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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • County Commission hopes to reduce mills

  • If all goes as planned, residents of Ramsey County may see a reduction in taxes in the year ahead, however, the jury is still out on whether that will happen or not.
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  • If all goes as planned, residents of Ramsey County may see a reduction in taxes in the year ahead, however, the jury is still out on whether that will happen or not.
    At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the commission it was discussed at length as the commissioners attempt to walk a balance between lowering the mills and the budget needs of the county. Add to that mix rising property valuations that the county has no ability to control plus the market value of various positions within county government and you’ve got a recipe for confusion and concern.
    On one hand the commissioners want to keep the tax-paying public happy by keeping spending and taxes as low as possible but they also want to be fair to their employees who are not being paid the salaries that others who work in their field are being paid.
    It gets rather complicated because it’s not across the board, not every department is behind, some have kept pace and they may only be getting a raise next year that amounts to 1.8 percent cost of living while others may be in for a more significant increase because their department hasn’t kept pace with the market for those positions.
    It was a major part of the special meeting held the morning of Monday, Aug. 27 and it will again be the topic of a special meeting set for Wednesday, Sept. 12 starting at 8 a.m. The county must make a decision on these matters to finalize their budget, which they are required to do by the first meeting in October - that would be Oct. 2.
    At Tuesday’s meeting County Road Supervisor Kevin Fieldsend gave his report on the status of projects in the county. He said they are still working on Ramsey No. 2. A road grader from RDO will be delivered for the county to try out soon and his guys are going to each have a turn using it.
    The commission authorized him to get the chips for next year’s chip sealing. Fieldsend said Ramsey County No. 1, Military Road and Terminal Road are all on the schedule.
    The commission voted to give him permission to travel to the Local Roads Conference in South Dakota in October as Fieldsend explained they will be going through the new highway bill that congress passes and talking about ways all departments manage to save money while getting what they need to get done.
    He said the ad for mowing ditches will be coming out soon and that Nick’s pickup caught fire when they were out inspecting some culverts.
    Fieldsend also explained that the FEMA project to Tammy Tollefson’s has been bid and although it hasn’t been started yet, it should get done before freeze up, no problem.
    Page 2 of 3 - He also said there would be an archaeological study done on the Poplar Grove site. “It’s tough to get those new alignment’s done when there’s a limited amount of time to solve all the issues involved,” he said.
    Commissioner Ed Brown asked about what was being done in Odessa Township and Fieldsend explained it was over by Scott Dimmler’s place.
    Fieldsend also said that  he had met with the Water Board about the road in Dry Lake Township and they had requested that the culvert not be replaced because of the way the water drained from that spot.
    Bill Hodous, as County Agent talked about the small grain harvest being nearly complete and that it was a pretty decent year. “Maybe not for the canola,” he said, “but that has a lot to do with the heat.” Everything else looks pretty good, including edible beans and corn.
    He told the commissioners that an awards program would be coming up shortly for the Shooting Sports because they were doing so well and interest was continuing to grow.
    He was asked about the cover crop on the sample tiled field in the northern part of the county and he said that they had gotten at least 25 percent of the salinity fields back into production.
    He also said they had been getting a lot of calls from around the country from people looking for hay for their livestock.
    Kristen Nelsen from Emergency Management said she was just catching up in her office after being gone for a week, so she had nothing to report.
    Jerry Ratzlaff from the County Tax Department talked about the contract with Sidwell and taking care of the bill that remained.
    A conference call with the other counties involved with the Lake Region District Health Board took place as Benson, Eddy, Pierce and Ramsey counties approved the budget proposed totalling over $1 million.
    Visitor Randy Schemionek pointed out that they were still waiting for Fish and Wildlife to clean out the blocked culverts from the Kenner Marsh so the water could flow effectively through the property. He said they’d promised to come and do it last week, but no one had shown up yet to do it.
    Next on the agenda was a resolution for the Lake Region Heritage Center Museum. The LRHCM Board requested the commission’s support in the form of a resolution to allow the Heritage Center to put to a vote of the people of Ramsey County a request to triple the financial support the museum gets from the county.
    Commissioner Brown questioned the timing of the resolution considering that the issue has been brought before the people twice and both times it failed to get the votes needed to allow it to pass. George Zenk was present representing the board and he explained that both times it failed, it did so by a slim margin, the first time it garnered 55 percent and the second time 57 percent but they needed 60 percent for it to pass.
    Page 3 of 3 - Diseth questioned if this was the best time for this proposal when the county was being asked to cut its mills.
    Zenk explained that the board wanted the funding to be changed to the maximum allowable, not because they would ask for that much each year, “Why would we request it if we don’t need it?” he asked.
    Brown suggested they ask for an increase of another quarter of a mill, which would double the funding they get from the county, “Wouldn’t that be easier for people to accept? It’s a more modest increase rather than the three quarters of a mill you are requesting,” he asked.
    In the end the commission voted to lend their support to the measure and bring it to the people to decide, the vote was taken with Commissioner Mark Olson abstaining from the vote, Diseth voting “nay” but Belford, Brown and Mertens all voting “aye.”
    Then it came time to approve of the preliminary budget for the county and considerable discussion ensued. When all was said and done, however, it was approved but included in the motion was the date of a special meeting set to specifically go through each page of the budget “with a fine tooth comb” to see where changes can be made.
    Sept. 12 8 a.m. will be reserved for that discussion alone, no other agenda items will be accepted.
    A hearing on a tax abatement request was denied in accordance with the recommendation from the township board.
    The Ramsey County Water Resource Board came to the meeting to discuss the gravity flow outlet and passed out copies of the resolution the board was asking the county to support. It calls for a clean out of the Tolna Coulee now that the control structure is in place.
    Jeff Frith, manager of the RCWRB, said what we need now is to get support from area politicians to begin this process that should have been done by now. “There are some road blocks ahead,” Frith said, “but it will be worth the effort we put into this if at some point it goes forward.”
    He also reminded them that the environmental study need not take seven years because the one for the Fargo diversion was done in 18 months. “If we can get the right people behind us on this, we might have found the final solution,” he added.
    Dan Webster from the Water Board stated how nice it is to see roads that were inundated in the area coming back as the water of the lake continues to go down. Some work may need to be done on certain ones, blading to remove trees and debris, but much of the gravel is still on them, he said.
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