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County Commissioners discuss additional space needs

By Jennifer Harms

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners met in the Commission Meeting Room, Thursday, November 10. Members present in the meeting room were Jim Jibben, Jim Schmidt, and Joel Arends. Commissioner Michael Poppens joined the meeting via conference call.

Erin Johnson and Meghan Bush joined the Commissioners’ meeting to discuss with the Board an increase in pay for the Board members.

“At the time the joint board was created, in 2007, the amount set for the pay for the lay board members was $32 per hour,” Johnson said.

The board members make the determination for commitment or release during a mental illness hearing.

“We are asking that you increase the pay for these individuals,” Johnson said.

No increase in pay has been approved in the time that the board has been created. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, all mental illness meetings have taken place over Zoom calls with Board members being present through the Zoom call.

“The county has saved money since the pandemic with the county not having to pay mileage at all for these calls,” Johnson said.

With these mileage cost savings, the group is wanting to use the money saved to increase wages.

“We would like to ask for $75 per hour, but we are going to ask for $64 per hour which would double it,” Johnson said.

There have been no cost of living adjustments since the two members and three alternates began. There are generally one to two hearings per week for members with no determined amount of time the hearing may last. The group hopes that the additional pay increase will help them to find more alternates who can be called upon to serve when needed. The group currently uses retired nurses, police workers, and others who have background knowledge of mental illness.

“This is certainly a critical need as you are dealing with people’s lives and mental illness situations which unfortunately are increasing and not decreasing and you are going to need all the expertise that you can find,” said Commissioner Schmidt.

Motion to approve the pay increase to $64 per hour made by Schmidt, seconded by Jibben. Motion approved.

William Golden joined the meeting to discuss appointing two commissioners to address the space needs at the courthouse.

“Since the courts have informed us they are going to use the commissioner room for the courtroom, and there is going to be another judge down here, it raises the issue of space needs in the courthouse of where that judge is going to be housed,” Golden said.

There are additional space needs for various departments in the courthouse. Schmidt and Arends both volunteered to take the issue on. Commissioner Arends wanted to clear up the hours of the new judge with Golden.

“Beginning in January the Minnehaha County Courthouse will no longer be available to us, and I believe around 1,000 cases have been held there in their courtroom and they will all be coming back to Lincoln County,” Golden said.

With case numbers on the rise, the court is going to need more space to complete their work eventually.

“It is only going to expand and I would guess the next place would be the multi-purpose room downstairs to convert into more space as it is needed if it comes to that,” Golden said.

The board thanked Golden for his time and will begin to look into the space issue.

Sheriff Steve Swenson joined the commissioners’ meeting to discuss with the board the purchase of five 2023 Chevrolet Tahoes for the department and one Dodge Charger for the jail division. All six vehicles are within the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office budget for the fiscal year. The five Tahoes will come from Karl’s Chevrolet and cost $41,502 each. The Charger will come from Wegner Automotive and will cost $34,888. Motion made by Schmidt, second by Jibben. Motion approved.

Linda Montgomery joined the public comment portion of the meeting to discuss getting access to logs from previous elections.

“All we want is the public information data that is on the tabulation machine,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery feels strongly about getting the information of the results to the public from previous elections and wants more clarification as to how to get access to the information.

“The taxpayers paid for the machine and the data on the machine. With no one’s name on the data, we deserve the information,” she said.

The Lincoln County Commissioners will meet again on Tuesday, Nov. 22.


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