Weitala’s widow asks to be named to his seatKim Weitala, the widow of former Davison County commissioner David Weitala, has applied to take over her late husband’s seat on the county board of commissioners.
Kim Weitala, the widow of former Davison County commissioner David Weitala, has applied to take over her late husband’s seat on the county board of commissioners.
Dave Weitala died of a heart attack Jan. 17 after shoveling snow and just before a commission meeting was set to begin.
“I want to continue my husband’s legacy,” Kim Weitala said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Auditor Susan Kiepke told the commissioners during their regular Tuesday meeting that she has received several inquiries about the commission vacancy, but Weitala’s was the only application submitted.
Weitala said applying for the District 1 seat was in the back of her mind, but she wasn’t certain she could handle a multi-year commitment. When she learned the appointment would only be until the November general election, she reconsidered.
“I decided it was something I could definitely give a 10-month commitment,” she said. “I prayed on it, talked to people and thought, ‘I really want to do this.’ I think I have something to offer.”
Weitala said she is unsure if she would run this fall if she is named to the seat. She is the manager of the Mitchell branch office of AAA South Dakota.
“I have some free time on my hands and I need to fill it,” she said. “I couldn’t think of a better way than to somehow feel closer to David by continuing on with the people he worked with.”
The deadline to accept applications for the open position is 5 p.m. Friday. The commissioners have extended the deadline once, but they did not discuss an additional extension on Tuesday.
Whoever the commissioners select will have to run for re-election next fall to serve out the balance of David Weitala’s term, which runs through 2014. The office holder would have to run for re-election that year to earn a four-year term.
Passports talk postponed
County Treasurer Brenda Veldheer was absent on personal business Tuesday and did not meet with the commissioners as scheduled, but Commissioner Denny Kiner aired an opinion about the flap over passport service at the treasurer’s office.
“The courthouse is here to deal with the public,” Kiner said. “Someone applying for a passport has the same right to service as someone registering for license plates.”
Veldheer, after discussion with her staff, decided to reduce the number of hours and days passport applications are taken. They now only take passport applications Tuesday through Thursday.
The commissioners want passport applications taken any time the office is open.
Passports were formerly handled during regular business hours Monday through Friday by the Register of Deeds’ office, but federal directives made it the treasurer’s responsibility in 2011.
“As commissioners we can direct the courthouse to be open to serve the public. If another elected official chooses not do so, she can answer to the public,” Kiner said.
Veldheer said her office started with three qualified passport processors, but two left and training classes are not available in-state.
Commissioner Jerry Fischer said he researched the matter and learned that training can now be obtained online.
Commission Chairman John Claggett said applicants can speed up the estimated 85-minute application process by filling out as much application material as possible prior to visiting the treasurer’s office.
Welfare director named
The commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to make Dawn Grissom the county’s welfare director. Grissom was named interim director last August.
Grissom reported that the county’s current liability for 2010 indigent hospital care is currently $161,233. Thus far in 2012 the county’s liability is $55,695 and counting.
Payments always lag claims because claimants have up to two years to file a claim for county assistance. Hospitals have up to one year to file a claim, Grissom said.
Initial requests for housing assistance are now being referred to Mitchell Housing Authority, Grissom said. She noted that the county cannot help with rental assistance unless a person has been a county resident for 90 days.
Memorandum of understanding rejected
The commissioners officially rejected a memorandum of understanding they have been asked to sign by officials at the South Dakota State University Extension office. The memorandum outlines the formation of advisory committees and other details surrounding the consolidation of county Extension offices.
Davison County now shares the cost of a 4-H youth adviser with Hanson County, a fact that annoys Fischer, who believes both counties will suffer under the new arrangement.
“How can one person be in two places and do justice to both places?” he asked.
Claggett said the memorandum is asking the county to be overly involved in Extension business.
“This is a program piece,” he said, “and we do not manage (outside) programs.”
“I don’t think it’s our place to sign off, they changed the program, and they can live with it.”
Claggett said he was OK with paying the county’s share of 4-H youth adviser’s salary, but no more.
“We’d like to see 4-H proceed, but we’re not going to micromanage that program,” he said.
The commissioners directed Kiepke to draft a letter to Associate Director of SDSU Extension Karla Trautman stating the board agrees that “it is not our position to sign a memorandum of understanding.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• Approved at the recommendation of County Weed Supervisor John Geidel, the purchase of a Polaris 900 diesel Ranger ATV, from Mettler Implement, of Mitchell, for $11,400 and related spray equipment for $1,735.
The commissioners also received a year-end report from Geidel that shows his department spent $83,192, which is less than the $96,166 budgeted in 2011 for the spraying and weed control program. Major weed infestations were from leafy spurge, musk thistle, Canada thistle and absinthe wormwood.
Several spots within the Mitchell city limits have infestations of toadflax, but those cannot be sprayed with powerful agricultural-grade herbicides which might damage other plants, he said. Property owners have been advised to use 2-4D, a less powerful herbicide available in retail stores.
• Heard from Dean Strand, vice chairman of the Servicemen’s Memorial Cemetery Association, who asked the commissioners to support HB 1066 which gives counties the option of cremating deceased indigents who have no family.
Strand said the Servicemen’s Cemetery is ready to help where possible. Two sections of the cemetery have been filled and two more sections will be opened soon. A new columbarium is now receiving the ashes of veterans, but there would be a fee for that new facility.
With the exception of a one-time $200 perpetual care fee, burial sites are free to veterans and their spouses, but not to other family members, unless they, too, are veterans.