Fairgrounds upgrades given final OK

The Davison County Commissioners approved a facility-use agreement Tuesday with Avera Queen of Peace, clearing the way for the Davison County Fairgrounds to be used as an indoor sports practice facility.

The Davison County Commissioners approved a facility-use agreement Tuesday with Avera Queen of Peace, clearing the way for the Davison County Fairgrounds to be used as an indoor sports practice facility.

The final step of the year-long process was for a facility-use agreement to be approved, which was done unanimously Tuesday during the commission's final meeting of the year at the Davison County North Offices in Mitchell.

Starting in January, the county will receive $1,000 per month for each month Avera Queen of Peace uses the facility. The contract runs through December 2016. Avera Queen of Peace will install a permanent tennis court surface to the floor and plans to purchase netting to protect the walls of the building. That is supposed to be installed in mid-January, with the intent of holding indoor tennis in the 15,000 square-foot exhibit hall, along with baseball and softball.

In August, a tentative deal was reached to allow Avera Queen of Peace to use the building, but the facility-use agreement was not presented until last week.

There was still concern about how the partnership would work. Former commissioner Carol Millan attended the meeting and had questions about how the flooring would hold up and whether it would affect 4-H.


"That building is my baby," she said. "I've had many sleepless nights about it. I want to make sure its original intent is still there."

The commissioners were in agreement that the county should let the event play itself out.

"We can't look at this being a money-generating proposition," commissioner Denny Kiner said. "Let's face it, we haven't made money in that building since it was built."

Scott Houwman, who operates Avera University Physical Therapy, said the design is meant to work with 4-H and the existing shooting sports, not against them. Both Millan and Houwman noted that the building was designed with sports like tennis and basketball in mind when it was constructed in 2000.

"We're not changing anything," Houwman said. "We're trying to make sure a public space can be used better. We're hoping to leave the building better off than we found it and create a sustainable system with this."

Pay raises for 2015 include commissioners

For the second straight year, the Davison County commissioners gave county employees and elected officials a raise of 2 percent plus 50 cents per hour. But the commissioners OK'd the same raise for themselves. Last year, the commissioners voted not to take raises.

The raise brings the commissioners' salaries to $16,139.15 per year, which is a bump of 9 percent. The salary is based on the commissioners' working 20 hours per week. Last January, the commissioners voted not to give themselves a raise for 2014, leaving their salaries at $14,803.09, following a 3-2 vote.


This time, the motion passed 4-1 to approve the raise, with Randy Reider as the commission's lone vote against the motion to raise the salaries. He proposed a 2 percent raise without the 50 cent per hour added.

"You look at both sides," Reider said. "You want to keep up some sort of increment of growth, but you don't want to be disproportionate."

Commission Chairman John Claggett said he didn't want to see the commissioners lose ground on what other counties are doing.

"If our employees are worth giving that, why aren't we worth that?" he said. "I think consistency is an important piece."

Commissioner Brenda Bode said that even though the pay might be based on 20 hours of pay, she added, "You're a commissioner full-time, plain and simple."

"I don't see this as an hourly position," she said. "I don't see a value in breaking it down."

The county bumped the salary of elected officials, as well. Auditor Susan Kiepke, Register of Deeds Deb Young and Treasurer Christie Gunkel will make $51,586.59 in 2015; State's Attorney Jim Miskimins will earn a salary of $78,938.51; and Sheriff Steve Brink was bumped up to $58,784.89.

The county has roughly 85 employees, Kiepke told the board.


Mitchell, county to partner on grant application

A resolution was approved to support a joint application between Davison County and the city of Mitchell for grant funding to assist with with the reconstruction of East Spruce Street.

Mitchell City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein came before the commission Tuesday with a resolution of local commitment in an effort to receive grant funding from the South Dakota Department of Transportation, primarily the Industrial Park Access program. The joint resolution is in part because both parties share responsibility in maintaining the road, Ellwein said. But she added that dual support would likely help the application's odds of success.

Mitchell Deputy Public Works Director Terry Johnson said the cost is being estimated at $2.5 million and would include five lanes of road from State Highway 37 to the eastern edge of Mitchell Technical Institute, with two lanes in each direction and a center turn lane. Both Johnson and Davison County Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg noted that the road is showing significant wear due to heavy truck traffic.

"If that road fails, we're going to be in a world of hurt," Johnson said. "We need to act soon."

The STIP process is lengthy, Johnson said, as it often takes three to five years to get on the list of projects.

Johnson explained that the county could loan against future STIP funds to make the project possible with a possible no interest loan. The city is also looking at a rail safety improvement grant or an economic development grant to help with the street upgrades.

The Mitchell City Council will take up the application at its Jan. 5 meeting. Ellwein said the city is attempting to meet a Jan. 15 deadline for the application.


Other business

In other regular business, the commissioners:

• Approved, following a public budget hearing, a resolution to supplement the sheriff's department and jail budgets for 2014. While final numbers will be available at the end of the year, approximately $64,000 was supplemented from the general fund to the sheriff's overtime budget and $158,000 from the general fund to the jail overtime budget.

• Approved a resolution for contingency transfers of $90,281 for the following budgets: State's Attorney for $8,050, indigent defender for $36,650. 24/7 sobriety for $889, county coordinator for $6,733, county highway for $32,270 and county highway and debt services for $5,689.

• Acknowledged the cancellation of the Dec. 30 meeting; the next meeting will be Jan. 6.

• Signed a contract with the South Dakota Department of Health's Office of Family and Community Health Services to be eligible for reimbursement.

• Approved a family medical leave request for an employee.

• Approved bills, timesheets and the previous meeting's minutes.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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