County raises reach $98,000; meeting agenda gets chaotic, long Tuesday
By Sarah Smith
In a somewhat surreptitious move, the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners gave two department heads a $48,000 raise Tuesday afternoon.
That comes on the heels of a $50,000 hike the board voted in a move to fill the duties of retired Solid Waste Manager Vern Massie, and two weeks after an Enterprise article touted the efficiency and savings of the county in consolidating various positions into the amalgamation of several offices into the Land Records Department.
Tuesday, the co-chairs of that department, Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf and Recorder Nicole Lueth, each received a $24,000 hike in salary, retroactive to May 7.
That move troubled County Attorney Don Dearstyne. He questioned what the qualifications and educational background was for each candidate and why, if the positions are co-equal, Buitenwerf makes around $10,000 more than Lueth. His base salary was higher to start with.
The item was scheduled on the agenda for 12:45 p.m. but the board frequently takes agenda items out of order.
It actually came before the board sometime after 4:30 p.m., when neither of Hubbard County’s two newspapers was present.
“Where’s the savings?” Dearstyne wondered Thursday night, declining further comment, except to say he would be asking for raises for his two assistant attorneys.
“They work nights, weekends, 65 hours a week,” he said of assistants Erika Randall and Jonathan Frieden.
Tuesday’s schedule did not go as planned. A public hearing on geothermal heating, which has been a highly controversial topic, was only allotted 15 minutes and ran 96.
The closed door meeting to evaluate Lee Gwiazdon, maintenance supervisor, was actually postponed due to time constraints.
The county’s architect and engineers waited in the hallway nearly two hours to give an update on Phase 2 of the courthouse renovation. A meeting that should have ended at 3:30 went until 6:36 p.m., according to the board summary.
The Northwoods Press, the county’s official newspaper, has not attended two meetings lately. When meetings were moved to Tuesdays, the Enterprise rarely attends Tuesday morning sessions because reporters are busy laying out the paper.
Dearstyne also questioned whether inefficient use of time is causing per diem expenses to mount up for commissioners.
In other business, the board:
n Voted to spend $600 to frame commissioners portraits for the boardroom. That was a savings of $800 from the estimated cost of $1,400.
n Reported the July 8 timber auction sold 22 of 23 tracts, for $447,342.66.
n Accepted donation of a handicapped accessible van from a dying West Fargo man, who donated the 1995 Chevrolet Beauville so the county could transport veterans to physician appointments. The van will also be used to transport other wheelchair-dependent citizens. The van will belong to the Heartland Transit Program.
n Completed a purchase of service agreement to provide Fiscal Supervisor training to Beltrami County for $25 a day plus meals and travel, up to three days a week.
n Approved a purchase of service contract with Rosemary Mills to provide nursing services to the jail. Administrator Sherri Klasen said that should bring down emergency room costs for treating ailing inmates.