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County holds July meeting

By Staff | Jul 4, 2014

The Pierce County Board of Commissioners met in regular session Tuesday at Pierce County Courthouse.

The commissioners first heard from Mike Graner, business manager at Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center. Graner said he expects the facility to have profited in June, but said they had to refuse receiving some inmates because of staff shortage.

Despite housing nearly 120 inmates in previous months, the number dropped to between 106 and 110 on average, as the facility is short about four correctional officers.

Graner said his officers were appreciative for a $2 raise approved last month and a recent hire from the oil field (with previous law enforcement experience) said his wage was the highest he received in his law enforcement career. Graner said two interviews were to be conducted Wednesday, but both candidates are 18 years old, drawing concerns. He said another individual will potentially start next week.

Graner said the state audit still has 12 items remaining, but managers have been doing more shifts as officers because of the shortage, preventing them from focusing on finishing the last steps on the audit.

Graner acknowledged that a female correctional officer was terminated two weeks ago. District 5 Commissioner David Migler asked why she was fired and Sheriff Matt Lunde said the investigation is ongoing and the board would be informed at the conclusion.

Graner said the jail’s website needs updating and auditor Karin Fursather explained that an HACTC page can be added to the county’s website. The board also discussed options for purchasing a new machine for mowing and snow removal at the facility.

Graner said a contract was renewed with Mountrail County and a contract was agreed to with the City of Surrey. Counties and cities are charged $65 per day per inmate.

Fursather also shared findings from an audit of the county. The audit recommends that either HACTC creates its own board or be absorbed by the commissioners. The commissioners agreed with the audit’s recommendation that all HACTC bills and finances be handled through the county. The HACTC staff will still prepare the work, but as of Jan. 1, 2015, all checks will be issued through the county.

Audit questions water resources board

The same audit found that there is not enough segregation of duties with the Pierce County Water Resources Board. The commissioners plan to speak with members of that board to address the issue.

Former dispatcher shares reason for leaving

Former 911 dispatcher Courtney Rieder had an outgoing interview with the board and expressed frustration with the sheriff and dispatcher Karen Richter.

Rieder, who worked for the county for more than a year, said issues were routinely blamed on her, even if she wasn’t working, when a problem came up. She said both Lunde and Richter lied often.

Migler asked if Rieder thought Richter was lying to protect Lunde. Reider said yes.

Following the meeting, Rieder was asked what Lunde lied about.

“I was told by another dispatcher that he was complaining about me not being a team player for coming in on a day off and complaining,” Rieder said. “I asked him about it and he completely denied it.”

Rieder, who primarily worked evening shifts, is one of two dispatchers to resign last month, including her mother, Yvonne Hagen.

Lunde denied Rieder’s accusation.

“I don’t believe there to be any truth to that,” he said. “We don’t have the interaction with the night group as much as the day. Everybody’s been treated as fairly as we can.

“I’m sorry she felt that way. I don’t know what Karen would’ve done to be mean to her. I don’t know if she misinterpreted things or why she’s really upset, but there’s no reason (for me) to lie. My intention is not to lie or mislead any employees. It’s very frustrating to hear that. We try to treat everybody the same, we’re not trying to lie and we’re pretty transparent in our positions.”

Richter said she has not lied and believes Rieder’s comments are politically motivated.

“I just expect people to do their job,” Richter said. “I just don’t intentionally lie, that’s the way it is. I would like to have circumstances. I feel it’s a political thing and I try to stay out of the politics. I don’t feel I was a fault.”

(Editor’s full disclosure note: Rieder is an intern at the Tribune.)

Board makes agreement with Esmond Township

The board agreed to pay $3,435 of a $9,807 bill for 2013 improvements to a gravel road on the township line between Rosedale Township of Pierce County and Esmond Township of Benson County. The three-mile stretch goes north from N.D. 19. Esmond Township representative Daryl Mitzel met with the commissioners and the parties agreed to communicate better in the future before doing projects that affect both counties.

Auditor urges commissioners, employees follow manual

Fursather read from a prepared statement and asked the commissioners to adhere to the county’s employee manual and make the entire board and auditor aware of employee issues.

The employee manual states that an employee must first take an issue to his or her superior. If the employee isn’t satisfied, he or she is supposed to meet in front of the full board.

Chairman and District 4 Commissioner Duane Johnston expressed support for Fursather. The other commissioners also voiced support.

Commissioners express concern about Peterson property

Migler expressed concern about county liability at the residence of Stanley Peterson and his son Travis Peterson in Hillside Township.

The road that leads to the Peterson’s property is in such poor condition that school buses and emergency vehicles will not enter it, according to Migler. The township only has $50,000 available for the improvements, but Migler estimated at least $250,000 being needed for the project.

Other meeting points

The board approved $4,000 to Dakota Dynamics in Pembina for a study on how the county should implement salaries.

Jim Zacher and Harold Alexander, members of the county’s park board, met as representatives of Balta Dam and Buffalo Lake, respectively. The board approved an increase from $2,500 to $3,000 per year for each park. Alexander expressed a need for more maintenance on the south side of Buffalo Lake.

The commissioners received an update on the renovation of the old jail for social services offices. Frames, drywall and painting has been completed, among other things, and the total cost of the project will be $312,450.

The commissioners tabled a decision to accept bids for improving the Orrin Road. Wm. D. Scepaniak Inc., of Holdingford, Minn., outbid Border States Paving, Inc., and Dokken Construction Inc.

Scepaniak bid $1,107,807.45, Dokken (Towner) bid $1,183,128.40 and Border State bid $1,600,292.50. All bids came in over Wold Engineering’s estimate and the commissioners wanted to learn more about Scepaniak. The county has 30 days to accept a bid.

Social Services director Mary Hermanson joined the meeting and was encouraged to prevent her employees from working overtime.

District 2 Commissioner Mike Christenson and District 3 Commissioner Rick Larson stated their interest in being on standing committees for the state’s county commissioners association, which meets in October. Fursather will submit Larson’s name for the audit committee and Christenson’s for the nominating committee.

Christenson was reappointed to the county weed board.

The commissioners approved the pledge of assets, a twice-yearly presentation of the county’s finances. They also approved the financial report, bills and treasurer checks for June. The commissioners tabled the approval of abatements until approval by the City of Rugby at the council’s meeting Monday.

The commissioners approved the transfer of $100,820.00 from the social security fund to health insurance fund.

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