The Wednesday, March 20, meeting of the Walworth County Commissioners was controversial and at times tense with discussions concerning the landfill, a lawsuit and failure to meet state requirements for public meetings.
The tension began when the commission declared an executive session at the beginning of their regular meeting. Walworth County State’s Attorney Jamie Hare declared his disagreement with the commissions reason for the executive session (personnel) saying the issue did not fit the parameters of the executive session rules. The commission continued with the closed session.
No action was taken when they resumed the regular meeting.
Next, longtime Walworth County Landfill Supervisor Ryan Badten tendered his resignation on Thursday. He is taking a job in Minnesota as a landfill manager. His last day is March 27.
He recommended county auditor Becky Krein be appointed to the supervisor and county assistant positions and as the assistant emergency manager (a new position).
He said she already knows part of the duties of these positions and can learn the other aspects of the job.
“The part that concerns me is the business end of things, the financial aspect of it, making sure that that stuff is taking care of,” said Badten. “The operational things, whoever takes it over, would be required to learn, the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations. But my guys can ably handle the operations part of it until we get someone in there and show my successor the ropes.”
He went on to say that he is worried about the financial end of the landfill.
“We run a business out there. You just can’t leave a business unattended for weeks or until you get someone hired for that position,” he said. “That is why I talked to Becky about the possibility of taking over out there. She is ready for a change. I would fully recommend that if she is on board and the commissioners are on board.”
He said if he had six months or a year to train his replacement that would be optimum, but that is not the case. He said the staff at the landfill said they would step up and help out on the operational end until Krein could fully take over that part of the job.
He said there are certification courses that will be needed, but it is nothing that cannot be learned and there is specialty training that will needed. He said there is a good network of people within the state who are willing to help out.
He was asked by a member of the audience if there was not someone out there that would have the qualifications needed for this job if the commissioners advertised for a replacement. Badten said there are probably 12 to 15 people in the state of South Dakota who have those qualifications he has, and they are already running landfills.
“I didn’t come into this with all of these qualifications,” he said.
There were also questions about who the go-to person would be for answers to questions, for example concerning social security issues, to which Badten knew the answers when others did not.
“That is a question for the board that is sitting in front of you,” he said. “I don’t have an answer to that.”
The board approved his resignation and Commissioner Tom Houck made a motion to advertise for that position. That was also approved. The board did not vote on his recommendation that Krein step into the job as landfill supervisor/county assistant and emergency manager assistant.
Commission Chair Scott Shilling asked about the status of a lawsuit concerning the culvert on County Road 236.
Hare told the commissioners all paperwork in the lawsuit has been filed and that they have the information he has. Hare declined to further discuss the issue in the meeting and told commissioners if they wanted to view the paperwork, they could do so in his office.
It was pointed out by commissioner Tom Houck, that the board had not authorized the hiring of a full-time secretary at the highway department, but that there was someone filling that position. He also pointed out that there was no discussion on salary. These are requirements for taxpayer paid employees set by state statute that must be followed, he told the commission. Houck said the this needs to be corrected.
Hare suggested they make a motion to advertise for the position, with a set salary, put it on the next meeting agenda. That would ensure the move is on the record.
Houck said he was unaware that a full-time secretary had been hired until later.
He said there was also no discussion on salary when the commission hired Bill Friend as the county highway department supervisor, but that issued had been cleared up for him.
Carolyn Schmidt, who was sitting in the audience told commissioners she had heard comments from people outside of Walworth County, concerning the board.
“Other counties are laughing at this commission,” she said. “You are the laughing stock of the state.”
Schmidt said one remark made was that the commission should put on a show, it would be the biggest comedy around.
There were no comments from the commission on this issue.
The video of this meeting and previous meetings can be found at http://walworthco.org/ under Quick Links.
– Katie Zerr –