Personnel, budget, and campground highlight Haakon County Commissioners meeting

Last Tuesday's July 11th Haakon County Commissioner's meeting was highlighted by unexpected claims, a resignation and a proposed new campground.

During the reading of the claims that were payable were two submitted by Auditor Shirley Dennis. Dennis was seeking restitution of $100 for damage to her car. On June 6, election day, Dennis was posting notices on local businesses reminding residents that the polling place at the fire hall had been moved to the courthouse. A deer hit the car, damaging the car's windshield and body. Commissioner Mel Smith asked Dennis why she hadn't used the county's car. She replied that she did not know if she had the board's approval to use the vehicle.

Dennis' second claim was in the amount of $560 for attorney fees that occurred early last fall following an incident in which she re-moved Emergency Management items from the ambulance office and the former Emergency Management Director's personal vehicle.

At the July 11th meeting, Dennis said she believed that the Haakon County States Attorney gave her bad advice in regards to hiring her own attorney. She noted that she believed Ralph Kemnitz should have been representing her as well as the commissioners during the fact-finding meeting October 19.

The commissioners withheld payment of the two claims until Commissioner Mel Smith could speak with Kemnitz as to legal questions regarding the claims. Dennis requested that two witnesses be present during the meeting.

Community Health Nurse Lynn Buchholz surprised the commissioner with her resignation. Buchholz' last day will be July 19. She informed the board that it could be, at minimum, two months before the position is filled. Coreen Roseth, secretary to Buchholz, will remain and direct people as needed.

Ray Smith and Dean Fitzgerald, members of the Philip Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Committee, along with Doug Hauk, presented the commissioners with a proposal to improve a campground area along Lake Waggoner, near the golf course.

Smith noted that people camp there often, as well as along the beach area. He said it would be better to have people not camping on the beach as it limits access for other purposes.

The proposed campground would be termed "primitive" with only electrical boxes. No sewer or water would be available. Smith noted that when the golf course builds its new structure, access to the building's showers and restroom facilities would be available for campers.

Hauk presented a conceptual drawing that some of the FFA students had put together for one of their projects. He explained that there would be just four electrical hook-ups. Those four hook-ups would be on two electrical posts. The area could be expanded later with more electrical hook-ups.

Smith and Fitzgerald said that, once the area was developed, the maintenance and management would be turned over to the golf course. The economic development group has a $5,000 grant from Golden West Telecommunications that will be used for the project.

The men said the county would not be any more liable for the area than they currently are, and maybe even less. They also assured the commissioners that the campground would not be in competition with other local camping sites within the town of Philip, since the lake campground would be without sewer and water amenities.

The commissioners gave their stamp of approval for the project by approving a 99-year lease with the golf course for the campground.

Board Chairman Don Eymer introduced the topic regarding the Game, Fish and Parks' purchase of land in Spearfish Canyon. GFP plans to purchase the land with money that was set aside for riparian clean-up of Whitewood Creek, the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne rivers. Homestake Gold Mine set aside funds with the State of South Dakota for clean up of the creek and rivers after dumping arsenic and other mill waste into Whitewood Creek.

Eymer noted that Lawrence and Meade counties have already passed resolutions against the use of the money for purchasing the land from the Homestake Gold Mine. He stressed that no one is against the purchase of the land, just the funds they plan on using to purchase the land.

The purchase effects Haakon County as the Cheyenne River is the county's northern border. If the arsenic is stirred up in the river and clean-up money is not there, landowners along the river could be in trouble.

The commissioners noted that they have no say over what GFP does, that would be a state legislative matter, but they could go on record as disapproving the use of the clean-up funds. Commissioner Neal "Obie" Brunskill motioned to approve a resolution stating their disapproval of the fund use. Lawrence Schofield seconded the motion. All were in favor.

Kenny Neville, County Highway Superintendent, discussed the emergency bridge replacement near the Dick Williams place northeast of Philip. He said the South Dakota Department of Transportation has approved a double concrete box culvert to be used to replace the bridge that recently failed inspection. A contractor has been approved to submit a bid on the project, which is estimated at $180,000. The contractor's bid will still have to be accepted before work can commence on the bridge replacement.

Neville added that the road will be closed while construction is in progress. He has checked with local landowners and they stated their approval for the road closure. The commissioners unanimously passed a motion giving a formal approval for the closure. The county could have spent an additional $10,000 to make a detour around the work site. The county will be reimbursed with federal funds for all monies spent on the project.

Neville updated the board on the Wheeler road project. The project is to replace two miles of bad road with one mile of good road by coming off of Highway 73 at a different location. Currently, the part of the road is an abandoned state highway that turned southeast after crossing the Bad River. That part of the road is not part of the county highway system, although the county has maintained the road since it was abandoned.

Due to increases in fuel costs, the project cost has jumped considerably. Neville, working with SDDOT, had planned to let the project for bids this fall, but with the increase in cost he wanted the board's direction. Neville was concerned that the project's cost would continue to increase if they didn't go ahead as planned. Smith motioned to go ahead with the project and borrow funds from the 2008 STP funds. These funds are used for road projects. The county also has the option to let the STP account grow as long as the money is designated for a certain project. If the money is not designated and continues to build, other counties can draw the money. The motion passed and the bid process will continue as planned.

The commissioners spent the afternoon meeting with department heads and reviewing budget proposals.

In other business the commissioners:

•approved minutes from the June meetings and payment of claims;

•approved a jail contract with the City of Winner;

•approved a number of meetings for county personnel and commissioners;

•approved a raffle request by the Philip Volunteer Fire Department;

•approved the hiring of Brad Decker as a county highway employee;

•were informed that Sheriff's Deputy Mark Foley will be leaving for duty overseas;

•approved a water and sewer line crossing for Barbara Sloat; and

•approved for courthouse custodian Nancy Neville to restrict watering on the courthouse lawn.