County Sets Salary, Decides Fire Station Issue
Karen Shade - January 17, 2017 8:02 pm
At their second Saline County Commission meeting, newly elected Commissioners Mike White, Jim Weese, Robert Vidricksen and Rodger Sparks had to determine if Rural Fire Department #2 would be allowed to proceed with building a second fire station, near Assaria. They also had to decide on salaries.
Frustrated at being given a breakdown of proposed building costs during the morning study session, Commissioners initially voted to deny RFD#2′ request to proceed with building the station. After the Open Forum, Commissioners reconvened and dissected the processes that had been used. Given the district had been advised of a 9% increase in building materials if a contract wasn’t signed by the 19th, and that the bank’s financing offer would adversely change on the 24th, Commissioners later unanimously gave approval for the RFD#2 to proceed.
The 2016 Commission, consisting of Shadwick, Jim Gile, John Price, Dave Smith and Luci Larson approved a “design build” project for a second RFD#2 station for $800,000. At that time, RFD #2 didn’t have financing. The proposed building initially appraised at far less than the $800,000 building price, in part because financers didn’t understand RFD#2’s efforts to build an “essential structure” (which has special features, because of its role in maintaining public safety).
Later, the 2016 Commission considered a “lease purchase agreement”. Financers wanted RFD#2 to put down 10% of the requested funding. RFD#2 officials again appeared before the Commission to see if the County could help them meet that requirement. On their own, RFD#2 officials then secured permission from financers to be able to count the value of previously accomplished activities as part of this down payment (which includes acquiring and swapping land and seeking architectural design). Being in a new fiscal year gives RFD#2 more flexibility.
When asked why the building’s square footage costs are high, Chief Calvin Kelsey said the building is designed to withstand winds in excess of 170 miles per hour. Additional concrete is needed to support the weight of the equipment; drains must include an sand-oil separator basin. An emergency power generator will keep some parts functioning in a power disruption.
Commissioners asked questions about RFD#4 and the City of Assaria’s own separate fire station. They questioned why the City had decided not to continue leasing the present building to RFD#2. Deputy Chief Dave Sommerfeld said the present building is inadequate for RFD#2’s needs.
Sparks commented that when the previous set of commissioners noticed problems, they should have “stopped it in its tracks”. Kelsey confirmed the 2016 Commissioners did stop RFD#2 from proceeding and that they “got bids” for the architectural design. Sommerfeld said RFD#2 kept Commissioners “in the loop, we came in and informed them; there wasn’t a lot of guidance”. Shadwick expressed concern that RFD#2’s budget left little room for other purchases for 5 to 7 years. Kelsey said RFD#2 would have to “watch what it spends” but said their annual building payment would be $68,000 of a projected $174,000 annual budget.
During the second study session, County Counselor Mike Montoya said RFD#2 would likely have to pay the general contractor for activities completed up to this point, even though RFD #2 had not yet been billed for these activities. White wondered if grants or donors might have been used to build the desired station.
Shadwick said the process was “far down the road”. He attributed some of the challenges to RFD#2 officials telling an architect and contractor what they were willing to spend for a second station, as opposed to using the county’s bid policies.
Upon reflecting on the possible results of another round of bids, especially in light of increasing construction and financing costs, and after considering the costs RFD#2 has already incurred, the Commission voted unanimously to reconsider their earlier decision. They then unanimously gave approval for RFD#2 to proceed with the plan they had outlined.
Commissioners Set Their Pay
Acting on a compromise offered by White, Commissioners voted 3-2 to set their pay at $18,700/year. White said he averaged the pay earned by 2016 Commissioners. Last year, former commissioners Gile and Price earned in excess of $28,000/year while former commissioners Smith and Larson, along with Shadwick, earned less than $12,000/year. Commissioner salaries will again be reconsidered next year.
Vidricksen said he campaigned that he was seeking office to fulfill his civic responsibility. He felt an annual salary of $12,000/year was adequate. Shadwick said he wanted to set one salary for all five Commissioners. Vidricksen and Shadwick voted against White’s compromise figure of $18,700/year.
Commissioners formally confirmed plans to hold their televised Open Forum at 9:00 AM Tuesday in room 107 of the City-County Building. Once this agenda is completed, the Commission will move to room 107B to conduct study sessions until the day’s business is completed.
The Commission’s present office will be converted into an office for Planning and Zoning. Two sanitarians will join David Neal in the new space, while an assistant will take the office that had been previously used by the Commission’s former secretary. Commissioners will be able to use an office within the Administrative Resources Center. Plans are to locate two or possibly three desks to this room.
City-County Building Authority
Demolition of the bridge connecting the second floor of the City-County Building with the Robert Caldwell Plaza is more than half completed. The $169,000 demolition was necessitated after a plan to re-surface the bridge uncovered serious deterioration caused by salt-saturated rebar and concrete. Some of the granite that has been removed will be used to re-build the retaining wall.
Todd Heitschmidt, Court Services Administrator, will continue in his role as Chair of the Building Authority. Rodger Sparks was elected as vice-chair. Karl Ryan was elected as treasurer. Melissa Hodges was elected secretary, while the County’s Lynda Johnson will continue to serve as recording secretary. Loren Harris will continue as “member at large”. To accommodate the County’s planned change in meeting times, in the future, the Building Authority will begin meeting at 8:00 AM, typically on the third Tuesday of the month.
- Approved the low bid of $293,376 by King Construction to construct a 3 span concrete haunched slab bridge on Mentor Road, as it crosses West Gypsum Creek, 0.3 miles west of Niles Road.
- Discussed the pros and cons of formally adopting some kind of parliamentary procedure system by resolution.
- Discussed possible changes to an inter-local agreement involving the Drug Task Force. The County has insured forfeiture vehicles; the City has proposed to change this.
- Proclaimed January as National Stalking Awareness Month for Saline County.
- Proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month for Saline County.
- Heard proposed changes to county policies. If adopted, the full commission would likely not conduct interviews for department heads; Shadwick said that this had contributed to the County being sued more than once in recent years. The purchasing limit, for items already in a department’s budget, that would then have to come before the commission for final approval might increase from $3,000 to $10,000. Staff would no longer have to obtain approval to apply for grants; the Commission would still vote on whether to accept grants. Employee policies related to termination, leaves of absence, and pay plan changes might first go through the County Administrator and Human Resources Director, instead of the Commissioners. Commissioners would continue to be the final officials to hear grievances.
- Were encouraged, for archival purposes, to receive county related e-mails on their “saline.org” e-mail accounts. If they opened county related e-mails at another address, they were encouraged to cc the message to the “saline.org” address.