Mercer County Commission
September 19, 2018
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Vice Chairman Wes Gunsch with the meeting being videotaped. Present were Commissioners Wayne Entze, Gary Murray, Dwight Berger, State’s Attorney Binder and Auditor Shana Brost. Chairman Duane Scheurer was absent. Others present during portions of the meeting were: Ashely Miller, Marvin Schwehr, Ken Miller, Elroy Opp, Leland Opp, Darbie Berger, Dena Kemmet, Gordon Neumiller, Lauren Donovan, Colin Peterson, Jim Wenning, Michelle Anderson, Rachel Poitras, Antoinette Heier, Jerry Obenauer, Kathy Kelsch, Linda Eslinger, Julie Voigt, Casey Voigt, Carrie Simpfenderfer, Clyde Sondrol, Monte Erhardt, Mary Schwehr, Sharon Unruh, Rick Meyhoff, Jesse Flath, Mark Lucero, Richard Scheid, Liz Simpfenderfer, Frank Bitterman, Wanda Knutson, Mel Schlafman, Eric Urness, and Daniel Arens of BHG News.
Murray moved to approve the minutes from the September 5th meeting. Berger seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS, $1,510.00; FARMERS UNION OIL CO. – BEULAH, $20,647.40; FARMERS UNION OIL CO. – HAZEN, $22.10; GUNSCH, WESLIE, $89.10; HAZEN WELDING, $55.37; INDUSTRIAL FABWORX, $26.00; INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY DEPARTMENT, $1,823.20; J & M HARDWARE, $602.15; JANISCH, WILLIAM, $245.43; K & D SERVICES, $765.00; KEMMET, DENA, $205.65; LAKE SAKAKAWEA STATE PARK, $692.37; LANGUAGE LINE SERVICES, INC., $90.00; MERCER COUNTY HWY DEPT., $693.37; MIDCO, $129.03; MURRAY, GARY, $124.25; NAPA, $195.81; NASCO, $241.74; NDSU EXTENSION , $26,941.50; NEOPOST/NEOFUNDS, $3,000.00; ND DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION, $39.50; NDACO %911 PAYMENT, $931.90; NEUBERGER OIL, $24,762.01; NORTHERN IMPROVEMENT COMPANY, $234,306.51; NORTHWEST TIRE, $116.00; OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL, $1,120.00; OFFICE DEPOT, $78.52; OK AUTOMOTIVE, $237.08; OLSON, RON, $66.00; PHARM CHEM, $685.20; PROFORMS, $124.00; ROUGHRIDER ELECTRIC COOP., $1,241.82; SAILER SEPTIC SERVICE, $135.00; SBM, $354.36; SECURITY TRANSPORT SERVICES, $2,519.70; SOUTHWEST WATER AUTHORITY, $46.03; SCHEUER, DUANE, $310.70; STAPLES, $639.18; SWANSTON EQUIPMENT CO, $1,923.79; TAYLOR, RYAN, $161.00; THE HUB CONVENIENCE STORES, $14.05; TUNGE, JOHN, $127.85; ULTRAMAX, $692.49; VERIZON WIRELESS, $682.41; WEST RIVER TELECOMMUNICATIONS COOP, $3,354.28; WEX, $3,545.72. All voted aye. Motion carried.
The board reviewed the monthly financial statement. No further action was taken.
The board reviewed the landfill tonnage report. No further action was taken.
Murray moved to approve duplicate warrant #52515 to Jeanne Roberts in the amount of $4.12 for overpaid taxes. Entze seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Entze moved to approve the August Recorders fees in the amount of $8104.90. Berger seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Murray moved to approve the August Sheriff fees in the amount of $3494.24. Entze seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Murray moved to appoint Gary Knell as the North Dakota State Fair Delegate for 2018. Entze seconded. Berger stated this position should be run in the paper. Gunsch stated he had the same thought for next year. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Berger moved to appoint the list of election workers presented by Auditor Brost. Entze seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Gunsch stated Custer Health did an inspection of the Golden Valley house and it was determined the doors on the garden shed needed to be closed. The board also discussed renting the house out agreeing it should be a six (6) month lease at minimum and month to month thereafter.
Berger, Entze, and Gunsch gave their portfolio updates. Murray had nothing to report.
The board recessed at 9:52 AM.
The board reconvened at 10:00 AM.
Next the board discussed road issues. The board reviewed and approved the 2019-2023 federal aid sheet. Eric Urness, Interstate Engineering, discussed using the federal aid funds for County 26 partial mill and overlay.
Berger moved to approve Estimate 1 and the Change Order from Northern Improvement. Murray seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
The board reviewed the outstanding road accounts. No further action was taken.
Murray moved to approve Utility Permit #1704 issued to West River Telecommunications. Entze seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Gunsch discussed a complaint he received about road ditch right-of-way and farmers farming too far into the county right-of-way on County 26 and County 18. Miller stated where ever there is not a fence this happens. Entze stated if there would ever be erosion problems, the county would have serious problems. Gunsch stated he could see more visibility problems with corn and sunflowers. Berger added if it impedes safety or effects the road department, it should stop and the board needs to do something about it. Entze suggested sending a letter to those in violation in regards to safety. No further action was taken.
The board recessed at 10:15 AM.
The board reconvened at 10:30 AM.
Entze moved to recess the regular meeting and open the Final Budget public hearing. Berger seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Gunsch opened the comments up to the public. No one came forward.
Berger stated he has looked through the last four (4) years of budgets and the county is not all of the sudden out of money. Over the last four (4) years, the county has amended the budget over $2 million. Berger added the board has cut over $900,000 out of the budget from original requests, and this will be the first year that revenues will exceed expenditures since 2014. Berger noted $465,000 of coal conversion dollars and $255,000 of mill levy goes to pay back the loan and general obligation bond. Gunsch stated just because departments have a budget, doesn’t mean it all needs to be spent. The board has seen this trend over the last several years. Entze stated there is a difference between needs and wants and the days of wants are done. Entze added Mercer County is in need mode and the board will be proactive from now on, and has worked very hard on this budget. Gunsch stated the board trusts elected officials and department heads to keep within their budgets, but the board has been lax in keeping up with it. The money being spent is taxpayer dollars and if the board wouldn’t have made the cuts they did this year, the county would have been looking at a 33% increase in taxes, but they got it down to 5.7%. Gunsch added he foresees more rough years ahead and the board is trying to be proactive. Treasurer Berger stated the county has $1.5 million left in checking. Adding some departments do not go over their budget but department heads and elected officials need to control their budgets. Berger noted when the board amends the budget each year, they are starting their year deficit spending. Berger stated the county needs to live on less, spend on less.
Mel Schlafman stated you cannot spend the money if you do not have it. Schlafman stated the county did not need the mansion they built. Gunsch stated the building expansion project was voted on in June 2014 and passed, so it wasn’t just the board—it was the whole county.
Casey Voigt asked the board about the new Truth in Taxation statements and also inquired about the total cost of the county building project. Voigt suggested the county look into a county sales tax.
Michelle Anderson stated with the cuts that were made, services will go away. She added she hopes common sense was used and the cuts were made in the right place. Anderson asked where the cuts were coming from. Berger stated probably from the seven (7) people that were hired since the hiring freeze in 2014. State’s Attorney Binder stated the county is a public service and things come up throughout the year.
Lauren Donovan asked if the Sheriff’s budget really would affect the Federal Contract by only cutting three (3) staff. Binder stated, yes it would be less security.
Mark Lucero thanked the board for what they do adding it looks like there is a big gap between managers and the board. Lucero added the department heads need to be held more accountable and asked the board to find out what they are spending their dollars on. Lucero noted he trusts the board, but they need to know what the departments are spending their dollars on.
Liz Simpfenderfer asked the board why they allocate funds year after year if they are not being used. Gunsch stated the department heads are responsible enough not to use the funds if they do not need them. Simpfenderfer asked the board if the Sheriff cut an additional $50,000 like requested at the last meeting. Auditor Brost stated after cutting four (4) positions, the amount of retirement, health insurance, and FICA/Medicare made up the $50,000. Simpfenderfer asked the board if they are cutting staff, will they be able to hire more back after the federal contract is signed. State’s Attorney Binder stated there are a lot of unknowns at this time and everything is up in the air. Simpfenderfer asked about moving the Deputy Tax Director to full time, stating it would save the county money with benefits by leaving it part time. Gunsch stated the office has tried it as a part time position, but it really needs to be full time.
Jesse Flath inquired about his increase in taxes. Auditor Brost stated the increase comes from balancing the revenue with the expenditures. Brost added the board needs the revenue to balance the budget.
Murray moved to close the public hearing. Entze seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Berger moved to table the final approval of the budget until next meeting. The motion died due to a lack of a second. Murray moved to approve the 2019 Final Budget. Entze seconded. Entze stated the only thing the board can do now is go down and he didn’t see where they could do that. Murray, Entze, and Gunsch voted aye. Berger no. Motion carried.
The board thanked the public for coming in.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 11:36 AM. The next regular meeting is scheduled for October 3, 2018, at 9:00 AM in the board room of the Mercer County Government Center, Stanton, North Dakota.
Approved: Wes Gunsch, Vice Chairman
Attest:Shana L. Brost, Auditor