The county commission met Sept. 22 with much discussion on the 2021 budget and the proposed public safety center.
Commission meetings can now be found on the county’s YouTube channel.
In a meeting that lasted more than five hours, the commissioners heard from four Tea residents about their opposition to the proposed public safety center that would go on the southeast side of Tea. Citizens thought the center could be done more fiscally responsibly, did not want it in their backyard and thought the board could be more transparent.
Commissioner Dave Gillespie presented the commission with multiple emails he, and most of the commissioners, had received about opposition to the public safety center. He noted this was a contentious issue. He said the buildable area on the 154 acres that the commission wants to purchase is 30-50 acres. Nine Mile Creek runs through the property.
Commissioner Jim Schmidt talked about how building there and having the developer remove dirt from the property would create a detention area and would help alleviate flooding. Commissioner Joel Arends said that in any of the meetings he sat in on they did not talk about flood control. Chair Mike Poppens said there is documentation from 2014 and beyond that shows improvement on Nine Mile Creek.
Arends questioned whether Poppens had asked Harr & Lemme what they thought engineering costs would be. Poppens said they did not share specific costs with him. He also noted that they could not talk about things that were brought up in executive session unless everyone agreed. No information was revealed from executive session.
Gillespie moved to rescind the land purchase. Arends seconded. The motion failed 3-2.
Since the land purchase was not in the 2020 budget, the commission had to approve a supplement that would come out of fund balance. Arends questioned auditor Marlene Sweeter about the budget in regards to the supplement. She noted that each commissioner receives a revenue and expenses report that shows them how much money has been spent and what the budget is. The supplement was approved 3-2.
The commission interviewed seven possible architecture firms the week of Sept. 14. Commissioner Tiffani Landeen noted that there was no one from the public present at these interviews. They saw impressive buildings from the presenters.
Arends and Gillespie wanted to table the motion to select an architect until after the bond was voted in November. Schmidt noted that as a voter he would want to know exactly how much the project would cost rather than going off of a statement of up to $50 million. Landeen said they would be spending as little as possible.
The commission approved going with Elevatus Architecture from Fort Wayne, Ind.
They spent a lot of time discussing changes to the provisional budget. Changes included a $32,000 reduction on health insurance, leaving money in to purchase a skid steer, cut travel by $32,000, changing the proposed county manger to a commission assistant with a reduction to $70,000 salary and county employees would get a 1 percent increase in cost of living raise plus a 2.5 percent step if they qualify according to the employee handbook.
They discussed pay for elected officials at the end of the meeting. They went through eight motions before settling on no adjustment in salaries for elected officials, so it stays the same as what was in the provisional budget.
The commission set a public meeting at the 4-H Complex at the new fairgrounds north of Lennox at 27711 SD HWY 17, Lennox, Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
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