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Commission terminates highway superintendent

Walworth County Commissioners, Friday, Nov. 9, passed a resolution to terminate
Penny Goetz as the Walworth County Highway Department Superintendent.
Citing a number of incidents that have occurred during the year of her tenure as superintendent,
commission chair Scott Schilling told the commission it was time to seek new leadership in that department.
Schilling said it is evident that Goetz doesn’t have control over some of the problems in that department. He said commissioners should not have to catch issues with projects and point those issues out to the
Commissioner Marion Schlomer said he didn’t know if her employees respected her and that it shouldn’t take a call from a commissioner to get certain work done on the
roads of the county. He said he has heard complaints about the conditions of county roads that should be part of ongoing maintenance. He said he understands that there are only so many county highway
employees, but they are not doing the job that she is asking them to do.
Commissioner Kevin Holgard said taxpayers have complained to him that they are afraid to call about road conditions because of Goetz’s attitude toward them. He said that telling taxpayers the
department will get to those problem areas “when we have time” is not acceptable.
Commissioner Jim Houck said he thought Goetz did an excellent job, especially in a
difficult position.
Schilling told Goetz that her employees just don’t take her seriously. He asked Goetz if she had
anything to say in her defense, but she said their decision had already been made and she wanted to move on from it.
Schilling read a resolution terminating Goetz from the superintendent’s position
effective Monday, Dec. 31. The motion was passed, with Houck the only nay vote.
Goetz then asked if she would be retained as the business manager with a full-time
salary and benefits. Schilling told her she is competent at that position and the commission
would like her to stay on. He said commissioners would take a look at the salary and
benefits issue and it would be decided at the next meeting.

Jail issue
Walworth County Sheriff Josh Boll asked the commissioners what the next steps would be now that bond issue for the proposed new jail project was voted down.
Schilling asked what the commissioners see as the answer to the immediate issues
with the jail.
Houck said ridding the county of some liability should be the first step. He said the
current facility should be used for Walworth County inmates only.
Commissioner Davis Martin said that is what he has heard from taxpayers. He said they want a facility for county inmates only. He suggested that more research into remodeling the current facility to meet county needs is what he favors.
Schilling said he thinks researching a remodel and using the facility as a Walworth County first facility, without the liability of housing BIA and U.S. Marshal inmates is what the taxpayers favor.
“The people want us to take care of our needs first,” he said. “We need to get some numbers and costs together for an addition and remodel and get that information out to the public.”
Schlomer said he is viewing the issue as to what is best for Walworth County including a remodel or building a new, smaller facility.
He said because 99 percent of the arrests are made in Mobridge, maybe it is time to consider building a jail in that city and have the county pay the City of Mobridge for housing inmates. He said that way
transportation costs could be avoided. His recommendation was to no longer house the BIA and U.S. Marshal inmates and to research all options before making a long-range decision.
Holgard agreed it was time to end the relationship with the BIA and Marshal’s service and take care of the county inmate’s needs. He said being forced to meet certain standards to house those prisoners
was unnecessary and the county should rid itself of that liability.
Holgard said options include closing the jail for a year or so, remodeling the current facility and transporting prisoners during that time to Faulk County. He said he has been talking with Faulk County
commissioners about that possibility.
Boll pointed out that among the information he had handed out to the commissioners was an architect’s rendering of a remodel of the current facility that has additional space for beds, bringing the capacity to 38 beds. The architect’s rendering was from HKG and Associate’s of Aberdeen at a cost of $1.7 million. He said that cost is surely more as the drawing was several years old.
The commissioners agreed that all options needed to be weighed before a decision is made. Schilling said they must have concrete numbers on which to base decisions.
“This takes time,” said Boll. “I just don’t want to see this decision kicked down the road again. I have 15 employees that I have to think about.”
The commission approved giving the BIA and U.S. Marshal’s Service a 30-day notice on ending the inmate housing and set a target date of the first
meeting in December to have more concrete numbers on the options considered in order to make any decisions about the future of the facility.
– Katie Zerr –