Insurance, 9-1-1 service and courthouse issues discussed at commissioners meeting

by Nancy Haigh

An aging courthouse, a $32,795 increase for 9-1-1 service and a switch to a new health insurance provider were three of the costly issues that the Haakon County Board of Comimssioners discussed at their Tuesday, May 5, 2008, meeting.

Haakon County and its employees will soon start saving approximatley $5,000 each month with a new health insurance provider. Brad Wilson, Sioux Falls, returned with a price quote from the South Dakota Municpal League's workmen's compensation health insurance pool. Their plan was very close in cost to that presented by Glenn Parsons for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Both plans were nearly $5,000 in savings per month. The commissioners opted to go with the local representative. To insure that the county does not become liable for unpaid medical bills by the current provider, the State Health Insurance Pool, the county will have double coverage for one month. The cost would be approximately $34,000 for that month for the two policies. The board stated they would rather do that then possibly be left with a large bill should an employee have an unforeseen medical crisis.

Doug Pavel and Ted Rufledt from the Emergency Services Communications Center in Rapid City visited with the commissioners regarding their request for an additional $32,795 each year from the Haakon County. The communications center oversees 9-1-1 calls. Pavel stated for the past few years the service agreement only included the 75 cent fee charged for each telephone and cellphone used in Haakon County.

Pavel stated that his board of directors noted that Pennington County residents are currently paying a tax for the service. Rapid City residents also pay an extra tax for the fee. Thus 40 percent of their service is paid for by the surcharge while 60 percent is paid for by the tax. The 9-1-1 board of directors felt all counties and cities should be paying for their service the same way. Pavel noted it would be unfair for the county to shoulder the entire $32,795 cost. He believed that some of that cost could be paid for by residents in the towns and the fire districts within Haakon County. He added that his office could provide a break down of calls from each area to aid the county in setting up the amounts to be paid for from each entity.

Pavel stated that when the system was set up in the 1990s the surcharge was to pay for 40 percent of the cost, but with people getting rid of extra phones the surcharge is not keeping up with the 40 percent.

When Haakon County entered into the agreement with Pennington County in 2003 the surcharge fees collected were $17,985. The ESCC took in 632 Computer Aided Dispatch events. Each emergency is grouped in the CAD events as more than one call is generally made regarding the emergency. By the end of 2007, the fifth year ESCC worked with Haakon County, the surcharge total was $20,100 and the CAD events had increased to 725. The years 2004 and 2005 had 448 and 453 CAD events respectivly.

The increase would take effect with the start of 2009 said Pavel. It would also require a new agreement to be drawn up and signed by all parties. The commissioners will discuss the matter further during the next few months as they begin the 2009 budget discussions.

Eric Hansen of Ken's Refrigeration and Repair, Wall, was contacted by Haakon County Auditor Patricia Freeman in regards to replacing the remaining heating/ cooling units in the courthouse.

Hansen stated that about four or five years ago he replaced half of the units. The remaining 17 would cost, without labor, $36,000. At the same time all the control valves, 34 total, should be replaced at a cost of $9,500. He said the exisitng units are so corroded from bad water that they don't shut off so twice the amount of water is being heated or cooled.

Hansen informed the comissioners that two of the four original bearing pump units are leaking and need to be replaced. The cost of replacing these units is nearly $5,000.

The news continued to be expensive as Hansen informed the board that the existing cooling unit has one compressor out of commission. The company he contacted for a quote on a new compressor had not yet submitted the cost for that. But they did for a new unit at a cost of $44,000. Hansen said he is still hopefull that a different condenser coil or compressor could be obtained as the unit is still manufactured. He said he would return for the June meeting with quotes on these items.

Hansen noted the 40- to 50-year-old boiler is still being used and is heated by fuel oil. It will need to be replaced at some point in the future.

The commissioners gave Hansen the go-ahead to replace the four bearing pump units.

Alex Kulesza from Butler Machinery Company, Rapid City, visited with the commissioners regarding his company's purchase and buy back plans regarding blades.

Haakon County currently has five blades, one is a 1999 model, two are from 2003 and two were purchased in 2004. Kulesza gave the commissioners some good news, the 1999 blade that they purchased for $147,000 is worth about $120,000 on the auction market. The 2003s, which were purchased for $160,000 each are worth approximately $140,000.

Kulesza noted 2008 models are selling for $212,000. He noted the 2009s should be close to that same amount. Haakon County Highway Superintendent Kenny Neville would like to replace the 1999 model before it starts needing repairs. And possibly one of the 2003s if the budget allows.

Gary Storm, Rapid City, South Dakota project supervisor for TransCanada Corporation, informed the commissioners that his company plans to bring an oil pipeline through the area. It will cross Haakon County on its way to Steel City, NE.

Storm said they have already begun to make contacts with landowners in Haakon County. The commissioners noted that they had already been contacted by some of those residents. Storm added that public meetings are planned in which residents can voice their concerns.

Barb Jones and Sonia Nemec approached the commissioners with a request for additional monetary aid for the Midland Library. They asked the board if the county could pay the library's insurance of $471. The board will discuss this during their budget sessions.

The board approved a resolution regarding the policy of wolves in South Dakota. The resolution was submitted by the Meade County Natural Resource Committee.

The wolves were scheduled to be removed from the Federal Endangered Species List this past February. The wolves that were reintroduced to Yellowstone Park have thrived and are beginning to move to other territory. The resolution asks that the wolves be classified as an injurious predatory animal and that they can be removed by anyone, without regard to license or season, if they threaten livestock, pets, or humans in any way.

The commissioners approved the board meeting minutes from the April 1, 2008, regular meeting, the April 8, 2008, equalization and special meetings, and the April 23, 2008 special meeting. They also approved the claims for the past month.

Waterline crossings for Dale Keyser and Bill Slovek were approved. They also approved to surplus a John Deere tractor from the highway department and a Chevy Blazer from the sheriff's department. The items are to be placed on Philip Livestock Auction's consignment auction.

They approved to amend Resolution #2007-02 in which Sheriff Larry Hanes' salary was listed at $2,000 higher than it was suppose to have been.

They approved the expenditure of $640 for improved lighting in the Extension office. Also approved was $750 for part-time office help this summer.

The issuance of a credit card for the sheriff's department was brought up once again. The request was made and denied at the March 2008, meeting. Hanes would like to use the credit card to pay gas and other expenses while transporting prisoners. At that time the commissioners stated that Hanes could turn in his receipts and be reimbursed right away. The commissioners stated that it would be too hard to monitor the credit cards use and if unapproved purchases would be made they would still have to be paid. A debit card, cash and other avenues were discussed. The board ultimately tabled the discussion until the June meeting.

The comissioners approved the contract with the state of South Dakota for the WIC program. A fundraising raffle for a dresser made by Jared Doud was approved.

Meeting attendance was approved for Terry Deuter, Haakon County veteran's service officer for meetings in April, June and August; for Nancy Neville in May; and Rita Merrill in June.

The next regular meeting for the Haakon County Commissioners is Tuesday, June 3, 2008, at 9:00 a.m.