Commission moves forward with new jail plans
-By Sandy Bond
In a three to one vote with one abstention, Walworth County Commissioners at their Nov. 19 meeting voted to enter into a contract with HKG Architects for continued work for which the firm will be compensated in regard to building a new correctional facility (limited to $10,000.) Voting yes were commissioners Don Leff, Richard Godkin, and Denis Arbach; voting no was commissioner Duane Martin; abstaining was commissioner Phylliss Pudwill. Martin reminded commissioners that they had not yet decided to build a jail.
Dean Marske, HKG Architects, reported that the months of unpaid work the company has been doing for the county could be perceived as marketing, but now the company wants to be paid for any further work. Martin reiterated the feasibility study completed several months ago related that the present jail would probably be fine into the year 2030. He said many unknowns exist, including the impact of Senate Bill #70 that still has not outlined whether those who commit a non-violent offense should be handled by incarceration or rehabilitation. Whether the existing jail was a liability or not was perception. According to Martin a federal correctional institution certainly would have to meet higher criteria than a regional facility, although some improvements must be made. In regard to building a new jail, Martin predicted, “that it will go to referendum.”
The term micromanagement was referenced a great deal in discussing many issues from the landfill to the highway department and even the treasurer’s office and in regard to Martin’s commitment of accountability to the taxpayers.
Discrepancies in bookkeeping discovered by Martin had him wondering about accountability in other departments, he said. He pursued the possibility of hiring a general manager whose job assignment would be to intercept any concerns before they were discovered four or five years after the fact.
Several commissioiners said they thought that was the reason a state legislative audit is conducted every year. They also questioned why the county is paying $50,000 a year to some of the department heads, either elected or appointed, if it isn’t for accountability. Some commissioners questioned why another civil servant is needed to micromanage the duties that they have been elected or hired to do by their constituents.
In other business, commissioners:
• Voted to advertise for a full-time/part-time employee who has the abilities to “float” between departmental assignments after treasurer Greg Pudwill requested more help in his office that employs two full-time individuals and one part-time individual.
The floater could also be utilized in the director of equalization’s office and the auditor’s office seasonally. Leff was opposed.
• Tabled the existing bids for a landfill wheel loader to allow landfill manager Ryan Badten to better study them and how best they meet specs, warranties, the advantages of buybacks as opposed to selling the surplus equipment independently, etc.
• Martin questioned how well the four-ten hour days are working. Director of Equalization Deb Kahl said her department has been run more efficiently and is even staffed during the noon hour to better accommodate citizens. Kahl said that the market value or assigned value of most of the parcels of land in Mobridge has been achieved, as have half of the parcels of land in Selby. Although Kahl is trying to establish true market value some property owners are going to realize sticker shock when they receive their assessment notices, while others may be satisfied.
• Took Michelle Hesselberg and Jill Hoogeveen off probation with their admirable job performances and increased their salaries by $.50 per hour as per employee policy.
• Heard Roger Walker request to spend the majority of time helping in the Assessor’s office with the advent of fall.
• Clarified what is considered a low maintenance road when a citizen who is concerned about the condition of Clover Road requested the information. According to Penny Goetz, highway superintendent, there are over 700 miles of roads that must be maintained by the highway department and they are put on a rotation schedule. Some meet higher criteria than others due to usage, etc. When the primary roads are completed, then the concerns about the secondary roads are addressed. Clover Road was just graveled two years ago, Goetz said, and in her estimation it is in good shape, but she will ask Marty Hook if he can run a blade down it.
• Reversed the Sheriff’s Department’s decision to suspend without pay jailer Josh Nelson at the recommendation of jail supervisor Brian Rawstern. In Rawstern’s opinion Nelson did not follow protocol when in the heat of an incident at the jail he failed to reach Rawstern and called in an outside law enforcement officer for assistance. Voting no was Commissioner Arbach.
– Sandy Bond –