The County Commissioners’ meeting was called to order on April 21, 2020 at 9:01 a.m. with Chairman Patrick H. Wade, Vice-Chair John Midkiff, Commissioner Elaine Griffith, and County Clerk Becky L. Freeman, present. Tara Hutchinson, with The Lusk Herald, joined the meeting via Zoom.
Chairman Wade led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Road and Bridge- Foreman Fred Thomas met with the Commissioners via Zoom to discuss road and bridge business.
He said that the 2019 Road Rehabilitation project on Cheyenne River Road is complete.
Mr. Thomas said the road looks good and is widening out.
He also noted that the transfer of the Ruffing pit to Timberline Services is not quite complete.
He addressed issues he is having with the 2008 John Deere blade. He said it is burning oil. He said the Niobrara Rural Fire District had offered to help pay for a new blade as road and bridge always helps on fires. Mr. Thomas said the new blade would be approximately $240,000 and that the County could receive $50,000- $65,000 in trade for the old machine. He said he would attend the next fire district meeting to gather more information and will report his findings at the next meeting.
Chairman Wade recessed the regular meeting and called a Public Hearing to order at 9:43 a.m. Those in attendance via Zoom were Michael Miller applicant, County Attorney Anne Wasserburger, surrounding landowners Ben Hanson, Ted Grant, and James Bardwell, attorney for Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller gave a brief history of the property and said the main reason he would like to change the zoning to industrial is that he thinks it would be easier to sell. He feels that if the classification were to remain in agriculture, then he wouldn’t be able to sell it for what he has invested in it. Attorney Wasserburger noted that according to the planning and zoning manual, the minimum lot size for industrial zoning is ten acres, and his property is only seven acres; therefore, he would not qualify.
She asked him if he had notified surrounding landowners? Clerk Freeman said she had mailed out a notice of the public hearing to them.
According to the Planning and Zoning Board’s comments, Mr. Miller needs to have buy-in from all landowners.
The group felt it would be best for Mr. Miller to withdraw this request and reapply for a change of zoning under the commercial classification.
Based on the conversation, Mr. Miller withdrew his application for the change of zoning from agricultural to industrial because his acreage didn’t meet the specifications outlined in the manual. He said he would reapply and submit it to the Planning and Zoning Board.
The hearing was closed at 10:04 a.m.
The regular meeting convened at 10:05 a.m.
County Attorney- County Attorney Anne Wasserburger joined the meeting via Zoom. The group discussed the Johnson Controls proposal for the upgrade of AHU controls in the Justice Center.
Prevention Specialist Kerry Steward met with the Commissioners and gave them a brief update on activities with the prevention grant.
She said she is working with an underage drinking prevention group as well as media classroom presentations.
She said she had asked Sylvestri Customization to put together a quote for the media side of things, and it would be $600.00 per month to do several social media platforms and banners as well as doing mass mailings.
The Commissioners said they didn’t want to commit to anything right now.
She noted that she would need to replace the current laptop she uses for prevention activities.
Regional Nurse Supervisor Dr. Melanie Pearce joined the meeting via Zoom, and she discussed the possibility of reopening some of the smaller businesses. She said that Dr. Falkenburg thought it might be time to reevaluate and review exemption applications from small businesses that wish to reopen. In their application, they would need to show why they should be offered an exemption, including plans to keep the public safe and the facility sanitized. She said four businesses have applied.
She said that on the public health nursing side, it is business as usual. She said that if a client is in their building, the Department of Health guidelines say that the client has to wear a mask, and the nurses have to wear surgical masks.
Commissioner Griffith said that she is on the Community Service Block Grant Advisory Board and that there is approximately $12,000.00 available to aid poverty level individuals with health, dental or travel matters. She said they must apply, and applications are available through the Senior Center, DFS, or Helpmate.
Elected Officials & Dept. Heads- Sheriff Cary Gill, Emergency Manager James Santistevan, Fair board Chairman Tandy Dockery, Treasurer Keri Thompson, Assessor Teri Stephens, Dr. Melanie Pearce, Clerk of District Court Chrisanna Lund and Extension Educator Denise E. Smith met with the Commissioners via Zoom.
Treasurer Thompson said her office has been staying very busy. She said her office conducted over 400 monetary transactions, and she is waiving postage to promote the mailing of plates and registrations.
She also asked if there could be a dropbox installed to receive payments after hours and if Plexiglas barriers could be installed before the courthouse reopens.
She noted that her spring meeting was canceled.
She has also had a lot of requests for estimates of property tax shortfalls. She noted that 79% of taxes for 2019 had been collected thus far, and there are still large entities that need to pay.
Assessor Stephens said that she mailed out Notices of Valuations on April 1. She has had approximately 14-15 calls in response to these notices. She said that May 1 is the end of the protest period.
She said they would be starting their reviews soon and would be working out North.
Clerk of Court Lund said it was business as usual in her office, but it has been very slow. She said hearings had been held via video conferencing, and everything else is postponed if not necessary by certain deadlines.
She said that the online jury program seems to be working well, but about 1/3 of juror notices haven’t come back. She is getting ready to send out second notices.
Sheriff Gill discussed the proposal he received from Johnson Controls for the removal of the pneumatic controls and the installation of digital controls in detention and offices in the Justice Center. He noted that there were three new employees in detention.
He said that Terry Browder had contacted him regarding holding a Search and Rescue training. Sheriff Gill said he would have to discuss this with Dr. Pearce.
Dr. Pearce asked if the individuals would be coming from out of state, and Sheriff Gill thought there would be some. He said the most time they would spend in a building is one hour, and then the rest of the training would occur outdoors.
Dr. Pearce said she would discuss the request with Dr. Falkenburg, but thought the answer would be no at this time.
Mrs. Smith said it is quiet at the fairgrounds, and it is a complete virtual education format for all programs. She also noted that the University had suspended all UW travel and UW face to face business until July 31, 2020.
She was hopeful that within the next two weeks, they would find out what is in store for 4-H and fair.
Mrs. Dockery and Mrs. Smith discussed the grant for the fairgrounds auditorium updates and said they would like to proceed with the contractors they initially worked with.
There was a question about the bids and whether or not they were still valid as they were over a year old. They said that most would be fine, if slightly higher. The heating contractor suggested buying the equipment now to avoid skyrocketing prices.
Mrs. Dockery’s concern about getting new bids is the timing. She doesn’t think they will be able to get new bids in time for the project to begin in late December, early January.
The next concern was who would oversee the project. Both Mrs. Dockery and Mrs. Smith thought they would ask Neil Holmes if he was interested. They will report back at the next meeting.
Emergency Management Coordinator Santistevan said he has been busy with meetings and phone calls regarding COVID-19.
He did get the State Homeland Security Grant submitted by the deadline, and he said that he needs to use his Emergency Management Preparedness Grant by the end of September. He thought he could use it to purchase some handheld radios.
County Building Closures- Vice-Chairman Midkiff moved to extend the closure of the Courthouse, Library, Fairgrounds, and Sheriff’s Office to the public through the end of business on May 5, 2020. Commissioner Griffith seconded, motion carried. At that time, the situation will be reevaluated.
The Commissioners also discussed installing Plexiglas at the Sheriff, Treasurer, Assessor and Clerk’s offices and Library and possibly installing dropboxes at the courthouse.
Chairman Wade said he had visited with Matt Jameson of Jameson Cleaning & Maintenance, and Mr. Jameson said he was willing to continue the cleaning contract at the fairgrounds for the same price he is currently receiving.
The Commissioners then visited with Janette Starck of Pine Ridge Enterprises to see if she wanted to continue the cleaning at the courthouse. She said they were not interested in extending their contract.
The Commissioners tabled the Johnson Controls proposal until more information can be obtained.
Ratify CPE Maintenance Quote- Commissioner Griffith moved to ratify the CPE Maintenance Quote between CenturyLink and Niobrara County for E911 support for $6,329.66. Vice-Chairman Midkiff seconded, motion carried.
WEBT Employer Plan Selection for Health Insurance- Commissioner Griffith moved to sign the plan selection with no plan changes, deletions, or additions. Vice-Chairman Midkiff seconded, motion carried. The medical plan will have a $2,500.00 deductible, and the County will continue to pay for the full-time employee portion of insurance. There will be an increase in the premiums from $544.00 to $571.00 on July 1, 2020.
Consent Agenda- Commissioner Griffith moved to approve the consent agenda. Vice-Chairman Midkiff seconded, motion carried. Items on the consent agenda were the minutes of the April 7, 2020 meeting.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.
NIOBRARA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
/s/ Patrick H. Wade, Chairman
/s/ Becky L. Freeman, Clerk
Public Notice No. 5436. Published in The Lusk Herald on May 13, 2020.