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County Commissioners’ meeting creates discussion about community development

The August 2nd Haakon County Commissioners’ meeting drew quite a few people as both plans for a new library and ambulance hall were discussed.

Ted Haeder of the Central Enhancement District in Pierre sought approval from the commissioners and feedback from members of the public gathered at the meeting. Among those present were members of the Midland ambulance crew, who were curious as to how the new ambulance hall in Philip was going to be funded and other clarifications.

The commissioners approved a motion to apply for a $125,000 Community Development Block Grant for the estimated $225,000 project. This type of grant can only be applied for by a city or county government. Due to the fact that the city is in the process of applying for their own grant for a sewer and street project, Philip Ambulance applied for their grant through the county. Philip Ambulance Service must have money to match the funds from the grant before the application will be approved and construction started. Neither the county nor taxpayers will be responsible for giving financial support to the project; the rest of the money will come from the Philip Ambulance Service.

Haeder said that the city has not made their application yet for the sewer and street project, but once the application is approved they will have 18 months to complete it. “We hope to complete the two projects in the same time frame,” Haeder said.

Commissioner Mel Smith asked Don Weller and Marty Hansen, who were representing the Philip Ambulance Service, if they could foresee the county needing to take over the ambulance and new hall in the future. Weller responded by saying that unless all of their current 25 paid volunteers were to quit, retire, or leave under other circumstances that would not be a problem. “Payments won’t be that large,” Weller said.

The new 5,000 square foot building would include 3,600 square feet on the main floor and a finished space above that. The space would be utilized by members of the Philip Ambulance Crew who are on call, especially during busy times and bad weather. In regards to the fire hall, Fire Chief Marty Hansen said that it would be filled with trucks that are currently sitting outside due to a lack of space.

Annie Brunskill, president of the Haakon County Public Library Board, and other members of the library board were also at the meeting seeking approval from the commissioners to look more closely into plans for a new library.

“We need to know and not just keep talking it up,” Brunskill said. She also said that a space needs analysis was done to determine the amount of books, shelving and work space needed for the library. The estimated size of the library would be 5,100 square feet at a cost of $125 per square foot. This cost would include furniture in a proposed “plain Jane Butler building.” “We’ll try to get all the grants we can find,” Brunskill said.

Brunskill passed around photos of what the proposed building could look like. Commissioner Smith said that he was impressed with the picture. “I would like to see it out on the front lawn of the courthouse,” he said.

The courthouse lawn is one of the proposed building sites, all of which would be located beside the courthouse to give library patrons access to the bathrooms in the courthouse. Commissioners Neal “Obie” Brunskill and Lawrence Schofield were in favor of the plans, too, and wanted to know more about estimated maintenance and salary costs. “Go ahead and pursue it. See what you can come up with,” Schofield told Annie Brunskill.

County Executive Officer of the Farm Service Agency Duke Westerberg and the commissioners discussed weeds and how the two groups could work together to solve weed problems and help area farmers and ranchers.

Westerberg clarified for the commissioners that his office works with problems on base acres, but not on draws and pastures. He also questioned whether or not the county had budgeted money for the weed program. The commissioners reassured him that money was put aside for the program and there are plans to mow and spray for Canadian thistle, especially. “I don’t have the time and people to go out looking around all the fields,” Westerberg said.

Westerberg suggested that it would be best if the county and his office worked together, and the county continue to back county weed supervisor Virgil Smith. Obie Brunskill agreed that something had to be done about the weed problem, stating that it gets a lot of lip service but no action.

In other business, the commissioners:

•appointed Commissioner Brunskill to the Fair Board;

•approved raffles for First National Bank’s Cowpokes for Cure Relay For Life team and the Midland See & Do Hobby Club;

•approved the attendance of Kevin Graber at an annual meeting in Pierre, Aug. 29 to Sept. 1; Rita Merrill at the DOE District Meeting Sept. 4, in Pierre; officers and commissioners at a convention in Pierre, Sept. 19 to 21; and Kenny Neville at a meeting in Huron, Aug. 3;

•discussed the new draft of the employee manual and possible nominations for the 2005 County Achievement Award;

•approved requests by Auditor Shirley Dennis to get a dump truck to remove and haul away valueless items, and to advertise items for sale, and Kevin Graber for a schedule change;

•approved the hiring of Coreen Roseth as the new health nurse secretary; and

•worked on the budget after an hour-long break for lunch.