By Taylor Risse
At the March 7, meeting the Bennett County Board of Commissioners voiced their decision to the question that has been on everyone’s mind, “Will we opt out again?”
It was approved, with a vote of 5-0 to opt out again, this time for $300,000 for 5 years, 2019-2023. This is $50,000 less than the opt out voted on in 2013.
The public has a right to put the decision to a vote of the public with a petition signed by 120 registered voters and filed with the governing body within 20 days of the first publication, which is March 14, 2018.
The meeting started off heated when county resident Jesse Ulmer met with the commissioners to inform them his road was washed out and the county needed to fix it. Ulmer stated that the road is the only way in and out of his place.
Commissioner Rocky Risse said the county would help Ulmer out when they can but there are main roads, mail and bus route roads, that need to be taken care of first.
Ulmer argued that it is the county’s road and it doesn’t matter if he is the only one that lives down it. He added that the county is liable for it.
Risse again said they’ll help out when they can but can’t say when exactly that will be.
Ulmer added that the county’s crossing at the river washed out. Commissioner Wayne Bond stated that is not the county’s crossing, it was privately installed by the previous owner.
Ulmer told the board they are also liable for damages. Ulmer worked on the road and two hydraulic cylinders on his tractor were damaged.
Risse informed Ulmer the county will not pay to repair his hydraulics. Ulmer again added the county is liable for damages, when asked he said for damages to his tractor and vehicles, he told the board to look it up.
State’s Attorney Sarah Harris said she would look into it. Ulmer went on to say the road is not flagged or marked. Risse again added that Ulmer is the only resident that lives down that road. Ulmer had called Commissioner Risse early and Risse agreed to send Jerry Bennett to look at the road and assess the damages.
Ulmer told the board they owed him two new cylinders. He asked if the commissioners need proof that the cylinders are ruined, Risse told him no they don’t need proof. Ulmer proceeded to show the commissioners photos of the cylinders.
Ulmer also informed the board that while trying to fix the road, his tractor got stuck in the mud.
According to Risse, when Jerry Bennett went to assess the road, he was going to try and pull the tractor out but it was froze in and he didn’t want to take a chance of ruining something else. Ulmer stated it’s not froze in, the front end is out of the mud. Chairman Fanning asked if Bennett had made it down to assess the road and he had.
In other highway department business, Risse informed the board that given how fast things melted last week, the roads are in relatively good shape. There are a few that need to be worked on and they’re getting to them as they can.
Highway employee Layne Sharp received his CDL and it was voted to raise his wages to $12 an hour starting effective immediately.
The Bridge Inspection Resolution #4-2018 was approved with no changes. It was voted to have the bridges inspected by Brosz Engineering.
Emergency Management Director Jeff Siscoe met with the board to see if they would adopt the Civil Disturbance Annex. The state has mandated that each county have a Civil Disturbance Annex in result of the North Dakota pipeline protests. The commissioners had some questions regarding the plan but given that fact that it is confidential, they will meet with Siscoe to discuss their questions. Voting to adopt the plan was tabled until the next meeting.
It was voted upon to approve the Wildfire Awareness Month Resolution #5-2018, stating that the Commissioners of Bennett County support wildfire awareness.
The Commissioners went into executive session with County Auditor Susan Williams and State’s Attorney Sarah Harris.
After executive session, it was approved to appoint Zach Pahlke as temporary state’s attorney for a current case due to conflict of interest issues.
The commissioners voted to surplus a white impala patrol car for less than $500 with a buyer in mind. Jeff Slattery, Rolf Kraft, and Nancy Sterkel were appointed to an appraisal board to assess the vehicle.
In April, due to Board of Equalizations meetings, the board will hold their meetings on April 10 and 18.
During the public portion of the meeting, Craig Howe again met with commissioners.
Howe handed out sheets showing two maps, each showing where in the county, county commissioners lived between 1997-2007 and 2007-2017. In 2000 the county voted to change from being a five county district to being “at large” for the voting of commissioners.
Howe asked the board to consider returning to voting in districts, so that there would be fair representation from the entire county. The board reminded Howe that anyone can run, no matter of where in the county they live.
Auditor Williams told the board that in 2000, when it was changed, the public had the right to bring it to a vote and nobody did. Howe tried to push the idea that five people made the decision on their own. Commissioner Kraft said that isn’t how it works. The Commissioners made the decision but give the public the option to vote against it. Nobody brought it to a vote, showing the public must have agreed with the decision.
County resident, Judd Schomp, asked the question that when the county voted to go “at large” were there five people from five different districts that voted on the resolution? According the Auditor Williams and the commissioners, when the change was made, the county was being represented by all five districts.
Howe proceeded to ask five questions, one to each commissioner.
Kraft was asked when the corrected resolution will be available. Kraft responded that he is in consultation in regards to the resolution and should be ready by the end of April.
Howe’s question to Fanning was, “The resolution states that 45 percent of Bennett County residents live on trust land. How has the commission taken into account their viewpoints.” Fanning’s response was, “I’ve visited with people all over the county and there’s very few that oppose the resolution, they think it’s a good thing.”
Risse was asked, “Indian trust land is owned by the Federal Government for use of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and it’s citizens. How has the commission engaged the federal government and the Oglala Sioux Tribe in drafting the resolution? Risse responded with, “We haven’t.”
Howe’s question to Bond was, “What services does the county provide on trust land.” Bond’s answer was, “Roads, ambulance, school buses, police, search and rescue, and fire.”
Slattery was asked “What is the cost to the county for providing the services just said.” Slattery responded with, “I don’t have that off the top of my mind, and it would be difficult to break out.”
The next meeting will be March 21.