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Commissioners’ Report

Fri, Feb 7th, 2003
Posted in Features

"With the Board’s approval, I will be applying for a state and federal Domestic Preparedness Equipment and Training Grant," said Larry Hunt, Emergency Services Director, as he addressed the Commissioners during their weekly meeting. The money would be used to purchase equipment for the Sheriff’s Department and area fire and ambulance services. The total amount of the proposed funding from the state and the Department of Justice is $32,284. The new grant doesn’t require any matching funds from the county but there is a match of 25% ($5,470) to be paid by the entities purchasing the equipment. This brings the total amount to $37,753.

"I was able to give everybody something," said Hunt as he explained the grant’s intent. The $37,753 is 57% short of the original requests by the various entities vying for the equipment money. Hunt said there is also $24,640 in training money available of which $5,000 has been requested. Each department is required to maintain their own equipment.

The only obligation the county has in this process is to pay invoices as they come in. The invoices are then sent to the state for reimbursement. The different entities will be billed for their 25% match. Approval was given for application of the grant.

Sue Glende and Jim Cooper of the Spring Valley Ambulance Service also came to the county board with a request for sponsorship of their grant application. The current ambulance service facility is a 30’x40’ remodified old gas station located in the flood plain, which is structurally weak and too small to service the growing ambulance service. The group had considered an addition to the fire hall but it would be cheaper to build a separate structure on land the city has already donated near the city’s treatment plant.

The association has already raised $125,000 and the city has set aside another $50,000. The new facility, projected to cost $400,000, would have space for the local law enforcement, a training room, house the emergency operations center, and provide space for those volunteers on call that may live a distance from Spring Valley or are possibly stranded due to weather conditions. Other benefits include better patient care, faster ambulance response time, more efficient operating costs, and provide for more CPR and First Aid classes.

The group is hoping to start construction this spring or early summer. The county’s only obligation toward the project would be to act once again as a funnel for the funds. Approval was given.

Senate proposes wage freeze for government employees

The Commissioners received a handout outlining a state senate bill that, if approved, would place a freeze on government employee wages from Feb. 1, 2003 to June 30, 2005. This would include county employees, school districts, colleges, state agencies, boards and commissions, courts, and offices in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the state. Such a proposal rattled the Board with Chairman Marc Prestby declaring it unfair to put the responsibility of the budget crunch on state and county employees. Commissioner Randy Dahl viewed the proposed action as "throwing things up against the wall and seeing what sticks" as the Legislative session tests the waters. County Attorney Brett Corson felt the county couldn’t be forced to adhere to such legislation. However, the county board will monitor the situation and gather more information as it becomes available.

County jostles with Local #49

Michael Daniels, spokesperson for Local #49 Highway Union, came before the Board once again to discuss the labor contract. Previous sessions had been closed.

A major source of contention lies with the paid time off proposal in the union agreement. The Board is adamant about keeping a maximum accrual rate at 10.17 hours per pay period to be achieved at 16 years of service in the paid time off policy. The union wants to put in a 20-year step.

There is some confusion on the total amount of accrued paid time off if an individual were to leave their position. Coordinator Karen Brown will put together some data that will show how a person is effected according to their number of years in service. The info will be available to union members.

The proposed three year contract also has a 4% raise built into it. Daniels will meet with union members and get back to the Board on its decision.

Other business

•Discussed the county’s policy regarding employees attending conferences and seminars. The board wants to refine language in the policy that will allow employees to attend necessary functions while taking into account limited funding. Commissioner Dahl requested a list of the past year’s functions attended so that the Board will get a better handle on yearly costs.

•Approved the hiring of Todd Pierce as Assistant County attorney at $42,000, effective Feb. 10, 2002.

•Approved agreement with Kane & Johnson for $18,200 plus reimbursable estimated at $1,154 for asbestos abatement architectural services.

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