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County commission approves budget, 2-1

Commissioner Novak casts dissenting vote

Staff writer

For all the debate about tax levies and allocation of funds over the past month, the county commission’s budget passed Monday with relatively little discussion.

The budget hearing, which preceded the county commission meeting, lasted just over 20 minutes.

A motion was made by commissioner Randy Dallke to accept the budget as proposed. Commissioner Kent Becker seconded and the budget passed 2-1, with chairman Dianne Novak opposed.

A request was made by county economic development chairman Clint Seibel that the county serve as processor for payroll and benefits of the group’s prospective executive director.

“This would be a county employee,” he said. “We would sign the agreement to take oversight of that individual and work with that person day-to-day.”

If the commission hires a director for the group, the group’s bylaws must be rewritten first, counselor Brad Jantz said.

The package for the employee would be around $60,000 in salary, with another $12,000 in incentives, but the numbers are not set in stone, Seibel said.

One of the concerns for Novak is that the neighboring communities have either stopped paying dues or plan to in 2019. This would make the county the sole financial backer.

“Realize that right now you may have a little pot of money, but in this project we’re looking at going well past just right now,” she said. “The other stakeholders pulling out looks pretty grim.”

Jantz will meet with Seibel later in the week to discuss details. No motion was made.

Darren Neufeld of EBH Engineering later addressed the commission to give an update on park utilities.

A change order was presented for the lake’s waterline improvements project. As outlined, a change in hydrants would lower expenses from $86,059.50 to $74,060.50. The motion passed unanimously.

Nuefeld was on hand to discuss cracks on 330th Rd also. He will do core sampling to determine whether the cracks will be problematic. No motion was passed

Two representatives from National Renewable Solutions (NRS) and several residents of the county were present to give their opinions on the proposed conditional use permits for meteorological towers.

The permits were classified under the Expedition Wind project and were passed unanimously.

Tom Britain, who lives near one of the sites, said some residents were unhappy with their lease agreements.

“I don’t know if they have or not, but they do want to get out of them,” Britain said. “They thought they were kind of cornswaggled into getting it the first time.”

The reception by those in the area has been positive, NRS president and CEO Pat Pelstring said. The company is already pursuing several new agreements with landowners.

“Discussions have been ongoing with landowners out there for three or four months,” he said. “We’ve signed 5,000 acres of new leases already. It appears that there’s interest in going forward.”

Like Britain, Randy Eitzen was another landowner from near the sites who did not attempt to hide his disapproval.

“Years from now, if this wind energy thing doesn’t work out, it’s really going to hurt that land a lot,” Eitzen said. “I think food’s going to become more of a critical issue than energy is anyway.”

Pelstring is constructing the towers with the eventual intent of building turbines in the area, but it is not a given.

A meeting was held Tuesday evening at Aulne Methodist Church for landowners and Pelstring to discuss lease agreements.

Planning and Zoning presented a proposal for an unnamed road on Marion lake to be vacated. The road is unused and cuts through the yards of two residents. The proposal passed unanimously.

A 10-minute executive session was held to discuss non-elected personnel. The members present were the county commissioners, Planning and Zoning Director Emma Tajchman, county clerk Tina Spencer and Jantz.

Following the first session, the commission approved Tajchman’s resignation, as she had accepted a position elsewhere in Marion.

Following the executive session, a second session was held to discuss potential litigation for attorney/client consultation. All previous members were present, with the addition of Planning and Zoning assistant Sharon Omstead. The session was extended for an additional five minutes with the same people present.

Last modified Aug. 23, 2018

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