Commission attempts to tighten belts
By Sandy Bond –
From predatory animal control to the prosecuting attorney’s budget, at a special meeting Tuesday, Sept. 11, commissioners struggled with ways to tighten the county’s budget under severe constraints.
No stone was left unturned, as department heads were asked once again to sacrifice if at all possible. Some budgets, including the register of deeds office, had already been cut to the quick, by treasurer Sue Eisemann. Others, such as court appointed attorney fees, although deemed “ridiculous” by one commissioner, were impossible to cut. State’s Attorney Chris Jansen reported that these fees are often repaid by liens or by order of the judge. Jansen said that accessibility to the software he requested might, hypothetically, mean the difference between winning and losing a case in certain circumstances, but that the liability from that risk is much lower than cutting areas like the jail.
Jansen also explained a budget request for an extra $18,000 to pay for prosecutor software. It would be a one-time investment, not a continuing budget item. He reiterated this type of software is not yet mandated, but something like this may be someday. At the present time, it will facilitate the ability for he and his secretary to simultaneously work on files without the inconvenience of one of them being disconnected, corrupting files, and would make use of integrated processing of files and documentation/discovery.
Director of Equalization Deb Kahl conceded that, although her office has benefited from Patti Baumann’s assistance one day per week, she said that she simply could not justify her portion of Baumann’s salary estimated at $5,000. Baumann, is administrative assistant to Jeff Mueller, 4-H Youth Advisor and has also worked in Jansen’s office.
Department heads of the highway department, landfill, and sheriff’s department offered to curtail equipment costs. The highway department and landfill both made a concession of $25,000 respectively. Chief Deputy Boll offered to put a little more mileage on his Crown Victoria’s odometer.
The budget will be finalized Thursday, Sept. 27.
In other business, commissioners:
• Heard Commissioner Jerry Frailing discuss the possibility of abandoning an easement for the park section at Lake Molstad in rural Glenham. An easement had been granted by an ancestor of an owner of the land surrounding the lake. The park has been partially maintained by the Sportsmen’s Club of Mobridge for several years with some assistance from the county. However, it has been increasingly difficult in the last few years, and some perceive it has become a liability for the county. Frailing suggested the boat ramp portion controlled by the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks Wildlife Division remain open.
Jansen suggested that abandonment should be delayed until after hunting season to prevent any misunderstanding of hunters potentially trespassing on private land. Thereafter, legal notices must be published of the intent to abandon the easement and a hearing must be held. He also explained this would give time to make sure the easements were in order for what the GF&P and the county were trying to accomplish.
• Authorized entering into a contract with Brennan Management Service, Little Rock, Ark., and Southern Folgers Detention Equipment Co., San Antonio, Texs, for study of the jail including the older portion built in the early 1900s and modified in 1999, and the newer section built in 1999. Chief Deputy and Jail Administrator Josh Boll brought his concern of injury and resulting litigation if a correctional officer, inmate, or private citizen were injured or killed and the county was discovered to be at fault. The damages that could be awarded in this scenario might be much more costly than the bricks and mortar, commissioners were told. Representatives from the respective companies made their presentation to commissioners Aug. 21, at no cost to the county.
• The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 27, at 8 a.m. to facilitate attendance at the annual convention.
– Sandy Bond –