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Sheriff awaiting further exams; more hip surgery planned

Hubbard County Sheriff Gary Mills is wheel chair bound, awaiting another hip replacement surgery.

Chief deputy Frank Homer gave the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners a status update on the ailing sheriff, who has been recovering from a staph infection caused by a previous hip surgery.

He has a checkup March 3, Homer said, and surgery scheduled for April at the Mayo Clinic. But Homer said Mills would like to get the surgery over faster. Doctors removed some stainless steel hardware from Mills' hip socket last month after he suffered chronic bouts of pain from his previous hip replacement.

"He's watching hunting and fishing shows and car races," to pass the time, Homer said.

"Get him a couple crochet needles," the board suggested.

In other county business the board:

-Reluctantly approved the purchase of a pickup for the Natural Resource Management department from an out-of-town dealer. The board tries to buy locally, but Thielen Motors of Park Rapids was the second-low bidder to a dealership in Fergus Falls.

"Eight hundred bucks is eight hundred bucks," said commissioner Cal Johannsen of the difference in price.

-Agreed to list four tax-forfeited parcels of property for sale. One will be offered to Nevis first because it is located in that city. Another is in Heart Lake Township.

Two of the most lucrative parcels were owned by imprisoned attorney Bill Jones and are located near Diamond Willow Assisted Living on Crocus Hill Street. Jones, a longtime resident who left Park Rapids several years ago, was sentenced to prison for tax evasion earlier this year.

-Approved two 36-month phone contracts for the sheriff's department and courthouse and a separate 60-month phone contact for the courthouse, with Arvig Communication Systems that will result in savings on phone bills.

But commissioners discussed waiting, because "Paul Bunyan Telephone is coming to Park Rapids," commissioners said they have been informed. Competition could result in more favorable rates, the commissioners discussed. In the end, they decided to stay with Arvig, which currently provides the county's phone service.

-Approved the purchase of a new transit bus for $64,945. Only $15,345 of that will be county dollars that will come from a contract with Park Rapids, ridership fares and other revenues. The 16-passenger bus will have special child seats with seat belts and room for two wheelchairs.

-Approved the $805 purchase of two filing cabinets for the jail that will hold inmate medical records. Although the records are already kept in a locked room, jail administrator Sherri Klasen said locked cabinets would ensure the records' privacy.

-Voted to reimburse the Park Rapids Fire Department $500 for assistance rendered when a citizen brought a hand grenade to the Law Enforcement Center Sept. 18. The grenade was disarmed by an explosives team from Brainerd.

"It's one of them things we can't budget for," Johannsen said. "If we call the fire department we gotta pay 'em."

-Heard that intakes for income maintenance - food stamps - "took quite a hike" from December to January, said Social Services Director Daryl Bessler. In December, there were 1,880 intakes and in January 1,923.

"That's not necessarily a good sign," he said. "Not all these result in cases but you have to make a determination."

-Agreed to a purchase of land adjacent to the south transfer station that will be finalized in the summer of 2009. It will provide a buffer zone for the station. County officials plan to plant trees on the site.

-Denied, on a tied vote, a request by County Attorney Don Dearstyne to hire a summer law clerk. The funds would come from an outside source but the county would be required to pay the clerk's Social Security taxes, which were estimated to be between $300 and $500. The county has a hiring freeze currently, and even though it would not technically be hiring the clerk, the commissioners voting against it said it set a bad example when other departments are pleading to fill vacancies. Dearstyne was instructed to return with his request when all five commissioners are present.

-Heard that a part-time secretarial position at the Extension office, a half-time job without benefits, attracted 55 applicants.