Commissioners hear fence complaint; approve law department vehicle purchase

By Taylor Risse

The Bennett County Board of Commissioners met for a regular meeting on Wednesday, March 24, with all five commissioners present.

The March 3 and 22 meeting minutes were approved.

Wayne Sterkel and Nathan Novak came in front of the board to air out dissension  regarding a fence that goes between the two parties land. 

Sterkel informed the board that Novak built a fence on the west side of his quarter.

Slattery asked if it was on a section line.

Sterkel responded that it was on a section line and Novak built it on the road side.

Sterkel suggested the two splitting the cost to survey the line and Novak’s did not want to survey the land and went ahead and built the fence.

The fence is south of the section line approximately 33 foot on Sterkel’s land.

Slattery quoted his father when it comes to building fence, “Do not build it in the middle, do not put it on their side, put it on your side.”

Novak spoke his side and stated that they didn’t build a new fence, they repaired a fence that had been there for a long time.

Novak asked if the board gets into this, are they going to start checking everyone’s fences and holding everyone accountable?

There is some discrepancy over whether the fence is a “new” fence or if it is an “old” fence. 

There is no section line road there but it was also established that hypothetically a road could be put in at any time so putting a fence right on the section line could someday be an issue.

State’s Attorney Sarah Harris requested that the board allow her a chance to look into the matter legally before they make a decision to see if the fence needs to be moved.

It was decided to table the issue until the next meeting.

Slattery added that if anyone has an issue they need to come in and express their concerns.

Bob Ceplecha came before the board to ask what their plans are on delegating work for the summer.

Commissioner Dave Bakley reminded that the bid sheets for gravel and trucking are due April 21, and will be opened at the April 21 meeting. 

Ceplecha brought up that in the past, the county has always had a set rate for trucking prices.

Commissioner Judd Schomp added that the bid sheets will help the commissioners gauge where the trucker’s prices are at too.

Commissioner Blu Donovan asked what the plan is for culverts? It was discussed that culverts need to be ordered and there are some in the county that need worked on and replaced.

Bakley suggested getting a list from Highway Superintendent Justin Friese on how many culverts are needed.

Steve Livermont was present at the meeting to discuss working on culverts like he did last summer.

Livermont brought up that he had talked to Friese and Friese is interested in renting an excavator since the county has approximately six bridges that need repaired and they are too big of jobs for a small backhoe.

Commissioner Jeff Slattery added that they are looking for someone to work on approaches, fixing them up too. 

It was discussed that the board wants the approaches fixed up so there is a smooth transition from the road to the approach and so water doesn’t run onto the county roads. 

Livermont replied that he could do that easy enough.

Bakley brought up putting the project out for bid that way they are safe from the $25,000 limit and if anyone else is interested they can have a chance to bid the job.

Schomp interjected he thought Livermont’s reputation proceeds him and he’s done a great job the past few years.

Chairman Jeff Slattery agreed but said that way the board is covered if someone comes in and asks why they didn’t get a chance to bid it.

Schomp brought up that he thinks there is already $25,000 budgeted for in the highway department with the same plan of doing culvert repair this year. This way the highway superintendent can allot a certain amount to a project and call either Livermont, Ceplecha, or whoever to get it taken care of.

Auditor Angie Hicks looked it up and there is $22,000 allotted to professional fees and $16,000 remaining and in machinery hire there is $30,000 and none of it has been used.

Bakley suggested putting it out for bid so the county is covered and they don’t end up with other contractors coming in and wanting to know why they didn’t get a chance to bid it.

It was voted on and approved to put out bids for excavator and skidsteer work.

In other highway business, a 50¢ hourly raise was approved for Ed Johnson effective April 1.

Highway Superintendent Friese was at a conference and contacted the board regarding a 2021 GP772 road grader that RDO had at the conference.

If the board spoke for the road grader they could have it shipped directly from the conference to Martin and wouldn’t have to wait the four month waiting period. 

Commissioner Rod Kirk  suggested seeing what it will take to fix the CAT 143 before they do anything else.

Schomp added that the new blade would come with seven years of warranty.

The payment price of a new blade was discussed extensively.

It was also discussed that there are four good blades and four operators. There isn’t the man power to operate another blade.

Donovan brought up that it doesn’t make sense to put almost the same dollar amount as the first payment into an old machine that isn’t going to be worth much for resale.

Slattery and Bakley are calling around to get more quotes on fixing the CAT 143.

In other discussion there was a quote from Grossenburg Implement to rent a John Deere 6145M Tractor for 22¢/horse power hour.

The tractor is new, it has warranty, and Bennett County will have to put insurance on it. 

It was approved to rent the tractor with the money coming out of the snow removal fund.

There was discussion held on mowers. They are looking at M series and they can get up to four inch stuff.

Schomp reported from Friese that the highway crew had tried to pull some shoulders and it was too wet. It was unsure where they were in the county when they had tried.

Donovan suggested heading east to sandier country.

It was approved to purchase four v-plows from RDO out of the snow removal fund and to surplus old v-plows.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Steve Livermont passed on a compliment to the board for them passing the 2nd Amendment Resolution.

Sheriff Paul Williams came to the board to request funds to help purchase an all wheel drive Dodge Durango for the Law Department.

The Sheriff’s office had received a grant from the Attorney General’s office for $23,000 that could only be used for drug enforcement. They used some of it for cameras but still have $15,800 left that needs to be used up or it has to be turned back to the state.

The law department also has $15,000 in their budget that could be used for a vehicle purchase.

Sheriff Williams stated that they’d need an additional $12,000 approximately to purchase the vehicle and it would include the equipment needed for inside.

Donovan asked why a Durango and not a pickup?

Sheriff  Williams responded because of storage space and speed.

Sheriff Williams also added that state bids are up at the end of the month so they will need to speak for it soon.

The board brought up that the old pickup from the Sheriff’s Department needs to go to the highway crew because they need pickups.

Sheriff Williams responded that if they get the Durango they would be okay with the pickup going to the county shop.

Sheriff Williams also brought up that the pickup that Deputy Erwin drives needs storage and Sheriff Williams presented a storage box to the board for $1,350.

The grand total that Sheriff Williams asked the board for was $13,000.

State’s Attorney Harris reminded the board that last year each department cut their budget and Sheriff Williams said he wasn’t going to buy a vehicle this year when last year’s was paid for in full.

Harris asked how many vehicles the law department has?

Williams responded that there are two Chevy Impalas, two Dodge Chargers, and two pickups.

Auditor Hicks brought up too that there is approximately $50,000 that came in after January 1, for Covid money that can only be used for law department and jail.

Williams also brought up doing the purchase this year because they have the $15,800 from the grant that they wouldn’t normally have.

Bakley suggested they take the $13,000 out of the Covid money since it has to be used for law department.

It was decided to go into executive session with the five commissioners, Auditor Hicks, and State’s Attorney Harris to discuss contracts over the highway purchase.

Commissioner Schomp voted against going into executive session.

Once returning to regular session, a motion was made to purchase the Durango and a storage box for the pickup for $13,000 out of covid money. The old Dodge pickup will be moved to the county shop.

The 2012 will be available for surplus when the Durango comes in.

Auditor Hicks presented the SDDOT Amendment to the board. The DOT knows exactly what Bennett County was paid for FEMA money and wants their paperwork to reflect the actual amounts versus the estimated amounts.

Right-of-Ways for John Witt and Golden West were approved.

The cash transfer of $15,000 to emergency and disaster was approved.

Claims were approved as presented.

Auditor Hicks informed the board that Governor Kristi Noem granted leave for Easter on Friday, April 2, and Monday, April 5.

In new and old business, State’s Attorney Harris brought up the policy handbook and how to move forward. It was decided to have Harris make the changes and then the board will look over it again.

It was also discussed to put bids out for mowing and landscaping the courthouse lawn and for concrete work to be done around the courthouse.

Executive session was then entered with Sheriff Paul Williams to discuss law personnel.

The next meeting will be Wednesday, April 7, at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse.

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