Mercer County Commission
Special Meeting Minutes
March 14, 2014
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 AM CT by Chairman Murray, also present was Commissioner Bitterman, Commissioner Tveit, Commissioner Scheurer, State’s Attorney Binder, Gary Emter, Brenda Cook, Darbie Berger, Wanda Knutson, Jim Albers, Carmen Reed, Ron Crowley, and Auditor Brost. Member absent was Commissioner Entze.
Motion made by Commissioner Tveit, second by Commissioner Bitterman to approve the agenda. On roll call vote; Tveit, “Aye”, Bitterman, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Commissioner Bitterman stated the question that comes up is if the county needs to raise the mill levies for the courthouse expansion and how much will the mill levy be. Emter stated that the ballot will not state a specific mill levy because there is no way to know how much we will need. The ballot will simply state that on a $100,000 home the taxes would increase $60.84 and on land valued at $54,400 the taxes would increase $37.00 at the current valuation of one mill equaling $31,458.04.
After reviewing the assets, Auditor Brost felt the county could put a down payment of $2.8 million, and that would still leave $2.9 million in CDs. Brost stated the county could look at funding the courthouse and jail expansions one of two ways. First would be to solely increase the mill levies in the general fund. The maximum levy for the general fund is 23.00, which means the county could raise the levy 13.52 mills. At the maximum levy for 16.5 years, the county would generate $7,017,660. With the general fund mills being maxed out, the county would not be able to make any increases to the budget for that period of time. The second option would be to borrow against the Coal Conversion funds the county receives. Brost stated in 2011 Mercer County received $1,101,958.51 in Coal Conversion funds, 2012 was $1,267,754.12, and 2013 was $1,075,629.39. In 2013 after the transfers out of the general fund, the county had $368,229.39 remaining. For a 20 year loan borrowing $7 million, the county would need to make a $350,000 payment yearly. Brost feels if the trend continues like it has in the past several years, the county would be able to use the Coal Conversion funds that are over and above what is needed to fulfill the budget. Emter added that it is his understanding if coal mining were to ever go away, the remaining years on the loan would be forgiven. Brost stated this would be a loan through the Bank of North Dakota at whatever the current interest rate is. Chairman Murray felt the Coal Conversion loan would be a good way to go. Emter stated the application for the loan needed to be filled out and sent to the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office today, and the board will meet on March 24th to make a decision. Commissioner Tveit stated that would give the board enough time to react to the bond issue if this were to fall through, to get the proper wording on the ballot. Auditor Brost stated the board had until April 7th at 4 PM to figure out the exact language for the measure on the ballot. Motion made by Commissioner Bitterman, second by Commissioner Scheurer to fill out the Coal Impact Loan Application for $7 million. On roll call vote; Bitterman, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Commissioner Bitterman asked the question of what would happen if the loan were only approved for $5 million and not the $7 million. Auditor Brost stated that a raise in mill levies would have to cover the other $2 million.
Commissioner Tveit stated the he had talked to a fellow that was astonished that he had to go through security when coming into the Mercer County Courthouse. State’s Attorney Binder mentioned that she was going to try to be at all the town hall meetings to speak in depth about the security issues Mercer County faces. Chairman Murray stated that there is a percentage of the population that have never been to the courthouse and it will be important for the department heads to be at the meetings to explain to the public the issues with security and storage space. Commissioner Scheurer stated that court meshes with people doing administrative business. Commissioner Bitterman state that people in the county think the courthouse is beautiful and they do not realize that it is 41 years old.
Cook asked if it would be okay to take pictures of the crowded office space and the prisoners that are mixed with the general public on court days. State’s Attorney Binder said it would portray to them it is not the warm fuzzy, I am safe feeling. Knutson added the the bond hearings from McKenzie County that are being held in Mercer County’s courtroom are being charged with attempted murder and Class A drug felony charges. Reed suggested to get the number of prisoners to show the public the influx of people, especially people you don’t know; also suggest the crimes are not just petty anymore. Binder noted that she had 259 cases filed in 2013, in which the drug felony cases doubled. She stated that the nature of the charges have changed drastically over the years.
Crowley stated that Legal Secretary, Michelle Renner, sits right up front and by the time she may realize what is going on she could be in trouble. Chairman Murray stated that things happen, like in Adams County where someone had brought a gun in. Murray feels the security needs to be fixed before something happens.
Commissioner Scheurer stated he was amazed that the building has lasted 40 years when we are trying to build something that will last for the next 20 years. State’s Attorney Binder noted that 40 years ago no one would have expected what is going through the county today. Chairman Murray feels that the board and department heads need to somehow get the story out because he is not sure how many people will show up at the town hall meetings. Crowley suggested putting the information at café’s around county because not everyone reads the paper. Reed suggested putting it in the Dollar Saver since it is free. Commissioner Scheurer stated that once the board figures out how they are going to pay for the expansion, he will speak about it at the meetings he goes to. Cook added that the bottom line is that the general public is worried about how much their taxes will increase. Crowley stated that he has explained to the people in the organizations that he is a part of why the county needs this expansion and the people didn’t realize the security issues Mercer County has.
Chairman Murray asked if there was anything else to discuss, and Emter asked as far as the ballot went if it was good to go. State’s Attorney Binder stated it was, that the numbers just needed to be added.
There being no further business, on motion duly made and second, the meeting was adjourned at 9:45 AM CDT. The next regular meeting of the commission will be March 19, 2014 at 9:00 AM CT in the courtroom of the Mercer County Courthouse, Stanton, North Dakota.
Approved: Gary Murray, Chairman
Attest: Shana L. Brost, Auditor
Mercer County Commission
March 19, 2014
The meeting was called to order at 9:00 AM CT by Chairman Murray, also present was Commissioner Entze, Commissioner Scheurer, Commissioner Bitterman, Commissioner Tveit, State’s Attorney Binder, Auditor Secretary/Clerk Bakken.
Motion made by Commissioner Entze, seconded by Commissioner Tveit to approve agenda with additions. On roll call vote; Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Bitterman, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Motion made by Commissioner Bitterman, second by Commissioner Scheurer to approve the minutes of the March 5th commission meeting as presented. On roll call vote; Bitterman, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Commissioner Scheurer questioned Chairman Murray on the presentation and the need to approve of the March 14th Building Expansion Special Meeting minutes. Auditor Secretary/Clerk Bakken informed the board that Auditor Shana Brost was present at that special meeting and will present those minutes at the April 2, 2014 commission meeting. Commissioner Scheurer shared his concern about having the minutes approved right away and available to the public as soon as possible because it is a matter of public record. Auditor Secretary/Clerk Bakken indicated that the minutes will be ready for the next commission meeting at which time Auditor Brost will present the completed minutes. No further action was taken.
Chairman Murray asked for an approval of the March 19th bills. Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, seconded by Commissioner Entze to approve the payments of bills as follows: AED Everywhere, $196.90; Craig Askim, $209.44; Beulah Public School Dist. #27, $13.10; BHG, Inc., $14.85; Jamie Bradley, $40.00; Bronson’s Supervalu, $55.95; Shana Brost, $78.40; Center For 4-H Youth Development, $45.00; Challenger Industries, Inc., $40.24; City of Beulah, $698.69; City of Stanton, $4,287.42; Richard Lee Cook, $20.00; Custer Health District, $5,242.87; D & E Supply Co. Inc., $121.49; Dakota Central Social Services, $43,583.55; Matt Dixon, $30.00; Gary Emter, $70.50; Wayne Entze, $125.44; Thomas Ray Femling, $5.00; Filter Care of Grafton Inc., $16.13; G & D Enterprises, $280.00; Patrick R. Haugen, $494.00; Implementation Specialists, $3,408.75; Information Technology Department, $430.80; Dena Kemmet, $170.24; Krause Supervalu, $831.97; Language Line Services, $90.00; Lifeline Training, LTD, $278.00; Lyle Signs Inc., $2,043.00; Marshall & Swift, $879.15; Menards, $173.88; Midwest Surveillance, $5,403.36; Mini Computer Services, LTD, $2,337.50; Gary Murray, $94.08; ND Association of Counties, $1,465.02; ND Association of Counties, $669.00; ND Attorney General, $770.00; ND Safety Council, $250.00; ND Sheriff’s & Deputies Association, $200.00; ND Surplus Property Division, $455.00; NDSU Extension Service, $23,297.50; Neuberger Oil Company, $12,394.80; Northwestern Equipment Inc., $1,075.21; Penguin Management, Inc., $3,876.00; Pitney Bowes Inc., 466.59; Quality Appliance Repair, $161.50; Carmen Reed, $117.88; Donald Reichenberg, $232.96; Retterath Real Estate, LLP, $450.00; Roughrider Electric Cooperative, Inc., $1,700.70; Duane Scheurer, $186.48; Severin, Ringsak & Morrow, $1,010.00; Sirchie, $127.33; Terrance Ternes, $20.79; William Tveit, $56.00; Verizon Wireless, $46.05; Thomson Reuters, $355.99; West River Telecommunications, $7,492.11; Advanced Business Methods, $194.76; Bronson’s Supervalu, $2,609.84; Wright Express FSC, $380.10; Interstate Engineering Inc., $20,938.54; Klein McCarthy Architects, $7,329.76; ND EMS Association, $225.00; Puklich Chevrolet, Inc., $80,747.31; SeaChange Printing and Marketing, $2,317.55. Upon roll call vote; Scheurer, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Bitterman, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
The board reviewed the monthly financial statement. Discussion took place over the Emergency Fund. Commissioner Bitterman questioned if this fund was for 911/Emergency Management or for Mercer County Emergencies. Commissioner Entze stated he felt it referred to funds set aside in case of a Mercer County emergency. Bakken indicated she would clarify the question and bring back the information to the board after the morning break. Chairman Murray considered it reviewed. No further action was taken.
The board reviewed the monthly tonnage report. The report read as follows: Trees and Wood, 15.73 ton; Steel, 1.62 ton; Household, 395.49 ton; Inert 61.99; Tires, 0; Whiteware, 16; Large Animals, 1; Small Animals, 1; Weighed 0 trucks. No further action was taken.
Commissioner Scheurer reported on updates at the Landfill. Commissioner Scheurer stated he is working on leasing the area near the Landfill for grazing purposes. He said he had been out to the area and noticed the area has a lot of grass great for grazing. He also shared that he thought there had been a fence in this location at one time or maybe this area had been grazed before due to a broken fence line being present. Commissioner Scheurer said he is working on getting this area fenced before leasing it out and that there are a few individuals interested in fencing the area for a price. Commissioner Scheurer continued to share that he was waiting to receive some bids from the individuals and at that point he would compare the quotes with the board. Discussion took place over new fencing material, the water situation and the completed testing of the water, recycling of the current fencing material, and keeping the fencing project separate from the leasing arrangements. The board thanked Commissioner Scheurer for the work completed and encouraged him to continue to follow up with the fencing project and report back to the board.
Motion made by Commissioner Tveit, seconded by Commissioner Scheurer to approve the February’s Recorder’s Fee in the amount of $5,739.95. Upon roll call vote; Entze, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Bitterman, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
The board reviewed the NDSU Highlights. No further action was taken.
The board recessed at 9:20 AM CT.
The board reconvened at 9:30 AM CT.
Auditor Secretary/Clerk Bakken updated the board on the Emergency Fund 2910 within the monthly financial report and that it is for emergencies within the county. No further action was taken.
Planning and Zoning Administrator, Gary Emter presented the board with one zoning case. Motion made by Commissioner Tveit, seconded by Commissioner Scheurer to approve a Temporary Use Permit Number 442 issued to Coyote Creek Mining Company, L.L.C. for the purpose of test hole drilling for coal exploration with the restrictions of work limited to daylight hours, all test holes to be filled and reclaimed in accordance with state mining regulations, and no drilling within the right of way without further approval of the Mercer County Commission, located within T142N, R88W-Sections 6, 7, 17; T142N, R89W-Sections 1, 2, 3, 11, 12; T143N, R88W-Sections 19, 30; T143N, R89W-Sections 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 35, 36, Mercer County ND. Upon roll call vote; Tveit, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Bitterman, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
Assistant County Road Supervisor, Elroy Opp was present to present the Utility Occupancy Application and Permit #1377 issued to West River Telecommunications Cooperative of Hazen, ND. Motion made by Commissioner Bitterman, seconded by Commissioner Entze to approve Utility Permit #1377. Upon roll call vote; Bitterman, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
The board reviewed the outstanding road accounts. Commissioner Bitterman once again questioned the definition of SKC, Inc. and found out it was connected to Northern Improvement. Auditor Secretary/Clerk Bakken suggested that Opp add a short explanation next to this line item in parenthesis to clarify this item for the board. Opp confirmed the request and said he would inform County Road Secretary Rachel Grimm. Commissioner Tveit stated that there are a couple accounts getting pretty old, and requested that Opp give those individuals/companies a phone call to update their outstanding accounts. Opp confirmed the requested. No further action was taken.
Opp continued by updating the board by stating the new motor grader had arrived, some county road employees will be taking First Aid and WSI classes, the crack sealing on County Road 5 has begun, the blades are out working on the roads, and the three new trucks will be obtained shortly. Chairman Murray addressed Opp with a concern with the Mercer County Canopy Lease Agreement. Chairman Murray stated he had been receiving phone calls from individuals concerned about the new rate changes within the canopy lease agreement. Chairman Murray continued to share that some of these celebrations committees have very few funds available to cover the new rate changes but would like to be able to use the tents for their upcoming celebrations and that he was not sure when to implement the the new lease rates. Opp indicated that no one has been given a price currently and that those individuals should call the County Shop for pricing concerns. Discussion took place amongst the board over current price changes within the lease, amending the lease agreement, and the review of the current policy that reads:
The lessee agrees to pay Mercer County (other than a county celebration) a $75.00 refundable deposit per canopy, and $150.00 per day rent per canopy. $400.00 for delivery/setup, pending authorization of the Highway Department Superintendent. Deposit and rental shall be made payable to Mercer County. Payments shall be made at the time the agreement is signed and returned to the Mercer County Highway Department.
Motion made by Commissioner Bitterman, seconded by Commissioner Scheurer to allow cities, for centennial celebrations, the same price as last year. Discussion took place over the current motion. Commissioner Tveit sought clarification from the board by asking Mercer County only or do we include all counties and church centennials? Opp stated presently there is a request from Saint Paul’s Church to use the tents for their celebration. Further discussion took place over amending the motion for the current lease agreement. Commissioner Tveit indicated he had a hard time amending it for some and not all. State’s Attorney Binder indicated one would have to rescind the current motion in order to amend the motion to include the outlying cities and churches. Commissioner Bitterman indicated he didn’t want to amend his current motion. Discussion took place over including outlying cities not located within Mercer County and church centennials. Commissioner Scheurer mentioned that the current motion should include the Mercer County cities that have centennials and only including the outlying cities of Dodge, Halliday and Saint Paul’s Church celebrations. Upon roll call vote; Bitterman, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Nay”, Tveit, “Nay”, Entze, “Nay”, Murray, “Aye”, motion defeated.
Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, seconded by Commissioner Tveit to include the Mercer County cities that have centennials at the old price and only including the outlying cities of Dodge, Halliday and Saint Paul’s Church celebrations.
Discussion took place over approving all scheduled events up to todays date at the old canopy lease rates, opening up a can of worms with the exclusion of outlying counties or people stating they called on such and such a date, and creating a new effective date. Commissioner Scheurer rescinded his motion after discussion about setting a new effective date of this lease agreement. Commissioner Tveit rescinded his second.
Motion made by Commissioner Scheurer, seconded by Commissioner Bitterman to set a new effective date for the Mercer County Canopy Lease Agreement for January 1, 2015. Upon roll call vote; Scheurer, “Aye”, Bitterman, “Aye”, Entze, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried.
The board recessed at 10:05 AM CT.
The board reconvened at 10:30 AM CT.
County Interstate Engineer, Steve Mamer was present to open the 2014 Seal Coat and Pavement Marking Project Bids. Motion made by Commissioner Entze, seconded by Commissioner Bitterman to close the bids for the 2014 Seal Coat and Pavement Marking Project. Upon roll call vote; Entze, “Aye”, Bitterman, “Aye”, Scheurer, “Aye”, Tveit, “Aye”, Murray, “Aye”, motion carried. Chairman Murray declared the bids closed. The following bids were opened on March 19, 2014 at 10:30 A.M. CT. and read as follows:
2014 Seal Coat & Pavement Markings:
Commissioner Bitterman questioned there only being two bids. Mamer confirmed that there are only two bids. Mamer also indicated he would take the bids with him to review and bring back a recommendation at the April 2, 2014 meeting. Mamer continued to update the board on County Road 17 and County Road 25 and that he is currently working on a contract and bid material that he will also bring to the next commission meeting. Mamer also updated the board on a slurry seal verses a chip seal that the county presently use and in the future the commission might want to consider using a slurry seal due to prices coming down and that it favors those roads with a lot of ruts (ex. Co. Rd. 21). Commissioner Tveit stated that the board can bid this as an option in the future. Discussion took place over the difference between slurry and asphalt. No further action was taken.
Commissioner Bitterman questioned Mamer on the Basin Transload Agreement and was wondering what was going on with this agreement. Mamer indicated he had not heard anything at this point but he is currently working on a bridge agreement. Commissioner Entze stated he had received some concerned calls and questioned Mamer on County Road 25 and stated that farmers in this area are thinking this will be paved someday and the language within the contract enforces this, and the hope is not to have another transload road for five miles that is beat up with wash boards. Mamer indicated he had given an estimate for this road and it was designed for asphalt. Mamer also stated with the initial mine set up and the mine bringing in steel buildings, drag lines, and construction equipment it might be wise to wait on the paving of this road until construction is complete. Discussion took place over the use of concrete pipes, the two year timeframe to complete this project, the County Road 25 agreement concerns, and the warranty with Baranko Company. The board thanked Mamer for coming and added him to the April 2, 2014 agenda.
Chairman Murray addressed the building expansion finalization of composed language for the 2014 ballot. State’s Attorney Binder stated she has things drafted and the language for the ballot will have to wait until Tax Director, Gary Emter has heard more about the loan hearing through the coal conversion funds and an update will be presented at April 2, 2014 commission meeting. Commissioner Bitterman and State’s Attorney Binder will accompany Emter to the loan hearing to gain a better understanding of the loan rates and the counties responsibilities. No further action was taken.
Chairman Murray addressed the Mercer County Building Expansion location, dates and times with the board. Discussion took place over the location of the events and the board questioned either it being at the halls or the civic centers within each town. The Auditor’s Office will contact the cities once again to confirm dates and locations, check with the banks for further promote this event, inform Mercer County employees, publish the event within the local newspaper, and add it to the Mercer County Website. The public meeting locations, dates and times are as follows:
City of Stanton on April 10, 2014 from 6:30 to 7:30 PM CT; City of Golden Valley on April 11, 2014 from 10:00 to 11:00 AM CT; City of Zap on April 11, 2014 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM CT; City of Hazen on April 14, 2014 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM CT; City of Beulah on April 14, 2014 from 6:30 to 7:30 PM CT. No further action was taken.
The board recessed 11:05 AM CT.
The board reconvened at 11:10 AM CT.
The board welcomed Mercer County Water Resource Secretary/Treasurer/Legal Counsel, Greg Lange and David Holm with Fugro who presented the board with information about LIDAR which stands for Light Detection & Ranging. Lange shared information with the board the reads as follows:
LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of pulse laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses combined with other data recorded by an airborne system, generate precise, three dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.
A LIDAR instrument principally consists of a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver. Airplanes and helicopters are the most commonly used platforms for acquiring LIDAR data over broad areas. Two types of LIDAR are topographic and bathymetric. Topographic LIDAR typically uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric LIDAR uses water-penetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations.
LIDAR systems allow scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and manmade environments with accuracy, precision, and flexibility. NOAA scientists are using LIDAR to produce more accurate shoreline maps, make digital elevation models for use in geographic information systems, to assist in emergency response operations, and in many other applications.
Holm shared examples of maps with the board and discussed funding options for the project through USGS, ND State Water Commission, bordering counties, and the Corps of Engineers at a federal level. Lange and Holm were seeking funding support for LIDAR from the Mercer County Board. Discussion took place over the percentage the county would have to fund, how the data obtained from the LIDAR system would benefit the county and who would have access to this data, the positive effects it would hold for flooding concerns, FEMA requirements, and zoning concerns, and the LIDAR data retrieval start date being sometime in the fall. Commissioner Tveit questioned how the Mercer County Water Board would assist with funding. Lange indicated that this has not really been addressed with the Water Board yet since the information is very new and it would be nice to see how the State Water Board addresses this topic. Holm indicated that from a federal side it is best to look at funding partners and that he is wondering if the county is interested. A contract could begin in August of 2014 upon retrieval of an application from the ND State Water Commission GIS Coordinator, Rod Bassler who could advise and assist the county with the paperwork process. Lange stated that he would call to be added to the June agenda with a Cost Share Request in reference to LIDAR. Further discussion took place over the funding concerns. Lange indicated that the cost share request will begin at the ND State Water Commission and he was hoping to have an example of the cost share request to work from in order to figure out everyone’s share in the project. Commissioner Tveit stated that it would be good for Lange to research this topic and bring back more information to the board at a later date. Lange confirmed that he would research this topic further and bring an update to the April 2, 2014 meeting. No further action was taken.
There being no further business, on motion duly made and second, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 PM CT. The next regular meeting of the commission will be April 2, 2014 at 9:00 AM CT in the courthouse of the Mercer County Courthouse, Stanton, North Dakota.
Approved: Gary Murray, Chairman
Attest: Laura Bakken, Acting Secretary