Budget and liquor license issues discussed by Haakon County Commissioners last Tuesday

Trimming the budget through insurance and liquor license requests stymied the Haakon County  Commission at their meeting Tuesday, September 6.

Bart and Marcy Ramsey, owners of South Fork Ranch, a pheasant preserve and hunting location west of Philip, submitted an application for a county liquor license. Auditor Patsy Freeman said the county can have four liquor licenses based on the county's rural population. At present, three of the licenses are used.

Freeman said Ramseys could apply for a $500 state hunting license, which is good for six months, September 1 through March 31. The spring turkey season is not included in these months. Instead, she said, they decided to apply for a county license for $200 that would be good year round.

Commissioner Rita O'Connell said it had been explained to her by B. Ramsey that they are not allowed by law to even put beer in their lodge's fridge without a license. She said Ramseys are not selling it.

Commission Chairman Gary Snook said that there are other outfitters in Haakon County. "(I) don't see how we can do it for him and not all. Let him get the hunting license." Freeman asked as to who the others were. Snook said, "Mine, Neuhausers, Hanrahans, West's."

Discussion also centered around keeping the liquor license open in case a steakhouse-type of business was to open up outside the city limits of Philip or Midland. The board tabled discussion until later in the afternoon when State's Attorney Gay Tollefson could be present.

Chad Ramsey approached the board at about 2:30 to discuss the license. He said his parents received information about the new law about two months ago, and they are looking to be in compliance. He said his parents would like the year round license from the county as they host wedding receptions, reunions, and other things year round. "The license has been there a long time, no one needed it," he said. "It may never be used... ." He said his parents' hunting business brings in business to Philip and Haakon County. His dad also spent a lot of money in the county building up the business, said Ramsey

The board asked Tollefson and Freeman if the county would lose that fourth license if their population decreased according to the 2010 census figures. They asked if it could be lost if it was in use prior to the decrease in population. Tollefson said she would research the laws and report back to the board.

The board went on to discuss a special three-day license for September 8-10 submitted by Doug West for the Philip Arena Association. On a recent application drawn up by Tollefson it was required for the applicant to provide proof of liquor liability insurance. O'Connell said, West stated that liquor liability was not required by the state so entities do not carry it.

Tollefson said that was correct, but the county could require it if they so desired. Glenn Parsons, Farm Bureau Financial Services agent, said for his company it costs the insurance holder an extra $100 to have someone's name added, but the county could ask for a certificate for proof of insurance. The county decided to amend their license application to require the certificate.

They then approved the three-day license contingent that the association provide the certificate.

County employees met with the commission to discuss a budget proposal that could possibly save the county upwards of $100,000. The proposal involves cutting the employees' insurance benefits. The proposal in the provisional budget is based on the county paying for 80 percent of the employee's insurance and they would pay the other 20 percent. The county would also no longer pay for the spouse nor family insurance. The employee would be allowed to pay for them on the same plan, though.

Snook said the county's general fund is down to zero dollars, and that they have had to borrow from the capital outlay fund just to meet payroll expenses the last month or two. "With the opt-out money, the wheel tax and motor v (vehicle) we barely break even," said Snook. We need to cut the budget $150,000, he said. "Two years ago we knew we were going to come to this," he said. Two years ago, two options were brought up, cut 10 percent across the board or insurance, Snook said.

Parsons, the board and the employees discussed other possible insurance options, such as a higher deductible, the county paying 100 percent of the employee insurance while the employee picks up their family or spouse,

Val Williams, high department assistant, said she researched what other South Dakota counties did for insurance. "Most counties pay 100 percent of employee's insurance. Some pay part of spouse, some don't."

Commissioner Steve Clements asked if it would be possible to give each employee a set dollar amount in their pay to use for their own insurance if the employee so chose. Parsons said the county would have to be careful, because they have to have 75 percent of their employees insured by the company or the county would lose the group rate.

Register of Deeds Traci Radway said, "You have to be careful what burdens you are putting on your employees. We also have limits on where we can come up with extra money."

Snook said that a lot of people don't understand that the county has to pay for a lot of state mandated programs. "We'd love to cut them, but we can't," he said. Snook said he was also frustrated that many county residents don't understand, how dire the county's financial situation is.

The commission discussed several insurance options with Parsons, including varying deductible rates and who is insured and to what extent. The commission decided to utilize the 80/20 option, with a $1,500 deductible and also pay for spouse and family insurance.

The board received one bid for the Hardingrove Road slide area project. O'Connell Construction, Philip, bid the project at $75,000. Highway Superintendent Kenny Neville stated the bid calls for lowering the road five to six feet, but it also states that if it is decided that the road needs to be lowered further, it will be done at the bid price. The board approved the bid with O'Connell abstaining from the vote.

Neville informed the board that both the newer blades are in for repairs as is the Midland based blade. Other equipment that have been or need repairs are their pickups, the loader and the Freightliner semi.

Nevile said he had hired one employee to fill one of the two open positions. The Midland position has not been filled.

Prior to insurance discussion with the employees Freeman presented the board with insurance information from Association of School Boards of South Dakota. Snook said that it had been decided that the board was going to stay with Parsons. Freeman brought up the proposed insurance quote. O'Connell said she questioned if the board wanted to go into this now, after two months ago deciding to stay with Parsons. Snook and Commissioner Nick Konst said they did not want to. O'Connell said, "We need to fine tune our policy. (I) don't think jumping the fence and going with another provider, I don't think we need to do this now."

Freeman said that the sheriff's reports were not being done nor had he turned any collected monies into the treasurer for months. "Remember last year we got written up for this,?" she said. Treasurer Patti Rhodes noted that monies had been turned in up to April, but none since then. Snook said he would speak to Haakon County Sheriff Mel Smith about these items. Freeman also said that Smith had changed his certification class attendance from the August start to the class that starts in November. She said he had one year to be certified, but that won't happen with the class in November.

The board approved meeting minutes from July 15 and August 2 and warrants for the past month. Annie Brunskill, librarian was approved to attend a library conference in Spearfish October 5-7. An automatic supplement for weed budget grants was approved.

The board entered into an 18-minute executive session to discuss personnel matters. No action was taken.

The board held a special meeting Tuesday, September 13, to discuss the budget. Their next regular meeting is Tuesday, October 4, at 1:00 p.m.