Mercer County Commission
October 18, 2017
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. by Chairman Duane Scheurer with the meeting being videotaped. Present were Commissioners Wes Gunsch, Gary Murray, Wayne Entze, Dwight Berger, State’s Attorney Binder and Auditor Shana Brost. Others present during portions of the meeting were: Bill Tveit, Laurel Tveit, Chery Gegelman, Dan Frei, Taryn Kjelstrup, Jennifer Charles, Anne Hansen, Shane Stockdill, Rachel Grimm, David Straley, Brad Erickson, Chris Friez, Jerry Reichenberg, Jessica Unruh, Donn Steffen, Candy Strand, Garrett Houghton, Tiffany Bruner, Darbie Berger, Ashely Miller, Jesse Folkerts, Tim Johnson, Captain Wenning, and Dan Ahrens of BHG News.
Berger moved to strike social media off the agenda. Due to a lack of a second, motion died. Gunsch moved to approve the agenda. Entze seconded. Entze, Murray, Gunsch, Scheurer voted aye. Berger No. Motion carried.
Murray moved to approve the minutes from the October 3rd and 4th meetings. Gunsch seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Gunsch moved to approve the bills, excluding the Treasurer’s bills. Murray seconded. The following vouchers were approved for payment: Advanced Business Methods, $163.78; Ace 24 Hr. Towing, $460.00; Al’s Metal Work, $532.94; American Welding, $137.09; Ameripride, $40.11; Craig Askim, $7.15; Astech Corp., $397676.14; Badger Daylighting, $1690.00, Bergstrom Electric, $534.00; Best Western Ramkota, $785.90; Beulah Fire Dept., $1897.86; Bismarck Cancer Center, $100.00; Blue 360 Media, $484.00; BCBS, $67701.84; Shana Brost, $64.80; Burleigh-Morton Detention Center, $675.00; Butler Machinery, $26.50; David Chadwick, $465.00; Chesak Seed House, $70.23; City of Beulah, $87.17; City of Golden Valley, $129.00; City of Stanton, $6563.15; Brenda Cook, $64.80; Corner Express, $17.00; Custer Health, $4605.58; D & E Supply, $920.48; Dakota Central Social Services, $56351.66; Dakota Fence, $3249.00; Downtown Gas, $715.77; Eide Ford, $1034.28; Electronic Communications, $1510.00; FUO Beulah, $8135.00; FUO Hazen, $85.12; Fireside Office, $80.49; Ryan Flemmer, $5.40; Galls, $42.91; Weslie Gunsch, $206.28; Patrick Hafner, $55.00; Hazen Drug, $67.27; Hazen Hardware Hank, $42.45; Hazen Motor Co. $250.00; Industrial Fabworx, $65.00; ITD, $906.60; Interstate Engineering, $28791.68; Interstate Engineering, $370.00; J & L Automotive, $26.43; J & M Hardware, $201.30; John Deere Financial, $3837.50; Johnson Trailer Sales, $92.09; Free Karges, $47.85; Dena Kemmet, $96.29; Alexander Krebs, $35.50; Keitu Engineering, $1200.00; Gontran Langowski,$142.80; Language Line Services, $90.00; Curtis Livingston, $73.30; Diane Livingston, $35.50; Neil Maddock, $10.00; Andrew Marquart, $336.40; Mclean County Sheriff, $6030.00; Menards, $114.97; Mercer County Ambulance, $600.00; Mercer County Shop, $2341.87; MIDCO, $259.54; Midwest Doors, $5151.60; Mobile Binders, $758.08; Gary Murray, $138.56; Napa, $1397.96; NDACO, $35.00; Office of Attorney General, $2160.00; ND Board of Social Work Examiners, $150.00; NDLTAP, $25.00; ND One Call, $7.00; ND State Radio, $720.00; ND Surplus, $40.00; NDAAEA, $75.00; NDSU, $228.99; Neofunds, $1000.00; Neuberger Oil, $3880.60; Newman Signs, $235.00; NSC Minerals, $2511.06; Office Depot, $87.99; OK Automotive, $272.14; Northern Plains, $802.32; Amanda Palmer, $458.92; Pam Pehl, $137.16; Elle Pfenning, $235.30; Pharmchem, $1871.00; Pitney Bowes, $626.70; Rockmount Research, $1061.50; Roughrider Electric, $1095.05; Rud Propane, $1367.18; Sakakawea Medical Center, $14.40; Colette Schilling, $64.80; Duane Scheurer, $266.00; Scuba One, $46.00; Bradley Seifert, $11.69; Simplexgrinnel, $455.49; Skraba’s, $293.25; Smith Medical Partners, $1140.00; SBM. $261.59; SW Water, $45.66; Staples Credit, $330.46; Straightway Construction, $764.93; The Attic, $390.00; Tower Communications, $555.00; Ultramax, $1076.00; Underground Vaults, $6.00; Uniform Center, $171.96; Verizon Wireless, $35.85; Warne Chemicals, $366.00; WRT, $6108.49; WRT, $440.00; Westlie Motor Co., $192.00; Wex Bank, $2406.85; Wilmington Trust, $45337.50. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Entze moved to approve the Treasurer’s bills. Murray seconded. The following voucher was approved for payment: WRT, $90.54. Gunsch, Murray, Entze, and Scheurer 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.
The board reviewed the Veteran’s Service Officer’s quarterly report. No further action was taken.
Auditor Brost discussed the property at 216 Harmon Avenue that was set to be demolished. Brost asked the board what account should be used to pay the costs associated with the demolition. Murray moved to approve to pay the $1200.00 bill from Keitu Engineers and $370.00 from Interstate Engineering, and pay any other costs associated with the property out of the Building Maintenance renovation/demolition budget line. Gunsch seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Entze moved to approve the September Recorder’s Fees in the amount of $7372.30. Berger seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Gunsch moved to approve the September Sheriff’s Fees in the amount of $1092.00. Murray seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Gunsch moved to appoint Gary Knell as the North Dakota State Fair Delegate. Entze seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
The board reviewed the NDSU Extension Highlights. No further action was taken.
The board reviewed the 911/Emergency Management quarterly report. No further action was taken.
Gunsch moved to approve the Salute to Veterans request from BHG, Inc. Murray seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
The board gave their portfolio updates.
The board recessed at 9:25 AM.
The board reconvened at 9:30 AM.
Colette Schilling, Tax Director/Land Use Administrator, presented two (2) zoning cases to the board.
Temporary Use #508—Gravel Products, Inc. for a 20 acre gravel pit and stock pile located in the W ½ NW ¼ of Section 8 T144N R88W. Work is 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 and released by the County Road Superintendent. The permit holder shall control weeds in an acceptable manner during the time the permit is in effect. The permit expires December 31, 2017. Gunsch moved to approve Temporary Use #508. Murray seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Temporary Use #509—Great River Energy for a 14 acre borrow pit located in the NW ¼ of Section 21 T144N R84W. Work is 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 and released by the County Road Superintendent. The permit holder shall control weeds in an acceptable manner during the time the permit is in effect. The permit expires December 31, 2017. Murray moved to approve Temporary Use #509. Gunsch seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Bill Tveit, Taryn Kjelstrup, Dan Frei, and Tim Johnson spoke with the board about the Walleye Bay Road. Tveit stated back in 2000 he had signed an agreement with the Corp of Engineers to have access to his property and in 2012-2013 they have changed the rules. Tveit added the simplest solution would be to have the county adopt the road. Tveit stated he spoke with Road Superintendent Miller and Miller stated they already go out there twice a year to maintain but do not furnish any product and agreed to continue to maintain the road. Tveit noted he is not asking for any more than what the county already does, but a signed agreement. Kjelstrup stated the simplest solution would be to have the county secure an easement from the Corp of Engineers for Walleye Bay Road but the Hazen Park Board would have to agree to it since it is within their leased area. The Corp of Engineers would like to see a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for maintenance between the county and Hazen Park Board. Johnson stated in the past the Hazen Park has put down recycled gravel to maintain the road. Berger asked why the park board couldn’t take over the road. Kjelstrup stated the road is included in the park board’s current lease and due to the non-recreational policy, which discourages private use of Corp property, this would be a permanent solution if Tveit’s ever decide to sell there wouldn’t be access issues. Gunsch stated he would like to see the county work on an easement and the MOU between the county and park board. Berger stated this would be no benefit for the county. Scheurer stated there should be discussion with the Highway Department when they are present. Gunsch moved to have State’s Attorney Binder work on an easement and MOU between the Corp of Engineers, Hazen Park Board, and Mercer County Highway Department. Murray seconded. Gunsch, Murray, Entze, Scheurer voted aye. Berger No. Motion carried.
Rachel Grimm, Mercer County Highway Department Administrative Assistant, discussed road issues with the board. The board reviewed the outstanding road accounts. No further action was taken.
Entze moved to approve the Maintenance Certification. Berger seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Scheurer stated County 25 is in need of a chip seal next year and asked the question of who is going to bear the burden of the cost. Chris Friez, Coyote Creek Mining Company, stated the mine will participate on sharing the cost of the project. Scheurer stated there was a discussion that Coyote Creek would pay for the chip seal. Friez stated he doesn’t remember stating the mine would pay for in full but they would need to look at costs. Scheurer stated he thought there needed to be more discussion on it and the county did not have County 25 in the budget for next year. Gunsch stated it was requested by the mine in April to hold off another year on the chip seal and it was stated the mine would pay for it. Gunsch added County 25 would have never been developed if it weren’t for industry, and feels Coyote Creek should be responsible for the chip seal. Friez stated the 3rd agreement is in draft form about the chip seal. Friez added the original agreement stated the maintenance was that of the county and the 2nd agreement states that Coyote Creek pays for unusual or extreme maintenance for damage caused by Coyote Creek. Friez noted there is additional traffic now with County 12 being re-routed and the federal aid dollars need to be looked at. Friez stated there needs to be more discussion on if it can wait until 2019. Gunsch stated there needs to be an estimate on the chip seal for County 25. Gunsch added it is the county’s discretion of how they use their federal aid dollars. Scheurer recommended the Highway Department, Interstate Engineering, and Coyote Creek meet and bring the issue back to the board.
Rachel Grimm stated the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) would like the board’s blessing to overlay County 5 and maintain it, along with snow removal. Entze moved to give the BIA approval to do an overlay on County 5 that meets up with BIA 221, Sections 13 & 14 T146N R90W from the junction of State HWY 1806 and Mercer County 5 to approximately one (1) mile north to BIA 221. The tribe will assume all maintenance costs as wells as snow removal. State’s Attorney Binder stated the BIA needs to also sign off on the agreement so both sides execute on this. Berger seconded. All voted aye. Motion carried.
Auditor Brost addressed the board about social media. Brost stated, “Thank you commissioners for allowing me to speak today. I want to address with you the Social Media Policy. First and foremost, I understand Mercer County respects the right of employees, elected or appointed, to use social media tools as a means of personal self-expression and as a means to further the organization’s interests. The Social Media Policy states: “All employees are to be respectful to the organization, other staff members, elected officials, vendors, and business partners.” It also states “if you come across positive or negative remarks about the county or county related services that you believe are important, please forward this information to your supervisor or the Auditor.” As the County Auditor, I feel there are a few social media posts that need to be addressed with the board. Social Media includes all means of communicating or posting information or content of any sort on the internet, including your own or someone else’s post, whether or not associated or affiliated with Mercer County.
Commissioner Berger has a Facebook page—Connie Citizen. Mr. Berger uses this page to post agendas, commission videos, and inaccurate information about the rest of the commissioners, elected officials, and Mercer County staff. December 21, 2016 a motion was made by the board that Mr. Berger cease using the county’s logo and other organizational images on his social media page and stop posting the videos of commission meetings. On January 4th Mr. Berger informs the board he is not an employee of the county and will continue to post commission videos acting in opposition to the board’s motion at the previous meeting.
August 30th Mr. Berger posted on social media about the Auditor’s budget and another new software package that I quote “the county already threw away $300,000 on a software program that only the Auditor wanted only to find out it wasn’t compatible with what the other offices were using so she ditched it. Good job to the four commissioners that voted to let her spend over $100,000 on yet another program. Mercer County yet again throwing our money away.” End quote. In 2013, it was mutually agreed upon by the Auditor and Treasurer to purchase Great Plains Microsoft Dynamics software program and wait until Tax Director Gary Emter retired to purchase a tax program. There was a meeting in July of 2015 with Commissioners Scheurer and Murray, Auditor and Treasurer that all the receipts needed to be entered into Great Plains by August 1st for reconciliation purposes. During 2016, Mercer County spent dollars on the system to have all receipts downloaded from the AS400 into GP and also all the tax apportionments. Mercer County was billed at a rate of $130/hour for additional services plus the costs of implementing new pieces into the system. The additional piece cost the county $11,000 because the Treasurer’s office would not receipt daily into the new system. An additional $11,306 was spent on support for the Treasurer’s office after the project had already gone live, plus two trips to assist the Treasurer’s office that included mileage, meals, hotels, and time. On September 7, 2016, Great Plains met with the board to discuss the lack of cooperation from the Treasurer’s office. At the end of this meeting all parties agreed to work together to get the program running seamlessly, and it never happened.
September 24th Mr. Berger encouraged his page followers to attend the mill levy hearing because Mercer County is wasting taxpayer dollars, the Auditor is incompetent, the savings account is being spent, and two elected officials were stating taxpayers don’t care how much money the county spends. First of all, Mercer County carefully budgets dollars for the necessities. As the Auditor of Mercer County, I honestly do not see any “waste” of taxpayer dollars. Second, I am not incompetent. I have completed my fifth year as the auditor and have been told by many constituents that I do a great job. I love my work and have not had any issues at the state level nor during audits. A past audit disclosed the General Fund had been overinflated by $1.25 million and this did not happen in the Auditor’s office, but in the Treasurer’s office. Third, Mercer County does not have a savings account. We have two checking accounts, Union State Bank and Bank of North Dakota, and several CDs totaling $3,072,919.94 as of September 30, 2017. I was directed by the board to cash in $2.8 million for a down payment on the courthouse expansion/remodel project and other than that I have never cashed in a CD. Those same CDs that were here before my start are continuing to accrue interest.
October 3rd Mr. Berger writes the commission put it to us tonight. Mr. Berger, you are the commission. It was incorrectly stated in your post that no one was allowed to speak and ask questions. Chairman Scheurer allowed anyone in the room to ask questions that pertained to the mill levy hearing. You once again called me incompetent for the size of the ad being published incorrectly. This is what I sent to the Beulah Beacon and I have zero control how they publish it. Which leads me to your post on October 4th and 5th where you once again call me incompetent and a liar. This email is proof I sent the ad according to statute.
October 4th Mr. Berger posts he got “boned” again today by the commission. During the final budget hearing and the preliminary budget hearings both the Sheriff and State’s Attorney explain to you in depth the reasons for their budget increases. Naturally when you double the size of your jail, expenditures will increase and these two departments work hand in hand. The janitor is not getting a new truck just to get the mail. The maintenance department is getting a new truck, replacing a 2006 Chevy with 150,000+ miles on it and the 4-wheel drive is out. Mr. Berger also complains the landfill is getting a new side-by-side to pick paper. As a commissioner, you should be well aware that the landfill runs off of tipping fees and zero taxpayer dollars. Mr. Berger states in his post those who hit the salary “jackpot” in 2015 didn’t get a raise last year. False. Every single employee received a COLA last year and several were given step increases. Commissioner Gunsch never promised anyone to bring them to 100% in 2018. Commissioners work together, not alone. The Mercer County Commissioners are the fourth highest paid in the state, even though they have not taken a raise in over three years. It was time. Mr. Berger’s post also states the Auditor needlessly fired the Deputy Tax Director, Sheila Bruner because she knows more than the Tax Director. This is incorrect. I am the Human Resources Director for Mercer County so I sit in on the hiring/firing process. Mrs. Bruner was fired by her department head, not me, for insubordination, disrespectful conduct, and boisterous activity in the workplace.
October 11th Mr. Berger shared a post of the “unprofessional Auditor” texting and then commented that I was texting the Sheriff because I didn’t think the State’s Attorney was enough intimidation for a public meeting. Truthfully I was texting an employee to get the commissioner conference agendas printed so they were ready after the meeting. This was all while you were speaking to Sheriff Danzeisen about his budget.
Now that we have the capability, I would suggest Mercer County Commission records their meetings and posts them on social media, our website, and the public access channel if possible. Mercer County will appoint IT staff to run and regulate their new public social media site, where it will be open to all the public unlike Mr. Berger’s page where half the staff is blocked from viewing so he can post his fallacies about the county, their commission, elected officials, staff, and vendors. Mercer County has nothing to hide and will be as transparent as possible with a tasteful and positive image. Mr. Berger I am respectfully requesting you stop portraying a negative image of the county on social media and please stop calling me names and posting half truths about me personally. I think each and every one of us can say we are proud we are elected into the positions we are, now we need to start working together as a team for the betterment of Mercer County. Thank you.”
Gunsch stated the county now has the capability of recording now and truly recommends they start. Gunsch moved to start videotaping the meetings as soon as possible and post it on the county website and a social media webpage. Murray seconded. Gunsch, Murray, Entze, Scheurer voted aye. Berger No. Motion carried.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 10:30 AM. The next regular meeting is scheduled for November 1, 2017, at 9:00 AM in the courtroom of the Mercer County Courthouse, Stanton, North Dakota.
Approved: Duane Scheurer, Chairman
Attest: Shana L. Brost, Auditor