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Davison County cuts a job, adds a job

As the result of an executive session, Davison County commissioners chose to eliminate one position and create a new, higher-paid position Tuesday.

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The commissioners, at their regular meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell, agreed to create a deputy director of planning and zoning and emergency management. The commissioners also voted to terminate the planning and zoning administrative assistant job, held by Susan Punt.

The new position is to coincide with Jeff Bathke’s new dual role as director of emergency management and planning and zoning. The new deputy job will have a pay range of $32,000 to $38,000 annually — depending on experience — and will be advertised in The Daily Republic’s classifieds section.

“It will be a cost savings for the county to go from three employees to two,” Bathke said. “This allows two people, myself and the deputy, to be cross trained to do both jobs.”

On Oct. 1, Davison County commissioners appointed Bathke to take over as emergency management director in addition to his planning and zoning duties. He started his dual role Saturday.

The two jobs were previously both full-time positions that paid a combined $88,217, and Punt was additionally paid $28,621 annually as the administrative assistant for planning and zoning. All three jobs previously totaled $116,838, but with the consolidation of planning and zoning and emergency management, the two positions — Bathke’s and the deputy’s — will total $87,000 to $93,000, depending on what the new employee is hired at. That will save the county a total of between $23,838 and $29,838 annually once the new position is filled.

Commissioner Randy Reider said the commissioners discussed the matter Tuesday with Bathke in an executive session, a closed-door meeting.

“This was a tough decision because Susan is going to be out of a job, but in the long run it’s in the best interests of the county to use the positions to the best potential you can,” Bathke said.

Bathke explained Punt is free to apply for the new position.

Drainage issue

During a citizens’ input session, Mitchell resident Steve Sibson expressed drainage concerns about a rural right-of-way north of Mitchell on 244th Street, west of 412th Avenue.

Sibson said the right-of-way, which is the border of Sanborn and Davison counties, has been flooded in low areas in recent years. Southeast of the location, in Hanson County, is a power substation.

This year, Sibson claimed a local colony plowed within the road right-of-way. That caused Sibson’s brother’s vehicle to get stuck while hauling fertilizer. Commissioner Denny Kiner believed whoever plowed it may have done so to eventually farm the area.

“I would like to have some fill put in the lower areas,” Sibson said. “In the long run, we need to protect this right-of-way. It’s been encroached by farmers on both sides. If we continue to get rain this fall, we’re not going to be able to get combines down it or loads of corn across it this fall.

“This problem is not going to solve itself. It’s going to get worse.”

There are no minimum maintenance road signs on the road, but Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke said that would be an easy fix. He added he will look at possible solutions with Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg.

New website

Treasurer Christie Gunkel explained Davison County property taxes can now be paid online by going to the county’s website, on the treasurer’s page.

The new website helped the county avoid spending more than $14,000, Gunkel said, because the original plan was to use a third-party website that would have cost an estimated $15,000. Instead, upgrading the county’s website cost about $800.

Reimbursement for cell phones

The commissioners approved a request, with added conditions, that county employees could have the option of using their personal cell phone — instead of a county-issued cell phone — and receive a $50 monthly reimbursement.

Bathke said there are 18 employees who currently use a county-issued cell phone, and the county purchased the phones and pays a minimum of $53.46 per month for each of them. He said some county employees would prefer to carry only one phone instead of two.

The commissioners liked the idea, but wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be penalties to cancel accounts that are active. They agreed if there are penalties to cancel, they would wait until the contracts have ended to start the reimbursement for personal cell phones.

Other business

In other business, the commissioners:

  • Approved a fax line for Veterans Service Officer Steve McClure.
  • Noted commissioner Gerald Weiss was absent due to illness.
  • Approved a request from County Health Nurse Natalie VanDrongelen to close the South Dakota Department of Health Davison County Offices from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday for a regional in-service staff meeting.
  • Heard from VanDrongelen that an estimated 1,400 people were vaccinated at the flu clinic held at the Corn Palace last week on Tuesday.
  • Approved a 2014 health care plan through Dakotacare for Davison County employees that has a 5 percent rate increase but will not raise premiums for employees; instead, the rate increase — which totals about $34,000 — will be paid for by the county.
  • Noted there is a 10 a.m. auction Friday at the courthouse for a piece of county property south of the Public Safety Center.
  • Tabled wage increase requests by Sheriff Steve Brink for sheriff’s office employees until a nearly complete county wage study is complete.