Mercer County Commission
April 1, 2015
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 AM CT by Chairman Murray, also present was Commissioner Scheurer, Commissioner Entze, Commissioner Tveit, Commissioner Gunsch, State’s Attorney Binder and Auditor Brost.
Motion made by Commissioner Entze, second by Commissioner Tveit to approve the agenda with additions. All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.
Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Scheurer to approve the minutes of the March 18th regular meeting with corrections. All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.
Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, second by Commissioner Tveit to approve the payment of bills as follows: Annuity Premium Reserve Account, $548.39; Collection Center Inc., $288.54; CMFG Life Insurance Company, $306.99; Guardian, $75.67; Shannon Liebold, $733.17; Mercer County Auditor, $61,980.90; Mercer County Treasurer, $3,016.28; Montana CSED, $84.00; Nationwide Retirement Solutions, $2,335.23; NDPERS, $23,828.52; United State Treasury, $200.00; Blue Cross Blue Shield of ND, $46,444.70; Cenex-Hazen, $12,384.00; Lignite Tire Service, $258.50; Northwest Tire Auto Service Inc., $1,094.74; Southwest Business Machines Inc., $476.32; Beulah City Park District, $6,019.44; Beulah Fire Protection District, $458.66; Beulah School District, $102,419.88; Center Stanton School District #1, $10,376.13; City of Beulah, $34,618.77; City of Golden Valley, $1,537.65; City of Hazen, $22,383.02; City of Pick City, $1,169.83; City of Stanton, $3,617.66; City of Zap, $2,467.13; Glen Ullin Rural Fire District, $5.88; Glen Ullin School District #48, $196.96; Golden Valley Rural Fire District, $451.26; Halliday Rural Fire Protection District, $53.54; Hazen City Park District, $1,839.58; Hazen Rural Fire District, $576.69; Hazen School District 3, $53,370.55; Hebron Public School District 13, $4,375.89; Hebron Fire Protection District, $218.40; ND State Treasurer, $838.81; Soil Conservation District, $694.41; Southwest Water Authority, $867.18; Stanton City Park District, $341.21; Stanton Rural Fire Protection, $231.64; Twin Buttes Public School District, $59.91; Underwood School District, $4,559.76; Zap City Park District, $503.88; Custer Health District, $2,757.78; Thomas Kaspari, MD PC, $200.00; McLean Mercer Library, $22,788.14; Mercer & McLean Counties, $1,293.44; Mercer County Ambulance Service, $2,548.37; Mercer County Fair Association, $763.09; Mercer County Historical Society, $206.65; Mercer County Regional Airport, $2,073.49; Montana Dakota Utilities, $105.34; Neuberger Oil Company, $4,755.54; Severin, Ringsak & Morrow, $5,784.50; Lisa Soma, $300.00; Tower Communication Inc., $555.00; Verizon Wireless, $1,288.89; Water Resource District, $3,011.57; Darbie Berger, $103.71; Beulah Job Development Authority, $606.34; Beulah Public School District #27, $16.60; Cardmember Service, $1,418.37; Colonial Research Chemical Corp., $179.79; Comfort Inn, $222.00; Ronald Crowley, $147.70; Dell Marketing L.P., $2,986.00; Direct Med, $508.51; Gary Emter, $25.00; Cindy Entze, $19.20; Grandview Steakhouse, $510.00; Implementation Specialists, $1,706.25; Jensen Jewelry, $144.00; Loyal & Catherine Karges, $550.00; Dena Kemmet, $104.09; Kermit Schaefer Consulting, $3,500.00; Klein McCarthy Architects, $94,370.38; Lignite Tire Service, $671.00; Vickie Brodkord, $1,027.63; NDACo Resources Group, $427.96; ND Association of Counties, $355.00; ND Insurance Department, $80.00; Carmen Reed, $277.24; Seatol, $350.00; Candy Strand, $44.63; Verizon Wireless, $648.80; West Dakota Lumber, $391.80; Corner Express of Center L.L.C., $50.50; Eide Bailly LLP, $875.00; Farmers Union Oil Co., $4,325.37; Hazen Hardware Inc., $43.60; Anthony Horne, $52.89; Krebs Auto Body LLC, $341.71; Napa, $264.98; ND EMA, $30.00; ND Family Support Council, $120.00; Verizon Wireless, $21.06; Village Gallery, $40.00; Southwest Business Machines Inc., $163.89; Verizon Wireless, $45.91. All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.
Commissioner Tveit stated the ad for the eight (8) acres of land the county was selling north of Stanton ran in the official newspaper for three (3) weeks. Tveit wondered if the board could accept the top two sealed bids and then let the bidders bid it up. Auditor Brost stated no and the board would have to reject all bids and advertise as an auction to go that route. Commissioner Gunsch stated there is an easement issue with the land because Roers driveway sits within the eight (8) acres. Commissioner Entze suggested checking with Interstate Engineering for the survey that was done in the past. Chairman Murray stated it sounded like there was a few problems that needed to be resolved before the land could be sold. Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Tveit to hold off on the land sale until Steve Mamer and Gary Emter can look into the easement issue and advertise again for sealed bids with the option of the top two bidders to verbally bid at the opening. All members voted “Aye”, motion carried.
Carmen Reed, Emergency Manager/911 Coordinator, spoke with the board about the Burn Ban that was lifted on March 20th due to snow/rain conditions and then about putting it back on due to the red flag warnings. Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, second by Commissioner Gunsch to approve the lifting of the Mercer County Fire Declaration and Burn Ban Proclamation on March 20th due to receiving precipitation and to approve the Mercer County Fire Declaration and Burn Ban Proclamation that is now tied to the ND Fire Danger Rating System. Reed also stated the fire ban information is in the Dollar Saver, on the 911 Website, and dispatch is aware of it for anyone who calls in. Commissioner Gunsch stated he has had a few complaints as to why trash cannot be burned, yet campfires are still permissible. Reed stated a burn barrel is much bigger and deeper, therefore the fire cannot be put out completely like a campfire. Upon roll call vote; Scheurer, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Commissioner Tveit stated he spoke with Dennis Rohlfs, Sakakawea Estates, and he is looking for a rough estimate of the costs to repair the road but was under the impression Steve Mamer, Interstate Engineering, had the numbers. Tveit added that Mamer needs permission from the board to dig into these numbers from a couple of years ago. The estimate would include the encroachment issues, repairing the road, and paving the road. Rohlfs was asking for the numbers now so he can visit with the residents about a special assessment this summer. Commissioner Gunsch asked if the county’s budget will cover Mamer’s costs. Commissioner Entze stated a survey has been done, but it would be nice to get an estimate of how much Mamer will charge the county. Commissioner Gunsch asked Tveit to bring it back to the next meeting of what it will cost the county. Commissioner Tveit stated he will visit with Mamer about it.
The board recapped Mercer County Government Day to be held in Golden Valley on Thursday, April 9th from 11 AM until 1 PM, which is open to the public. Commissioner Gunsch brought up the idea of using the leftover funds for county employees to show appreciation of their years of service. Commissioner Tveit stated the topic should be put on the next agenda. No further action was taken.
Gary Emter, Land Use Administrator, presented two zoning cases. Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, second by Commissioner Gunsch to approve zoning case #15-03-01, a Conditional Use Permit issued to Todd Kollman for a non-farm residence on Lot A of Parcel 2 within the NE ¼ Section 29 T147N R85W. Approval is subject to septic system meeting Custer Health District standards, present and future owners are responsible for snow removal and maintenance of private roads and approaches, and they are to follow set back requirements and provide school bus turnaround if necessary. Upon roll call vote; Scheurer, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Motion made by Commissioner Entze, second by Commissioner Tveit to approve zoning case #15-03-02, a Conditional Use Permit issued to Bill and Jamie Tryon for a non-farm residence on Tract A within the SW ¼ of Section 8 T144N R85W. Approval is subject to septic system meeting Custer Health District standards, present and future owners are responsible for snow removal and maintenance of private roads and approaches, and they are to follow set back requirements and provide school bus turnaround if necessary. Upon roll call vote; Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Shauna Laber, Basin Electric, spoke with the board about the rail spur encroachment on County Right-of-Way. Laber stated Basin Electric would like to purchase 0.146 acres from the county offering the same as what the offered them for County 17 - $700.00/acre. Motion made by Commissioner Tveit, second by Commissioner Scheurer to approve the sale of the land to Basin Electric for $102.20. Gary Emter, Land Use Administrator, stated he has never had to rezone County Right-of-Way before. Dale Christianson, DGC, stated they plan on starting construction on the rail in July or August, so they would bring the rezoning to the May Planning & Zoning meeting. Upon roll call vote; Tveit, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Laber stated there will be a large workforce needed for three years during construction of the Urea Plant, 700 plus employees. Laber added she would like to work with the county to ensure safety on County 26. Christianson stated they are looking at staggering shift times, busing workers out to the site, or adding a turn lane as possibilities to ensure safety on County 26.
The board recessed at 9:50 AM.
The board reconvened at 10:00 AM.
Ken Miller, Road Superintendent, discussed the purchase of a snow plow from the NDDOT auction. Miller stated he would need a check for that day. Normally, a snow plow at an auction runs between $40,000 and $50,000 and Miller has $75,000 in his budget. Commissioner Entze stated in past the county was able to just take a voucher to the site instead of an actual check; so he asked Miller to look into it. Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, second by Commissioner Tveit to issue a check for the purchase of a snow plow within the budgeted amount, but recommends Miller goes down to the NDDOT before the auction to look over the equipment. Miller stated a brand new snow plow costs around $300,000. Upon roll call vote; Scheurer, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Miller stated the Utility Permit Fees are $100 per crossing and $50 per approach. West River Telephone is putting in new fiber optic lines for all Mercer County residents and will have over 240 crossings. Commissioner Tveit stated if the board starts making exceptions rules will be broken, but this is for a local utility company serving the constituents of Mercer County. Miller suggested charging $500.00 for more than five (5) crossings per township and $250.00 for less than (5) crossings per township. Steve Knutson, WRT, stated they are servicing Hazen, Stanton, New Salem, and North Hebron yet. Commissioner Tveit added a project of this size could or should be brought to the board and brought in on an individual basis. Commissioner Entze stated the new fiber optic lines are serving the public. Motion made by Commissioner Tveit, second by Commissioner Scheurer to amend the permit policy put in place in 2014 to allow for special exceptions for local utility companies for utilities going directly to consumers and amend the fees on an individual basis. Upon roll call vote; Tveit, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
The board reviewed the Outstanding Road Accounts. Miller spoke to the board about pre-payment to avoid taking the collections route six (6) months down the road. No further action was taken.
Motion made by Commissioner Entze, second by Commissioner Scheurer to approve Utility Occupancy Application and Permit #1539 to West River Telecommunications to bore under County 11 south of Zap for fiber optic telecommunications facilities; Sections 21 & 22 T143N R89W. Upon roll call vote; Entze, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Motion made by Commissioner Gunsch, second by Commissioner Tveit to award the County 15 Cut-Across project to Dennis Drewes, Inc. in the amount of $1,066,944.55. The Engineer’s Estimate was $1,321,503.70. Upon roll call vote; Gunsch, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Steve Mamer, Interstate Engineering, stated he met with Jim Melchior and Donn Steffen for approval to finish the roadway as bid, and everything is back on track. Mamer stated there is an uncooperative landowner he is working with on a daily basis to get the easement signed. Mamer stated the construction will resume the third week in April.
Jim Melchior, Coyote Creek, stated he has received approval from their customers to go up to $2.3 million for the County 25 project. Melchior asked the board if they would like to operate under the current agreement or amend it. Melchior added that they will start construction as soon as they can in the spring and he is working with Miller to keep the road graded. Commissioner Gunsch asked Melchior what if the project goes over the $2.3 million. Melchior stated they would have to sit down with the board to see if the overage is reasonable. State’s Attorney Binder didn’t feel the entire agreement needed to be amended, and a letter from Coyote Creek stating the new agreed upon $2.3 million project amount would be sufficient. Melchior stated he could do that and get the letter to Miller.
The board discussed overload permits, penalties, and consequences. Miller stated there were 176,000 lb cranes moving down county roads north of Golden Valley without a permit. Miller stated this isn’t the only instance in the last few weeks and wondered what the penalties and consequences were going to be. Mamer stated it is up to the engineering firms to contact the local Road Superintendent and let them know what they are doing with their project. Mamer added it is the engineer breakdown that is not happening. Phil Powell, manager with Great Southwestern, stated they have 142 miles of transmission lines to get done and they started in September working through the winter months. They would like to get in as quick as they can and are hoping to be done by the end of July. Miller stated it was poor planning from the beginning because there were culverts and temporary approaches put in without permits. Miller added there was a lack of communication as to what should have been done. Powell stated there was some confusion between state law and county agreements and would like to work out a plan that makes everyone happy. Laber apologized on behalf of Basin Electric for the miscommunication and wondered if they could get an agreement to ensure the road is in as good of condition as or better than it was to start just to get the equipment out. Commissioner Scheurer stated he gets calls from local people and the board has to be able to answer to them and make sure they are satisfied. Commissioner Entze stated they would need a Haul Road Agreement for this and it covers all the issues. Mamer stated during the frost laws the county cannot issue a Haul Road Agreement. Commissioner Gunsch asked Mamer how Mercer County differs from other counties. Mamer stated in any county contractors are required to have a Haul Road Agreement, video the road, and do whatever it takes to fix it. State’s Attorney Binder stated Great Southwestern would need a Haul Road Agreement, but cannot do anything until the frost law expires. Powell stated he would like to propose the route they would like to use within Mercer County. State’s Attorney Binder stated they needed to keep on track with the agenda, so if it cannot be worked out with the Road Superintendent it would need to be placed on the next agenda. No further action was taken.
Darrold Bertsch, Sakakawea Medical Center, updated the board on the construction project at SMC and legislative bills. Bertsch stated they will have the design of the new hospital finalized within the next month and are hoping to break ground late summer. Right now, SMC is making sure their financing is secure. They have the capital campaign, have visited with local cooperatives for 0% REC loan, have secured $6.75 million in BND funds, and have Eide Bailly doing a financial feasibility study to see if bond financing or USDA financing is a better option. Bertsch reported they will have the site work plans submitted to the Department of Health by April. Bertsch also reported HB 1376 that allows counties and cities to donate to healthcare facilities for only capital construction projects has passed both the House and the Senate. Bertsch added they are also supporting a bill that would make non-profit entities tax-exempt from sales and use tax for construction projects, HB 1443 is a low interest loan bill they are hoping passes to make the project less expensive, and HB 1038 allows for telemedicine through NDPERS.
The board recessed at 11:20 AM.
The board reconvened at 11:30 AM.
Mary Massad, CEO of Southwest Water Authority, met with the board to give them a brief update. Massad stated SWW has 418.5 miles of pipe in Mercer County with an additional 223 miles set to go in, 5.25 million gallons of SWW are used per day, it serves 58,000 people, there are 23 reservoirs, and there are 19 contracts under construction right now. Commissioner Gunsch asked what the policy was for visiting with landowners before construction. Massad stated they send out easements and contact the landowner and during construction they meet with the landowner on site and stake it. Commissioner Gunsch stated there needs to be more communication between SWW and the landowners because the landowners need to know where their cattle should go. Gunsch added a one-on-one visit with landowners is important. Commissioner Entze stated he noticed there were changes in the design of the sub-transmission lines, running in the middle of the property and not following the section lines. Jim Lennington, Bartlett & West Project Manager, state that should not happen and although it is difficult to get a hold of all landowners, they should get contacted a head of time. Lennington asked Entze to get the specifics so he could address it. Commissioner Entze stated the county wants the lines to run parallel to the section line. Lennington stated normally they do except for utilities, cultural resources, or easement issues. Commissioner Gunsch stated the county has welcomed the water and thanked them for that. Gunsch added one complaint the board hears a lot is the reclamation process and weed control. Massad asked how they can better address those issues because with as much construction as they have going on, it is hard to oversee it all. Commissioner Gunsch stated it would just take better communication. The board thanked Massad for coming in.
Sheriff Danzeisen gave the board a short update. Sheriff reported in 2013 there were 132 serious criminal cases and in 2014 there were 507; Danzeisen expects 2015 to exceed those numbers considerably. Sheriff Danzeisen reported over the last 45 days 10 search warrants have been executed and have resulted in major drugs. Danzeisen stated although the Mercer/McLean/Dunn County task force has seen extremely different clientele over the years, everything is under control and they are trying to get the drug dealers in jail to make sure the county is safe for everyone else. Sheriff Danzeisen reported in 2004 the Youth Bureau had a caseload of 17 families and in 2014 the caseload has increased to 81 families. Danzeisen added the schools have agreed to increase their contributions if need be. Commissioner Entze stated Mercer County is the envy to other counties because of the Youth Bureau program, and added it is a very good program. Commissioner Gunsch thanked Danzeisen and his staff personally. Sheriff Danzeisen stated the detectives and deputies do the hard work of getting it done and great things happen from everyone working together. State’s Attorney Binder stated public service is often a thankless job, but in the recent weeks they have had positive feedback from Mercer County residents.
Sheriff Danzeisen stated he received government bids for the rescue boat motor and gages. Moritz Sport and Marines estimate was $23,645 and Vallely Sport and Marines estimate was $26,703. Danzeisen added the department has been saving funds to pay for this over the last two and one-half years. Danzeisen stated the department’s bullet proof vests are warrantied for five years and it was now time to purchase new ones at approximately $1,000 per vest for 13 deputies. The board thanked Sheriff Danzeisen for coming in.
State’s Attorney Binder distributed the recommended portfolios for each commissioner. Binder stated she was in contact with Chuck Horter, NDACo, and he is willing to help Mercer County update their Employee Policy Handbook for $3,000. Binder added she had funds within her budget to use for the updates. Motion made by Commissioner Entze, second by Commissioner Tveit to approve the hiring of Chuck Horter to update the Employee Policy Handbook. Wanda Knutson asked if the Policy Committee would be going through the updates with Horter. Binder stated they would. Darbie Berger asked Binder if she was paying for this out of her State’s Attorney budget and Binder stated she was. Commissioner Tveit added this would be money well spent no matter what budget line it came out of. Upon roll call vote; Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
State’s Attorney Binder updated the board on the mandatory Harassment, Discrimination, and Bullying Prevention training. Binder stated Horter is willing to provide the training for Mercer County for a fee of $300 plus expenses. Motion made by Commissioner Tveit, second by Commissioner Scheurer to approve Horter to give the Harassment, Discrimination, and Bullying Prevention training in the amount of $300 plus expenses. Darbie Berger asked if the commissioners were going to be required to take this training as well. Commissioner Tveit responded they would be. Upon roll call vote; Tveit, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Gunsch, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Auditor Brost stated she was looking into getting a salary survey done in the county for budget season. She had contacted Stutsman County Auditor about the firm they went through, Springsted, Inc., but the cost was around $7,000. Brost stated since that was a significant amount of money she would check around and also check with NDACo. Brost added she wasn’t sure if they could complete a salary survey without proper job descriptions for each position. Commissioner Entze stated the job descriptions needed to be updated. Commissioner Tveit stated there was no one better to write the job description than the employee. Commissioner Scheurer noted the county could end up with a one-lined description. Commissioner Tveit stated it could be looked over by the supervisor when the employee was finished. State’s Attorney Binder stated in regards to evaluations, a clarification would need to be done in the Policy Handbook first, job descriptions written, and a standard form adopted before they could be completed. Commissioner Gunsch asked what the board was supposed to do with the portfolio breakdowns Binder handed out. State’s Attorney Binder asked the board to look it over and give it some thought so they could adopt the portfolios at the next meeting. Darbie Berger asked for a breakdown of the portfolios. State’s Attorney Binder stated she would get her one.
Congratulation was given to Commissioner Entze for his position on the Dakota Central Social Services board as President.
Commissioner Gunsch stated he attended the Economic Development meeting, and they have Mercer County listed for a $10,000 donation towards the housing study. Commissioner Scheurer stated he was approached by a member of the board and he told them they needed to come before the commission to request the donation.
There being no further business, on motion duly made and second, the meeting was adjourned at 1:04 PM CST. The next regular meeting of the commission will be April 15, 2015 at 9:00 AM CT in the courtroom of the Courthouse, Stanton, North Dakota.
Approved: Gary Murray, Chairman
Attest: Shana L. Brost, Auditor