Making headway on funding for Hospital expansion, Highway Department 5-year plan discussed

By Deb Hendrickson

The Bennett County Commissioners met in regular session on Wednesday, December 2.

Executive Director Jennifer Sietsema from the Black Hills Council of Local Governments in Rapid City was present at the meeting. She gave an updated report on the status of the funding for the Bennett County Hospital expansion and renovation project. 

June of 2020, Ms. Sietsema conducted a public hearing for a CDBG funding application to request funds for construction expenses for the project. The maximum amount that can be requested through that program is $750,000, therefore, Sietsema suggested that an application be submitted to the CDBG-CR program in the amount of $2,020,000.

Ms. Sietsema stated that she is currently working with the Bennett County Hospital Board to develop a USDA application for the unfunded portion of the project. USDA projects reviewed at the national office must pass a feasibility review. In order to pass the feasibility review, projects typically need to have at least 20% of the total project cost secured prior to submitting an application to USDA.

Commissioner Fanning questioned an item from the November 18 meeting  minutes pertaining to employees never being given yearly raises, only at the beginning of the year. Auditor Angie Hicks stated that she would correct the wording to  specify employees are given an annual cost of living raise on January 1. 

Highway Superintendent Justin Friese reported that the blade undergoing repairs in Rapid City is scheduled to be back in Martin by December 7. 

There was some discussion about the millings that had been used to fill in the potholes on Old Highway 18. Commissioner Kirk stated that a lot of the millings were just going into the ditch and questioned if they could be retrieved. Friese commented that even though the millings were mixed with oil, they weren’t holding. Everyone felt that once the millings were in the ditch, to retrieve them wasn’t an option. Friese told the board that the gravel from the county yard was  taken out to the old highway and spread around on the bad spots.

The security cameras at the county shop are up, working and have been connected to Friese’s laptop and phone. According to Friese, the recently installed GPS system in the blade undergoing repair work in Rapid City was instrumental in detecting the hydraulic pump problem.

Commissioners Kirk, Schomp and Slattery appraised the 2006 Dodge 1500 pickup at $500. Commissioner Fanning moved to surplus the pickup and advertise it for sale. The board decided to keep the 2000 Ford F-250 pickup and make a pickup box trailer out of it to pull the sprayer.

Friese reported that there was a problem with the axle on the belly dump. The board opted to turn the truck into a tandem instead of replacing the axle.

Tom Wilsey from Brosz Engineering stated the reason the fence adjacent to John Witt’s property along County Line Road was not in the contract is because fencing is considered a non-participating item. Commissioner Kirk spoke to Mr. Witt and he is going to go ahead and put the fence in.

Wilsey stated he was present at the meeting to finalize the state requirements pertaining to the 5-year plan as well as to address any public comment. He also reiterated that without a 5-year plan the county wouldn’t be approved to receive 80-20% state and federal grant money for bridge improvement projects. He stated that the plan also serves as a guideline for projected projects and that he’d made the requested changes that were previously discussed. Wilsey once again stated that next year’s updates will be done at no charge.

Emergency Manager Jeff Siscoe stated that the Martin Volunteer Fire Department was looking for funding for a lighted, digital sign. The signs they researched averaged in price from $10,000-$20,000. Siscoe wasn’t asking to re-allocate any Covid money because most of it will be used to pay law enforcement wages. However, if there is any Covid money left over, he asked if the board would consider helping to fund the project. The board stated they would take it under consideration.

Assessor/Appriaser Mickie Thayer was approved for a .50 cent per hour raise retroactive November 1, 2020 and will also receive a cost of living increase the first of January.

The end of the year Commissioner’s meeting was set for Wednesday, December 30 at 9:30 in the courtroom at the courthouse.

The board entered into executive session for matters of personnel and when they resumed no action had been taken.

Veteran’s Service Officer Don Larson was appointed for a four-year term beginning January 1, 2021. The board asked Auditor Hicks to invite Mr. Larson to periodically attend a meeting.

County employee bonuses came under discussion. Auditor Hicks stated she had spoken with all the department heads and everyone agreed that an end of the year appreciation bonus would be nice. Commissioner Fanning suggested the item be tabled until the end of the year meeting to see the final numbers.

Via a memo from the county’s insurance company, South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, the courthouse building had been undervalued. A property value adjustment of $553.53 is necessary in order to keep all of the county’s property at replacement cost. The current contribution of $10,078.51 will go to $10,632.04. The board felt this increase was warranted but suggested checking with other companies to get a comparison.

The next Commissioner’s meeting will be Wednesday, December 16 at 9:30 in the courtroom at the courthouse. 

502 Second Avenue, Martin, SD 57551 • 605-685-6866 •