Bennett County Commissioners address full agenda

By Deb Hendrickson

The Bennett County Commissioners addressed a full agenda at their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, October 7. All five commissioners attended the meeting.

Tom Wilsey, Brosz Engineering, was present to answer any questions the board had concerning the 5-year plan for the county. Wilsey stated he had worked closely with Auditor Angie Hicks and Highway Superintendent Justin Friese while compiling the document. Wilsey said, “This is not cast in concrete. It is a living document that can be changed at any time.” He also stated that the updates for next year will be done at no charge because they most likely will be minimal. Also, some of the projected projects in the plan would qualify for funding. They are outlined in the document.

Commissioner Schomp stated he would like a little more time to go through the 5-year plan before any action is taken, but Wilsey stated that the deadline to submit to the State is October 15. He reassured the board that any official changes or updates can be made simply by making a motion to approve the changes. Some discrepancies pertaining to road numbers presented in the plan were discussed. Wilsey stated he was aware of them and he would meet with Friese and make the necessary corrections after the meeting.

Concerns from residents living along Old Highway 18 pertaining to the condition of the road are still being expressed to the commissioners. Commissioner Schomp said, “The 10 loads of millings that was going to be our miracle cure for this road didn’t go anywhere.” The board held a discussion about the work the county had done in the past to repair the Old Highway. They also discussed what options the county has for material to use to make future repairs. Commissioner Slattery stated, “The millings would fix it, but there aren’t enough millings around in this general area to do it.”

Commissioner Fanning stated that he had heard from a couple of big outfits that they are not willing to pay their taxes this fall unless something gets done. 

Slattery asked Friese to use his discretion on quantity to be hauled and take some loads of the Bauman gravel out to the Old Highway and spread it out.

“I think when you start putting Bauman’s gravel on there, patching spots of it, you’re gonna see people start coming back in here,” Schomp said.

Schomp stated there possibly could be some funding available to help with the repair work on Old Highway 18 if it was put on the 5-year plan. He also suggested to get more input from the residents, they should be invited to come to a meeting again to discuss the issue.

Commissioner Kirk moved to pass the 5-year plan with the changes that were discussed at the meeting. Commissioner Kraft seconded with Kirk, Kraft, Slattery and Fanning voting yes and Schomp being opposed. Motion carried.

The board approved changing the speed limit on Old Highway 18 to 30 mph. Speed limit signs will be replaced as soon as possible.

Steve Rous was present asking to have the culvert replaced on the county road adjacent to his wheat field. The culvert was removed a number of years ago and he emphasized that without the culvert, due to runoff from the road, he could be in jeopardy of losing five to ten acres of his wheat crop next year. The board agreed to put in a new culvert in the spring.

Bids were received from Martin area residents to purchase the county’s surplus culverts. Bids were awarded to Kevin VanderMay and Tiff Pettit.

The four-month rental agreement with RDO for the motor grader has come to term. Wade Iszler was present to ask the board if they would like to proceed with the lease purchase. Schomp made a motion to move forward with the lease purchase with Kirk making the second. Slattery, Schomp, Kraft and Kirk voted yes, Fanning was opposed.

An application was presented to the board pertaining to the Adopt a Road request previously presented by Stephen Parkes who was not present at the meeting. State’s Attorney Sarah Harris stated that she had worked with the state to come up with the document. Discussion was held pertaining to what telephone number should be dialed if hazardous material or drug paraphernalia is found in the road ditch. Kraft made the suggestion to change the document to read: Call 911. The motion was made to approve the document with this change and the motion passed.

Jeff Siscoe was not present, so the surveillance video agenda item was tabled until the next meeting.

The issue pertaining to the county purchasing a sound system for the courthouse is still being researched. Current grant possibilities have proven fruitless, but Commissioner Fanning said he would do more checking. 

Todd Schmidt, Lacreek Refuge Manager gave a report on current things being done at the Refuge. A culvert is scheduled to be put in on one of the new approaches. Lots of changes have been done to the Trout Ponds Road as well as the pond. New structures were put in the pond and they are now in the process of refilling it. Once that is done, they will be working with the state to get it restocked. A continued problem with extensive vandalism to the concrete picnic tables has resulted in the removal of four tables. 

State’s Attorney Sarah Harris once again expressed her concern to the board about the condition of the grounds around the courthouse. She asked if the board would consider either replacing the current person who is doing the mowing or come up with a contract outlining what duties the job entails. The board agreed that improvements need to be made.

Deputy Curtis reported the law department was not selected for funding on a second grant which was applied for to help with the purchase of four in-car cameras and four body cameras. A new server for video storage space, costing $12,095, would be required to make a unified system but Curtis stated that none of the grants for the camera systems would allow for that expense. Grant money in the amount of $5,600 has been received to help with the purchase. According to Curtis, regardless of the fact they were denied funding from the second grant, the department would still like to go ahead with the purchase which would enable them to put cameras in all four law enforcement vehicles. He stated that the Covid funds the county has received could possibly be utilized. State’s Attorney Harris stated, “Covid money was not given to different departments but is given to the county for reimbursement for different things which is designated by the state. When the funds are received, they are deposited in the general fund, so I don’t know if this is something that you might need to budget for next year unless you have the money in your budget to make the purchase.” She also stated that she agrees the cameras are important but if it wasn’t budgeted for and it is not in the budget for this year, she questioned whether they can be legally purchased this year.

“Well, technically, it’s probably our decision whether we purchase them or not,” Commissioner Fanning said.

Commissioner Schomp questioned Deputy Curtis about the over-weight vehicles that go up and down some of the county roads. When the Sheriff’s Office was asked about what could be done about it, they stated they didn’t have any equipment or anything to weigh the trucks. Schomp asked Curtis if the county would be better off spending some money on scales rather than the cameras. Curtis stated there is a lot involved in purchasing scales pertaining to training, understanding how to use and calibrate them. Curtis suggested the motor carrier van should be notified and asked to come down more often to monitor the roads in question.

Schomp also stated it had recently been brought to his attention that there were a lot of people in the courthouse who were pretty upset with the Sheriff’s Department concerning the purchase of coats, apparently for everyone in the Sheriff’s Department. Curtis assured the board that the Sheriff purchased the majority of the coats out of his own pocket, further stating they were not purchased with county funds.

Commissioner Kirk asked Deputy Curtis if there would be a grant that may be available for this coming year. Curtis replied that if there were, the grants would be awarded a year from now so it would be October 1, 2021 before they would be notified. 

Fanning made a motion to purchase four body cameras, two in-car cameras and the video storage system for $29,835. Kirk seconded but more discussion was held before the motion was voted on and passed. Schomp asked Curtis, “Is there any place to shop around to find something different, I mean this seems like a huge amount of money.” Curtis stated that he looked at five different manufacturers trying to find a unified system that integrated the body cameras with the in-car cameras and would work as a single system. WatchGuard Video was selected because they offered no added fees, no maintenance fees and provide a 5-year warranty.

The board approved the wages for Hatty Shangreau hired as part-time janitor at $9.75 per hour effective September 21.

Resolution 19-2020 was presented to the board authorizing Commissioner Slattery to serve as the hospital’s designated person to sign applications enabling them to apply for community block grants and urban development grants. The Resolution was approved and passed as presented. 

The board entered into executive session for matters concerning department personnel. No action was taken.

The bid specifications for the courthouse roof were reviewed and some discussion was held. The item was tabled pending further research.

With no further items to discuss, the meeting was adjourned. The next scheduled meeting is Wednesday, October 21 at 9:30 a.m. in the court room at the courthouse.

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