leave the county little budget flexibility. The county, he said, ends up balancing its budget on the back of the highway budget.
Frustration was common among the highway superintendents at the recent state convention, Weinberg said.
“Everybody’s got the same issue we do — no money and no place to get it.”
2010 audit report
The commissioners also accepted a report from Toby Qualm, an auditor with the Department of Legislative Audit on the 2010 budget year.
The report noted two “material violations” of auditing rules. The related errors were that the county improperly expended $392,366 in secondary road reserve funds and did not maintain an adequate reserve for those funds. A second error was that the county’s general fund balance exceeded the 40 percent maximum allowed by approximately $1,315,000 as of Dec. 31, 2010.
The errors were procedural in nature, said Kiepke.
“I felt good about it,” she said. “The only thing of substance was that money wasn’t transferred from the general fund to a road a bridge fund at the end of 2010, which put the county over the 40 percent limit for general fund surplus.”
Instead of 40 percent, the fund was at 43 percent, noted Kiepke.
* The commissioners assigned State’s Attorney Pat Smith, Kiepke, and Commissioners Gerald Weiss and Kiner to a salary task force to study county compensation.
No defined meeting times were set, but Kiepke said she doesn’t envision the group meeting more than three or more times. No outside firm has been retained to assist with the study, but the use of additional expertise has not been ruled out, Commission Chairman John Claggett said.
* In a brief discussion, they refused to dismiss old county liens totaling $164,665. Kiepke asked the commissioners if they wanted to keep the liens on the books.
“I don’t want to forgive a penny,” Commissioner Jerry Fischer said, noting the county has carried the liens without receiving any interest on the money due. The financial obligation should remain on the books as an impediment should the debtors apply for a loan without first settling their obligations with the county.
The majority of debts are for ambulance services the county provided during the past 10 to 20 years old, but some liens go back 40 to 50 years.
Kiepke said she will ask the commissioners to write off about $60,000 for deceased people as well as for those who have filed for bankruptcy.
* The commission gave Kiepke permission to advertise for a Deputy Auditor II, since county employee John Thomson will be leaving to take another job.
* After a brief discussion, they declined to buy a filter that would monitor employee computer use.
Commissioner Fischer said computer use can be monitored by department supervisors.
* The commissioners took under advisement a request from Treasurer Brenda Sanders, who said her office is understaffed and needs a full-time deputy treasurer.
Sanders said the busy tax season is starting and the office now offers passport services. Similar-sized counties have four to five full-time people on staff, plus the treasurer, Sanders said.
* They approved a low bid from Clark Paving for $5,237.70 to seal the parking lots at the county Public Safety Building on Miller Avenue. Clark will also repave a 28-foot by 30-foot area for an additional $873.
The losing bid from Pro Seal was for $6,167.79
* A report from Veteran’s Service Office Steve McClure was postponed.