Saying it is important to finally put the issue of whether or not to build a new jail to vote of the Walworth County taxpayers, the commissioners on Tuesday, July 17, approved a special election.
The resolution would put the bond issue necessary to build a 70-bed, $10.5 million facility in the hands of the voters in the county.
Since the county does not have the funds to build the facility, contingency obligation bonds would have to be issued for the facility to be built. The county would pay back those bonds over a 30 year period.
“We are not necessarily saying that we are in favor of it,” said Kevin Holgard. “After all of these years of discussing this we want to put it to a vote of the taxpayers of Walworth County.”
The commission discussed whether of not they should wait until the general election citing a couple of reason-a better voter turnout and cost of a special election.
Commissioner Jim Houck pointed out that by holding the election would allow for the bidding process to be held early and keep the cost within the $10.5 million. He said the longer the county waits the more expensive the project would get.
Holgard said because of the length of the debate over this issue, it might be better for all if the issue was decided in a special election.
Auditor Becky Krein told the board they would need to make a supplement to the budget to cover the cost of the election, which could cost the taxpayers as much as $10,000.
With a vote of 3 to 2, the resolution passed. Commissioners Shilling and Marion Schlomer voted against the resolution with commissioners Dave Siemon, Jim Houck and Holgard voting in favor. Before casting his vote, Holgard made it clear voting in favor of the resolution does not mean he is in favor or against the project. He said he wanted the voters voice to be heard.
According to the resolution the bond issue vote must take place within 60 days of the passing, but Krein said later that the 60-day limit does not apply according to state officials. She said that there must be 60 percent of the voters casting ballots in favor of the issue for it to pass.
Commission chair Scott Schilling asked the board if their professional relationship with jail consultant Brad Hompe is over now that the resolution is passed.
He said Hompe’s job is over and there is no need to keep paying him.
Houck disagreed and said if the bond issue passes they would need Hompe’s help on issues related to quality materials (for example door locks), and for ensuring the facility meets codes.
Schlomer said he thought the construction manager would be responsible for those details and that he couldn’t see any reason to be paying another person to do that job.
“We should no longer be getting bills from Brad,” Schilling said. “If we need to talk to him, it should happen during these meetings. No one should be talking to him outside of this meeting room.”
Commissioners voted 3 to 2, with Hauck and Siemon voting against terminating the relationship.
In other business the Walworth County Commission:
• Approved replacing small culverts on the Steve Zabel property with larger, box culverts at a cost of $200,000. There was extensive damage to the Zabel property during the May 17 thunderstorm.
• Approved hiring Lukus Leidholt as the new emergency manager at a wage of $36,000 per year. He and his family arte in the process of moving back to the area from Pierre.
• Accepted the resignation of Mica Mortenson as the register of deeds. Approved appointing the person that is chosen by the Republican Committee to replace Mortenson on the November as the new register. That will happen in a special meeting to be held at 6 p.m., Monday, July 23, after the Republican Committee meeting.
• Heard county assistance Ryan Badten report there was extensive damage at the county landfill during the July 4 thunderstorm. He said the roof of the building would need repair, the siding replaced and damage to three vehicles on the property repaired. He did not have an estimate of the damage.
• Approved resolutions establishing set wages and pay scales for all sheriff’s office and jail employees. The commission also discussed making changes to establish a threshold for comp time for all county employees at 80 hours. Everything above that would be paid as overtime.
• Approved Badten exploring the possibility of renting the former Best Way Rental building in Mobridge for recycling purposes.
– Katie Zerr –