Most recently approved County Commission Minutes



Mercer County Commission
Special Meeting Minutes
October 4, 2016


The special meeting was called to order at 6:00 PM CT by Chairman Tveit, also present was Commissioner Scheurer, Commissioner Entze, Commissioner Gunsch, Commissioner Murray, and Auditor Brost.  

Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Scheurer to approve the agenda.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Auditor Brost discussed how the tax increase would affect the taxes.  The 2016 taxable valuation was 39,972,825 and the 2017 taxable valuation is 42,590,717.  The 2016 levy was 92.11 and the proposed levy in 2017 is 93.26 mills.  Brost explained if a home is valued at $100,000, the maximum annual increase would be $5.17 and if a quarter of land is valued at $54,500 the maximum annual increase would be $3.13.   Auditor Brost stated the State Aid for Mercer County has dropped 32% from 2016 to 2017.  The State Highway Distribution fund has dropped from $969,168 to $959,417 from 2016 to 2017.  Brost added Mercer County allocates 5.88 mills to the Capital Improvement Projects Sinking & Interest fund starting in 2017 to repay the General Obligation Bond, which will be levied for the next 10 years.   In efforts to decrease the budget, Brost explained Mercer County has cut the General Fund by 17.2%, each department was requested to decrease their budgets by 5%, the Sheriff’s Department cut vehicle purchases in half, the Highway Department decreased their equipment budget by $200,000, and the Board of County Commissioners froze funding to levied districts to 2016 allocations.  Auditor Brost discussed how the courthouse expansion/remodel is being funded, stating the total cost is $11,255,654.66.

Joe Grannis asked what the county plans to do with the extra money borrowed for the courthouse expansion.  Auditor Brost stated the bond can be paid back early without penalty.  Dwight Berger stated according to the ballot (in regards to the courthouse expansion) there was nothing on there about the bond.  Chairman Tveit stated the increase in building costs is why the county needed to borrow additional monies.  Auditor Brost added the bond was properly noticed in the official newspaper and there was a public hearing before the sale of the bond.  Danny Bakken stated the county has overspent by what they told the people of Mercer County.  Commissioner Gunsch stated when the original plans came to the board the cost was $9.8 million; however, after the first round of bids they came in close to $13 million but the second bid was much better.  Bakken stated its $11 million now but could go higher if the county runs into any problems.  Commissioner Gunsch noted the contingency fund is $400,000, and they are confident they can come in at this figure.

Bakken asked the commission if the jail expansion is going to pay for itself and wondered with the nurse, more deputies, more jailers, if they are trying to be a super county.  Bakken stated it is bad news and there are a lot of places that could be cut.  Wes Klein asked the board if they have a business plan going from 24 to 52 beds and wondered how the county was going to feed all the inmates.  Klein stated this county is going to grow in personnel because of the number of beds.  Commissioner Scheurer stated in simple terms, times have changed and female prisoners need female correctional staff.  Scheurer added the need is there and it is the law to feed the prisoners.  Scheurer asked if anything pays for itself, noting Mercer County is not in it to make money.  Commissioner Scheurer stated the county has to deal with unfunded mandates where they get no money from the state, but have to comply because it is the law.  Chairman Tveit stated as most state requirements, it gets passed down to the county to deal with and pay for as well.  Commissioner Gunsch stated presently prisoners get TV dinners and soon the county will be mandated to serve two hot meals per day.  Adding, it comes in cheaper to have food service come in to prepare and serve the meals.  Gunsch noted there are no jails out there that are going to pay for themselves. Klein asked if the commissioners plan to house out of county inmates.  Chairman Tveit answered yes.  Klein asked why the taxpayers should pay for it.  Chairman Tveit stated the county makes money on housing out of county inmates but didn’t know the exact figure off hand.  Klein stated the problem is the board doesn’t know how much money they will make and how much money it is costing the taxpayers.  Klein questioned how it went from a courthouse expansion to running a for profit business by expanding the jail. Chairman Tveit stated the jail was a part of the original plan taken to the voters.  Klein stated the commission housing out of county prisoners makes it quite clear to him the county is running a for profit business.  Commissioner Scheurer stated the county has contracts with several counties, allowing the county to house their own inmates first.  Scheurer added this was not advertised as a for profit business.

Commissioner Gunsch called for a point of order.  Chairman Tveit stated the point of order was taken and asked the public if there was any more questions.

Casey Voigt stated he had contacted the State Tax Commissioners office and the tax notice for the increase needed to be in the paper seven days prior to the meeting, therefore the county should have a zero percent increase.  Auditor Brost stated that the increase notice was mailed to taxpayers who had a $3,000 or 10% increase on September 22nd and the notice was published in last week’s paper, but realizes the paper comes out on Wednesday and the publication date is actually Thursday.  Dwight Berger stated the notice came out in the paper last Thursday and today is not seven days, so zero increase meeting over.  Voigt asked if he could bring up another point since the county will go ahead with the increase whether they agree with it or not.  Auditor Brost said the county will not go ahead with an increase if it was not noticed properly.  Chairman Tveit asked Dan Ahrens, Hazen Star, when the paper gets published.  Ahrens stated it is printed overnight on Tuesday, available to the public on Wednesday, although those who get it mailed receive it on Thursday. Voigt stated he feels there are a lot of other people who can pay taxes other than property owners.  Chairman Tveit asked if there were any other questions.  Grannis asked why the expected revenues and expenditures are not published.  Auditor Brost stated she published the preliminary budget, which is required of her by state statute.  Commissioner Gunsch noted even though the county will not be going up in taxes, constituents need to realize that the Beulah School District went up considerably and the City of Beulah went up considerably. 

Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Murray to adjourn the public hearing on mill levies at 6:35 PM CST.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.  The next regular meeting of the commission will be October 5, 2016 at 9:00 AM CT in the courtroom of the Mercer County Courthouse, Stanton, North Dakota.


Mercer County Commission
October 5, 2016


The meeting was called to order at 9:00 AM CT by Chairman Tveit, also present was Commissioner Scheurer, Commissioner Entze, Commissioner Murray, State’s Attorney Binder, and Auditor Brost.  

Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, second by Commissioner Murray to approve the agenda.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Commissioner Gunsch entered the meeting.

Motion made by Commissioner Entze, second by Commissioner Scheurer to approve the minutes of the September 19th special meeting and September 21st  meeting.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

The board reviewed the bills.  Commissioner Entze questioned the bill from NDSU for July through December, asking if they could bill monthly versus semi-annual.  Commissioner Scheurer stated the fiscal year for them runs from July to June.  Chairman Tveit questioned the engineering fees on County 27 and would like to hold off on approval until they discuss it with Engineer Eric Urness.  Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, second by Commissioner Entze to approve the bills as follows, to exclude Interstate Engineering: Advanced Business Methods, $1793.66; James Albers, $64.80; Ameripride Services, $52.39; Craig Askim, $13.48; Bauer Built, $188.46; BCBS, $63262.76; Bergstrom Electric Inc., $58594.50; Bernie’s Welding, $357.00; Beulah Job Development, $606.34; BHG, $1243.40; Jessica Binder, $276.48; Braun Interfec Corp. $1124.50; Bronson’s, $3812.66; Butler Machinery,$91.20; C & M Erectors, Inc., $32400.00; Cardmember Service. $3053.41; City of Beulah, $72.90; Cofell’s Plumbing, $317.60; Colonial Research, $685.39; Comfort Inn, $80.00; Contegrity Group, $32808.20; Corner Express, $61.61; CPS, $5659.40; D & E Supply, $222.59; Dakota Staffing, $3770.55; Dean Danzeisen, $588.00; Dent Master, $376.48; Downtown Gas, $643.46; Electronic Communication, $7790.00; FUO Beulah, $73.98; Hazen Hardware Hank, $73.98; Hazen Motor/Farm, $29.80; Heartland Engineering, $2084.14; Hedahl’s, $5.50; Herzog Roofing, $179784.00; Hobbs, Inc., $13041.00; Implementation Specialists, $5949.80; Interstate Engineering, $49662.67; J & M Hardware, $618.77; John Deer Financial, $6300.00; J-S Sanitation, $669.00; Knife River Corp. $277321.64; Krause Super Valu, $36.98; Mayo Construction, $39784.13; Menards, $184.86; Mercer County Shop, $112.05; MDU, $49.89; Napa, $610.79; NDACO 911, $1431.28; ND Attorney General, $1180.00; ND State Radio Communications, $720.00; NDAAO, $450.00; NDACO Resource Group, $23.78; NDCEL, $420.00; NDSU Extension Service, $25212.37; Nelson International, $60.22; Neuberger Oil Company, $24399.43; Northern Plains, $927.90; OK Automotive, $88.27; Olson Electric, $4817.59; Pam Pehl, $32.40; Hazen Postmaster, $47.00; RDO, $870.27; Carmen Reed, $721.85; Seatol, $1000.00; Skraba’s, $1168.32; Sletten Excavating, $42410.97; SMB, $203.91; Straightway Construction, $222101.10; Candy Strand, $32.64; Sweeper Metal, $64564.20; The Hub, $90.00; The Tradesmen, $68931.03; Tower Communications, $555.00; Venture Marketing, $29.96; Verizon Wireless, $1520.32; Wagon Wheel, $913.17.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

The board reviewed the NDSU Extension Highlights.  No further action was taken.

The board discussed the county’s North Dakota State Fair Delegate.  Auditor Brost stated Gary Knell was the delegate in the past.  Chairman Tveit stated he would check to see if Knell would do it again.  Commissioner Gunsch suggested advertising the delegate position in the future.  No further action was taken.

The board discussed the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties annual meeting bylaws proposed changes.  Commissioner Gunsch is the delegate for Mercer County and will vote on the bylaw changes on behalf of the county.  No further action was taken.

Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Murray to move the November 16th meeting to November 14th with appropriate notice in the paper.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Sherwin Wanner, Houston Engineering, discussed the landfill capping project stating the contractor began work in August.  Wanner stated the compacted clay liner is complete, the compaction testing passed, and is confident they will pass the permeability tests.  Wanner added they will be placing loose lift this week and seeding after for a completion date of November 1st.  Wanner recommended to the board holding some retainage to make sure the seed germinates.  Commissioner Entze asked if there was a plan in place if there is a large amount of weeds.  Wanner stated initial weed control is in the contract, but once the grass is established it becomes an operational cost.  Commissioner Scheurer asked how the permit process was going.  Wanner stated all documents have been submitted and has been in the review process for a couple of months.  Chairman Tveit thanked Wanner for the update.

Next on the agenda was the review of the Sheila Bruner grievance.  Chairman Tveit stated it was a question of if it was filed timely.  State’s Attorney Binder stated it was filed beyond five (5) days as stated in policy, it was an untimely file.  Binder noted Section 701 of the policy is specific to dismissal and a regular grievance is an entirely different process rather than challenging termination right to the board.  Commissioner Gunsch stated the county needs to follow the policy manual.  Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Murray to deny the request of appeal and follow policy Section 701.  Commissioner Entze asked if it was five (5) working days.  State’s Attorney Binder stated yes, policy reads an employee shall have the right to appeal such action to the Board of County Commissioners, which appeal shall be filed with the County Auditor within five (5) working days.  A hearing will be conducted by and at the convenience of the board.  On roll call vote; Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, motion carried.

The board gave their portfolio updates.  Commissioner Scheurer stated Mr. Wanner covered the capping project at the landfill and the Ambulance board meeting was rescheduled for October 26th due to no quorum. 

Commissioner Entze stated the Weed board meeting will be next week.  Entze also reported the Airport Authority ordered a new sign with the latitude and longitude and they lost their flight instructor.

Commissioner Murray reported the Library board met and discussed their budget, adding they will be able to work within the parameters the county has set.  Murray noted there are new librarians in Beulah and Hazen and things are going well.

Colette Schilling, Tax Director/Land Use Administrator, presented Temporary Use Permit #487 from Kamphius Pipeline Company to store bundles of water pipeline 40’ in length in the NW ¼ Section 11 T143N R90W with work limited to daylight hours.  The area disturbed under this temporary use permit must be reclaimed by the applicant and must be approved and released by the County Road Superintendent.  The haul road must be approved by the County Road Superintendent and the permit holder shall control weeds in an acceptable manner during the time this permit is in effect.  Schilling explained this was a permit to bring the permit into compliance.  Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Murray to approve Temporary Use Permit #487.  On roll call vote; Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, motion carried.

Schilling stated zoning case #16-09-01 has still not sent in the abstract for the permit.  Schilling stated she called and sent a letter last week to Carol Weigum, but has still not heard back from her.  Motion made by Commissioner Entze, second by Commissioner Scheurer to table zoning case #16-09-01 until further notice.  State’s Attorney Binder stated she would send another letter.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Scheurer to set the Hearing on Appraisal for October 19, 2016 at 11:00 AM CT.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

The board continued their portfolio updates.  Commissioner Gunsch reported he met with the Water Board, along with Beulah City officials, and personnel from the bus barn in Beulah to discuss flooding issues.  Gunsch stated water is flooding out neighbors at the bottom of the hill and they have come up with the solution to tilt the road to the north to allow the water to run into the drainage ditch.  To make this happen, they are waiting on an easement from a landowner.  Commissioner Gunsch reported the Dakota Access Pipeline is doing reclamation work south of Zap.

Chairman Tveit reported for the Lewis and Clark Regional Development Committee they met with the motel owner and grocery store owner, and both have been good investments for the Steele community.  Chairman Tveit also reported a nice job was done with County 37 and the Hazen Bay Road now has rumble strips on the north side.

Commissioner Scheurer reported there was an Emergency Planning meeting in Pick City last Thursday.

The board recessed at 9:43 AM.

The board reconvened at 10:03 AM.

The board discussed road issues.  Elroy Opp, Assistant Road Superintendent, stated Road Superintendent Ken Miller asked to cease work on fiber optic lines for unapproved permit #1674, and work was still being done.  Chairman Tveit stated there have been so many issues with permits not getting processed and the county needs cooperation.  James Byerley, Client Manager for West River Telephone, stated he has spoken with team members, contractors, and engineers stating no work will be completed without their permit in hand.  Byerley apologized to the board for what has taken place and stated they will do a better job in the future. Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Murray to approve Utility Occupancy Application and Permit #1674 issued to West River Telephone for the installation of fiber optic lines.  Commissioner Gunsch thanked WRT for coming in stating his intent was just to get together to discuss the permit violation and had no intent of holding up work.  Gunsch added WRT has done a great job with the fiber optics.  Commissioner Entze stated it works out better to have permits before.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried. The board thanked WRT for coming in.

The board discussed the Ron Isaak crossing.  Opp stated he left a message with Isaak and did not receive a call back.  Eric Urness, Interstate Engineering, stated his concern is if the county puts money into rebuilding the crossing without engineering it, it could wash out and feels a hydro study should be done.  Urness stated he is concerned that this road is just a trail and it could be setting a precedence for the rest of the county.  Urness stated a hydro study could run anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000.  Commissioner Scheurer stated the board’s intent when Mr. Isaak came into the board was not to provide engineering or a hydro study.  Commissioner Gunsch stated another option might be to use the water board.  Casey Voigt, Water Board member, asked the county why they couldn’t use the LIDAR technology because it is very cost saving.  Chairman Tveit asked if it is a private road or a county road, and since Mr. Isaak will not get back to the Highway Department it is very difficult to move forward.  Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Scheurer to table the Ron Isaak Crossing discussion until there is a response from Mr. Isaak.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Motion made by Commissioner Murray, second by Commissioner Entze to approve the Construction and Maintenance Agreement for County 13.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Chairman Tveit discussed the claim voucher from Interstate Engineering for $48,755.17 with Urness.  Tveit stated County 27 engineering fees for two (2) miles were so much higher than County 5 and County 37 at 10 miles each.  Urness stated County 27 was further along in construction at the time of billing and County 5 and County 37 had just started last week, so it was just a partial billing.  Motion made by Commissioner Murray, second by Commissioner Entze to approve Interstate Engineering bill in the amount of $48,755.17.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Urness discussed the change order on County 25 that was for a price reduction of $302,300.06.  Urness added the apron on County 25 from ND HWY 49 will be paved by Border States.  Urness reported County 37 and County 5 are wrapping up and just need rumble strips and permanent striping.  County 37 is a good road and County 5 is good except for one approach, and that is being fixed.  Urness reported the north transition was fixed on County 27 and there is still a hump in the road that will be fixed by grinding down.  Urness stated he spoke with Jesse at Dakota Westmoreland and they would like to open up and mine further south crossing County 12 in Section 29 and would like to relocate County 12.  Urness showed the board a proposed plan and Commissioner Entze stated it looked like a good plan.  Urness stated they would like to do design of the one mile stretch over the winter and just wanted to get the ball rolling.  No further action was taken.

Jerry Becker, Coteau Freedom Mine, presented to the board an Amended Resolution of Mercer County Commission.  Becker stated it was recently discovered when the resolution was passed on September 17, 2014 a copy and paste error occurred and some of the resolution that had been petitioned to the board and noticed to the public was omitted from the adopted original resolution. The following resolution was amended to read as follows:

“WHEREAS, pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 38-14.1-07(04) of the North Dakota Century Code and Chapter 69-05.2-04-01.1(3)(b) of the North Dakota Administrative Code, The Coteau Properties Company (“Coteau”) petitioned the Board of County Commissioners of Mercer County, North Dakota (“Commission”) for permission to conduct surface coal mining operations within 100 feet of the outside right-of-way line of the following public road:

  1. The south side of the section line road between Section 23, Township 146 North, Range 87 West and Section 26, Township 146 North, Range 87 West.

  2. The west side of the section line road between the SE¼ Section 22, Township 146 North, Range 87 West and the SW¼ Section 23, Township 146 North, Range 87 West.

WHEREAS, a public hearing was held upon the Petition of Coteau before the Commission on the 17th day of September 2014, at 10:00 a.m., CST, in the Courthouse in the City of Stanton, North Dakota, and the Commission having heard and considered all of the testimony and evidence presented;

WHEREAS, the Commission has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the Petition and the public road and right-of-way stated therein;

WHEREAS, the Notice of Hearing on said Petition was published as required by law; and

WHEREAS, the interests of the public and the interests of affected landowners will be protected.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Commission does hereby approve the conducting of surface coal mining operations, except actual coal removal, by Coteau within 100 feet of the outside right-of-way line of the following public road:

  1. The south side of the section line road between Section 23, Township 146 North, Range 87 West and Section 26, Township 146 North, Range 87 West.

  2. The west side of the section line road between the SE¼ Section 22, Township 146 North, Range 87 West and the SW¼ Section 23, Township 146 North, Range 87 West.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution, the Petition involved herein, and the Affidavits of Publication of Notice of Hearing be filed with the Mercer County Auditor.

DATED this 5th day of October, 2016.


/s/William L. Tveit, Chairman

/s/Duane F. Scheurer, Vice-Chairman

/s/Wes Gunsch, Commissioner

/s/Wayne Entze, Commissioner

/s/Gary Murray, Commissioner


Shana L. Brost, Mercer County Auditor”

The board recessed at 10:35 AM.

The board reconvened at 11:00 AM.

Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, second by Commissioner Murray to recess the regular meeting and open the public hearing on the 2017 Budget.  All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.

Chairman Tveit stated the mill levy increase was not published early enough and it was an oversight, so the county will not be increasing the mill levy.  Auditor Brost stated the budget needs to be reduced by $189,102.80 to comply with the zero percent increase.  Danny Bakken asked what the county needs the money for and Chairman Tveit responded for the operating budget.  Commissioner Gunsch stated things go up and the board wanted to implement a pay plan to equalize the pay.  Commissioner Scheurer stated he met with several agencies that stated they used to get grants for certain functions, but those have gone away too.  Bakken asked the board if they could cut back on cops and cop vehicles.  Casey Voigt stated the road projects total $1.3 million and LIDAR should be benefitting the county by cutting back on engineering costs.  Commissioner Scheurer asked how LIDAR would help.  Voigt stated all the surveying information can be pulled up on a computer.  Commissioner Gunsch stated they do use LIDAR to help out but it cannot cover all the engineering services.  Voigt asked why the board allocates one mill levy to the Southwest Water Authority.  Auditor Brost stated it is a state mandate.  Commissioner Entze stated the cuts need to come out of the bigger departments such as the road and sheriff departments.  Commissioner Scheurer stated when it comes to salaries, he doesn’t not want to see them froze because he has fought for some departments to get adjustments that he felt were needed.  Bakken asked why the Library is appropriated the funds they are.  Chairman Tveit stated it is mandated they receive more levied funds than the previous year to continue to receive their state aid. Tveit added the funds allocated to the McLean Mercer Regional Library covers eight (8) libraries.  Commissioner Entze stated if certain entities do not budget a certain number of mills, they do not receive state aid.  Chairman Tveit suggested the constituents contact their legislatures.  Delmar Sailer stated the board should freeze the wages if the county does not have the money for it and something needs to be done, so it only makes sense to table it.  Dwight Berger stated the Sheriff’s Department made no cuts and there are a lot of departments that have too many people and could be part time.  If people work over in the sheriff’s Department and are in the courthouse, they are just extra people.  Chairman Tveit stated within the Sheriff’s department there are various people that cover several duties.  Tveit explained in larger counties jailers just work in the jail and deputies are just on the road.  If Mercer County would categorize their employees, the Sheriff’s department would need many more than they do now.  Berger questioned if the Sheriff’s department staff that helped the Auditor’s office with the ballots this spring, if it was part of her job.  Auditor Brost stated they utilized this employee because she was already on the payroll.  Berger asked why she was on the payroll if she isn’t needed.  Bakken stated the board should look at the computer system that was approved for $37,000.  Auditor Brost stated that was just the start up fees.  Bakken asked if it worked perfect.  Auditor Brost stated nothing works perfect 100% of the time, ever.  State’s Attorney Binder called for a point of order, stating there is a lot of talk between the gallery and it needs to be brought back to the board.  Chairman Tveit stated good point.  Voigt asked the board about the unorganized road and its levy.  Auditor Brost discussed the total proposed mill levies with the inclusion of unorganized road, stating at the zero percent increase the total mill levy will be 88.82.  Brost explained to Voigt how mill levies are calculated.  Wes Klein stated the county would be better off changing or reducing the courthouse/jail expansion to save themselves the same headache next year.  Commissioner Gunsch stated when the first round of bids came in much higher than the $9.8 million, the board looked at making cuts and it would have cost nearly $1 million in redesign fees.  Gunsch stated to go make changes now would be even more expensive.  Chairman Tveit stated all the contracts have been signed at this point in time.  Frank Bitterman asked since the board requested all entities cut back on their budget, have they cut services too.  Chairman Tveit stated at this time no services have been cut and no positions have been laid off.  Bitterman asked where the money came from to cut.  Chairman Tveit stated he didn’t understand the question, stating department heads made cuts where they felt they could in their budgets.  Bitterman suggested a complete freeze of the road department and wages and asked the board where they will go next year.  Chairman Tveit stated they would deal with next year, next year.  Commissioner Gunsch stated he is all in favor of the zero percent increase, but he is uncomfortable being pressured in making decisions within five to ten minutes.  He stated he would be in very much in favor of taking a recess and coming back this afternoon.  He asked the public to let the board make these decisions that is what they were elected for.  Commissioner Gunsch stated he heard it last night and heard it again today to cut here, cut there, and about things being not fair.  Commissioner Gunsch questioned why the board was elected and asked the public to let the board make those decisions and come back this afternoon.  Gunsch added if they make the decision now it is going to be unfair and that’s what has happened to them in the past with wages and they were rushed into too much.  Commissioner Gunsch noted this year he wanted to make all the wages fair for the county employees because he values the employees.  The county hired a consultant to come in and do a wage survey for $3,000, which was budgeted at $30,000 saving the county $27,000.  Gunsch stated it’s not perfect and needs to be tweaked in the future but it was much cheaper than hiring an HR person.  Commissioner Gunsch added he would hate to freeze the wages this year and throw the survey all out because that would be throwing the employees under the bus.

Wes Klein stated this problem is one the board created because the budget process should have started a month ago they would have time to correct things.  Commissioner Gunsch stated the board has been working on this budget since back in August.

The board recessed at 11:37 AM.

The board reconvened at 1:00 PM.

Chairman Tveit suggested passing the budget as presented and use the next couple of months to look at cutting $189,102, and two suggestions from the public were to freeze salaries and trim the Sheriff’s department.  Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Murray to approve the 2017 budget as it stands and make cuts as needed to reduce the 2017 budget by $189,102 through the rest of 2016.  Commissioner Gunsch stated the safest way to go is to not make a hasty decision today and as they go, the board can look at cutting budgets as needed.  Gunsch added from 2015 to 2016 health insurance alone increased nearly $250,000 and Social Services went from $887,166 to $915,399 and the county has no control over these things.  Chairman Tveit added the county has to budget Social Services to that extent because of state cutbacks and the county has to pick it up.  Commissioner Gunsch stated he thinks the county can cut $189,000 but is not at all in favor of freezing wages.  Commissioner Entze stated there are several miscellaneous dues that Mercer County is obligated to pay such as the Hazen Fire and Rescue, Mercer County Fair Board, RC&D, and Vision West.  Entze added the dues from the county pays for various things and the board doesn’t have much control over them.  Commissioner Scheurer stated he agreed with Gunsch and the increase in insurance costs alone is astronomical and he will fight for not freezing the wages because some people needed adjustments.  Chairman Tveit wanted to clarify in the motion that the board is not saying they will not freeze wages or they will not cut from the Sheriff’s department, but they will diligently do the cuts that are necessary between now and December 31.  Commissioner Gunsch stated he feels they can cut out that dollar amount without cutting the wages.  State’s Attorney Binder asked if the board was leaving the salary door open, noting elected officials cannot have their salaries reduced.  Chairman Tveit stated McLean County had budgeted a 2% increase for all employees and at the last minute approved a zero percent increase to make their budget balance.  Tveit added he would rather not go there, but asked the board not to tie their hands by saying they will not decrease wages.  On roll call vote; Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, motion carried.

Commissioner Gunsch asked the department heads for their help and support in cutting the budget and to work together with the board.

There being no further business, on motion duly made and second, the meeting was adjourned at 1:20 PM CST.  The next regular meeting of the commission will be October 19, 2016 at 9:00 AM CT in the courtroom of the Mercer County Courthouse, Stanton, North Dakota.


Approved: William L. Tveit, Chairman

Attest: Shana L. Brost, Auditor