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Commission approves raises at HACTC

By Staff | Jun 6, 2014

The Pierce County Board of Commissioners made a show of support for Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center with approval of a $2 per hour raise for all HACTC employees.

The motion was approved at the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday. HACTC business manager Mike Graner, Sheriff Matt Lunde and Chief of Security Darren Heidbreder expressed the need to be more competitive with starting wages offered at correctional facilities throughout the state.

“We have to be one step ahead because other facilities will build and make improvements,” Graner said. “This is something we need to act on immediately.”

The board agreed and voted unanimously to raise the starting wage of a new correctional officer (without experience) from $13 to $15. The entire staff of 19 officers, three office employees and two nurses will see the $2 bump, but HACTC can only expect a cost of living adjustment raise in 2015 as a result of this unplanned adjustment.

“I’m very pleased with it,” Graner said. “I think it’s great for the staff we have and I think it’s going to attract people. We have to stay competitive with what the energy industry is doing to the state.”

Counties near the Bakken oil boom are starting officers at more than $20 per hour. Nearby Rolette County starts officers at $13.83, according to figures provided by Graner. Part-time correctional officers start at $16.90 in Devils Lake.

HACTC currently has four teams of five officers each, but would like to add an officer for each team. The facility will lose two employees to other jobs soon and others are approaching retirement. Graner said HACTC is being aggressive in advertising in area newspaper and on radio.

The HACTC administrative team expects the wage increases to also help combat burnout on top of attracting more applicants.

“We’re not unique in that we’re short, but it’s a ripple effect,” Graner said. “If officer numbers drop we can’t supervise 118 inmates, it’s not safe. We’re not going to put this department in jeopardy and run them ragged.”

Heidbreder added that if his staff dropped below 18 officers, the facility would have to look at significantly dropping the number of inmates.

“We have possibly four to six staff leaving next year, so we have to do something now,” Heidbreder said.

Lunde described the $2 raises as a good start.

“It will show the staff that you guys understand,” Lunde told the commissioners.

Graner told the board that there are 12 remaining points to be addressed from the state’s audit. HACTC was put on probation by the state after two instances of prisoner escapes last year.

Graner informed the board that inmate meals will jump three cents from $1.38 per meal to $1.41 for next year. He expects the May revenue to be an improvement from April and likely the best month this year.

Graner said the average inmate count was 118 in May and as of Tuesday the facility had about 80 federal inmates (47 from U.S. Marshals and 34 from Bureau of Indian Affairs).

Graner said he is close to finalizing contracts with Williams, Burke and Mountrail Counties to bring all participating municipalities to the same $65 charge per inmate per day.

Road project near Orrin

to be bid on

The commissioners approved a motion to receive bids on a road project near Orrin.

Jessica Tagestad of Wold Engineering explained that four inches of surface gravel will be added to the nearly nine-mile stretch. The improvements to CMC route 3505 stretches from a point 4.3 miles north of Orrin for 8.8 miles north to a point five miles south of US 2.

Tagestad said an additional six inches may be needed for certain parts of the road. Other parts may need to be cut out and redone. The nearly $850,000 project cannot include widening of the road due to environmental regulations, according to Tagestad.

She also discussed the Enbridge Sandpiper project. Enbridge is requesting construction permits for approaches for pipeline maintenance in Walsh and Dewey townships. District 2 Commissioner Mike Christenson requested that the affected roads be videotaped to insure the condition is better or of the same quality after the pipeline is finished with the project. Wold will be paid for monitoring the roads and the council passed a motion to charge a $50 permit fee for each approach built.

Tax director explains inundated lands

Ruth Atkinson, who has land in the county, said she’s losing land to water every year, but her property value is going up. Director of Tax Equalization Kelsey Siegler explained that landowners can apply for inundated acres, which drops the value.

Atkinson applied and saw a 29 percent reduction, saving her $253.

Siegler presented applications for inundated acres and the commissioners approved the applications of 24 landowners.

Siegler also presented a report on True and Full values for residential, agriculture and commercial land; taxes from 1 mill; building and demolition permits; homestead credit, new residence exemption; Disabled American Veterans exemption; discretionary tax exemptions; inundated land applications; 2014 notices of increase; and a sales study ration. A PDF of the report is attached to this article.

Siegler informed the board that she’s been offered a 20-hour part-time job and asked if she could work 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for her tax director position. The board voiced support and thanked her for her work, saying they were not accustomed to the detail she has provided in reports.

Update on old jail renovation

Richard Larsgaard, project manager at EPAC Architects, informed the commissioners that some costs increased for renovating the old jail for use of social services. The total cost of the project is $309,350.

Board signs joint-powers agreement

The board signed a joint-powers agreement for the Heart of America Community Service Program, but is waiting signatures from McHenry and Bottineau Counties.

RDO Equipment Co. wins bid

Auditor Karin Fursather opened the bids for the county’s new motor grader and RDO Equipment Company, a John Deere dealer, had the lowest bid. The base bid for RDO was $294,500, about $30,000 less than Butler Machinery Company’s bid.

Towing expenses discussed

The commissioners discussed a billing discrepancy for vehicles towed at the county’s expense. The county pays a $250 fee per impounded vehicle, which would amount to about $1,500 owed to Brad’s Towing of Rugby. Bills received for the towing total more than $29,000.

Wage study

in works

The commissioners approved a motion to have a wage study done, so the county has guidelines for payroll plans for all departments. The board is seeking costs.

Employee hiring, hours addressed

The board held a conference call with retired social services director Kathy Hogan. Mary Hermanson, social services director, joined the meeting as Hogan shared the steps needed to advertise for a department opening. Two commissioners, Hermanson and Fursather will meet on June 16 to finalize the job description and classification request needed for approval by the state’s department of human services.

County employees requested summer hours for June, July and August to begin at 8 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. The board recommended hours remain the same and said one employee per department could work the requested hours per week. Departments can decide to rotate who gets the earlier hours from week to week.

Other notes

Disaster fund monies for Juniata, Tofte, Hillside and Rush Lake Townships. Commissioners Joe Bohl (District 1) and David Migler (District 5) were reappointed to the social services board.

The board approved the last month’s meeting minutes, treasurer’s check, bills and financial report.

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