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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • LEC issues top agenda for special five-county meeting

  • The Ramsey County Commission met Tuesday morning to discuss a barrage of concerns.
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  • The Ramsey County Commission met Tuesday morning to discuss a barrage of concerns.
    First on the agenda was the decision about whether or not county meetings should be uploaded onto a website called YouTube.  At first, Scott Diseth said, “I don’t have a problem with it.”
    Myrna Heisler added that video taping meetings had recently saved her from being misquoted by another commissioner.
    “It’s free and cheap and it’s just an idea,” said Steve Moe, IT-GIS coordinator for the county, about the YouTube video suggestion. He said DVD’s take a lot more time to buy, burn and distribute.  “As far as ease of access and distribution for me, [YouTube] would be the easiest thing.”
    “I guess my point is, if someone’s interested enough they can come in here [to the courthouse] and watch it,” said chairman Mark Olson. “I just don’t know if it needs to be on YouTube.
    “They’ve got the opportunity to come in here and watch it,” agreed Diseth. “In all honesty, I don’t see a huge demand.”
    “I think we should ask for public input on it … and  we should invite public input,” added Heisler.
    The commissioners decided to wait for more feedback from community members on the YouTube debate.
    A unanimous motion was carried in support of a resolution opposing train speed increases from 30 to 60 miles per hour, inside of city limits. The City of Devils Lake will be releasing more information about the BNSF trains’ speed limit changes, later this month.
    Furthermore, there were several motions to approve construction and engineering bids in Ramsey County.
    Also agreed upon were the motions to fix and improve culverts in various areas of the county. In total, Kevin Fieldsend, highway superintendant, said new parts will cost about $22,000.
    Fieldsend said he needs to rent an excavator for one month to fix roads within the county and along the highway. He estimated the cost to be around $2,000, which is cheaper than renting the excavator by the week.
    Fieldsend requested to be granted funding for several employees to attend a new motor grader operator course, which costs $250 per person. “Yesterday I just found out, they’re doing two pilot programs. One in the east side of the state and one on the west side of the state and we got selected as the east side. So, I’m sending seven guys and it’s going to be over a thousand dollars.”
    The motion was carried.
    He then discussed a letter from the Creel Township about the speed limit bylaws and signage.
    Page 2 of 3 - The motion was approved “to put the signs back to how they were previously.”
    The commissioners also discussed speed limit concerns.
    “I’ve had several phone calls from several people living on Highway 19 … When you get to the lagoon the speed limit is 65 out there. There are no turn-offs. It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said commissioner Heisler. “There’s no chance for kids out there and there are a lot of kids living on Highway 19.”
    “Even the buses have a real problem with it because traffic is going so fast,” stressed Heisler. “I don’t know if the county can do anything to drop that speed limit at least to 55. Good heavens.”
    A unanimous motion to submit a letter to the North Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT), in regards to these speed limit issues, was carried.
    Elizabeth Fischer, Ramsey County auditor, reviewed the 2015 BCBS health insurance plans with commissioners. “We’re grandfathered into their system,” said Fischer. A motion was then carried to reapprove the 2015 contract for BCBS  for full time or 3/4 time employees in Ramsey County. Those qualifying include employees that work 30 hours or more per week.
    LEC
    A short recess took place before the commissioners called Benson County to address the county’s concerns for the LEC.
    First, commissioner Ed Brown turned towards a room full of meeting spectators to thank a 15-year LEC employee who  recently resigned.
    “I was at the [LEC] meeting the other day and nobody took the opportunity to thank you for all the years you put in. They were well worth it to the county, the city and the community. You did an excellent job and I’d like to thank you on behalf of the Ramsey County Commission for your service. That’s the first thing we should do.”
    “I go along with that, too, thank you very much,” affirmed commissioner Diseth.
    Brown then began discussing the $666,000 budget deficit for the 2015 LEC fiscal year, a figure calculated by LEC board member and Eddy County commissioner Jeff Pfau near the end of July.
    ”There’s no way this county can handle that,” implied Brown. “Especially when we’re picking up 60 to 65 per cent of the [LEC’s] budget.”
    “This has got to be addressed immediately,” suggested Brown. “There’s got to be a plan.”
    “In the last [LEC] meeting I could see there was very little planning for the future and a whole lot of fingerpointing ... That’s got to stop.”
    Page 3 of 3 - “One more question that was brought to my attention, Bill,” said Brown. “Why do you vote in the entire opposite of us other four [commissioners]?”
    “You’re not representing the county when you go out there and play cowboy and go out on your own. That’s not the way to do it and we talked about this a couple of weeks ago.”
    “I’m not happy about that … You’re one of five when we vote.”
    “I've been on this board for...” defended Mertens.
    “I don’t care how long you've been on the board,” interupted Brown.  “We've got a huge problem right now.”
    The commissioners then made a phone call to Benson County commissioners, who were meeting simultaneously in Minnewaukan. Ramsey County commissioner requested to schedule a five county meeting to discuss the LEC and in which all States Attorneys would be asked to review their Joint Powers Agreements between the five counties beforehand. These agreements were last updated in 2006.
    “I think it’s an excellent idea to get everybody together and talk about these issues,” said Mertens. “I’ve been trying to get this together for a long time now.”
    After much discussion on the date and time with Benson County commissioners, a motion  was carried to host the next special, five county meeting [with the City of Devils Lake invited, as well] on Thursday, August 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the basement meeting room of the Ramsey County Courthouse.
    “I’ve been telling everyone that this discussion was going to take place for quite some time now,” added Mertens.
    “We’re losing all these quality people [at the LEC]. Fifteen year veterans, 10 year veterans and yet they continue to ignore the signs. I mean, this place, the administrative [side] is just completely out of control,” objected chairman Olson.
    The public is encouraged to attend the special meeting Thursday. Anyone who wants to be a part of the agenda should call 662-7007.

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