County commissioners award road project bid and meet with county employees

by Nancy Haigh

The Haakon County Board of Commissioners received a nice surprise during their Thursday, November 9th meeting.

The road project slated for next year south of Philip came in at over $200,000 under the engineer's estimate of $600,000. The one mile project will connect to Highway 73 and replace two miles of hard-to-maintain road. The road to be replaced is part of old Highway 73 that was abandoned after the newer section was rebuilt in the mid-1960s. The county has maintained the road since it was abandoned, but it is not owned by the county.

At the July 2006 commissioner's meeting, the county approved to proceed with the project and borrow against 2008 STP funds. With the bids coming in so far under the estimate, the county will not have to use those funds. Existing monies along with the 2007 STP monies will fund the project.

Bidding on the project were AGE Corporation, Ft. Pierre, SD - $386,329.25; Bates Construction, Twin Brooks, SD - $460,323.39; Foothills Contracting, Webster, SD - $527,696.32; Gossard Dirt Work, New Underwood, SD - $552,582.60; and Lidel Contruction, Chester, SD - $549,907.12. Laurie Schultz of Brosz Engineering, Inc., Pierre, recommended that the commissioners accept the low bid from AGE contingent upon the South Dakota Department of Transport-ation's acceptance of the bid and verification of all the figures submitted.

Courthouse employees met with the board regarding the commissioners' decision in October to have all courthouse employees use a time clock. The commissioners were following a recommendation by the state auditor to have employees record their hours. Haakon County Treasurer Patti Rhodes was the spokesperson for the group. She noted that The Pioneer Review story of the October meeting reported that the commissioners were reprimanded for the employees not using a time clock. Rhodes stated the auditor only recommended recording the hours. Rhodes also noted that elected officials do not have to use a time clock or record their hours according to state law.

Rhodes said that in the past four years there have been many changes in policies. She added that she felt "... some commissioners are trying to micro-manage our offices." She added, "You can't tell me what to do. You can't tell any of the officers what to do. We are elected officials."

Rhodes said the offices on the second floor of the courthouse received a memo about the time clock use that was to start November 1, along with the offices to be open during the noon hour. She said the commissioners did not act in accordance with legal statues when they discussed the time clock issue. She said it had to be on the agenda to be discussed, so that people could attend the meeting to discuss the issue.

Commissioner Lawrence Schofield stated he believed theuse of a time clock would be to the advantage of the employees. Rhodes noted, "The county officials aren't going to punch the time clock."

Commissioner Neal Brunskill asked, "Why are you set against punching in?" Haakon County Register of Deeds Karyl Sandal asked what would be the purpose of using the time clock. Brunskill replied, "For accountability, for uniformity, for raises, for new people. This idea that you are not responsible to the commissioners is wrong. You are responsible to the commissioners and the taxpayers." Rhodes stated, "Yes, to the taxpayers. If we don't punch the time clock, what are you going to do?" Brunskill stated, "We can't make you, but it would be to your benefit."

Commissioner Rita O'Connell noted through their business the time recorded is used to calculate workman's compensation insurance. It also gives the employer a record of hours worked, hours of vacation, and hours out of the office. She believed if this was recorded the county's premium paid out for workman's comp insurance could be decreased.

The employees and commissioners also discussed keeping the county offices open during the lunch hour. The employees discussed the logistics of this and it would work if everyone was there, but during times of vacation and sickness it would be a hardship on the employees.

The commissioners decided not to implement the time clock immediately, but will review and research the matter further.

The commissioners approved waterline crossings for Jerry Nemec and Les Pearson. Pearson was also granted an easement for a waterline crossing. The commissioners approved a plat for West River/Lyman-Jones and an easement with the Dick Williams family.

Konst Machine and Welding was given the go-ahead to construct and install a metal ladder in the elevator pit. The cost to the county would be just over $200.

They approved two automatic supplements in the amounts of $4,500 and $2,084.08 for a grants. The commissioners approved for the county offices to be closed Friday, November 24, the day following Thanksgiving, if the state offices were also closed.

The commissioners' next meeting will be Tuesday, December 5, 2006.