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Commission agrees to expansion proposal

Staff Writer

Marion County Commission might grow by two members in January, depending on how the November election goes.

Commissioners at Friday’s meeting passed the decision unanimously, cancelling the need for chairman Dianne Novak to circulate a petition.

If the resolution passes in November, commissioners will have until Jan. 1 to restructure county districts with balanced populations.

“I believe the voters in the county want to decide that,” commissioner Kent Becker said.

If the county expands the commission, it cannot change district numbers for four years.

“It feels like the further away you get from Marion, the more you find people who want to go to a five-member board,” commissioner Randy Dallke said.

Road and bridge supervisor Jesse Hamm met with the commission to discuss several matters, including the outlook of county roads and lawn mowers.

According to Hamm, there is spider web cracking along a two-mile stretch of 330th Rd. from hauling turbine transformers. The move was cleared with the county beforehand.

The repairs are estimated at $11,035. The plan discussed with Enel was that the county would find a company to make the repairs and Enel would pay expenses.

Novak requested mowing sunflowers near roads in certain areas of the county, to which Hamm said they needed another mower.

Hamm prefers a new batwing mower, saying the batwing is faster.

“We can tackle more than what we have been,” Hamm said. “I firmly believe we can.”

Novak said some roads by Minnow township are impassable.

The county’s dirt and gravel roads need repairs but there aren’t enough employees, Hamm said.

“How do you get maintenance done to my dirt roads when I have all my guys tied up doing rebuilds?” he asked.

In the time he has been working at the road and bridge office, the number of blade operators has shrunk from 18 to 12.

Hamm admitted fault for letting roads in Becker’s district regress, but said he had a plan going forward.

“That’s what we’re trying to do is get them drivable, so I can start with my big plan in a month or so,” he said.

At Novak’s request, there will be a meeting at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 13 to discuss roads.

Dallke said too many meetings are being held with individual townships.

“That’s what I’m not liking here, is that we’re on pace for 24 township meetings by the end of the year,” he said.

It is too hectic for the department to meet with so many townships, Dallke said.

The Marion County Community Economic Development Corp. spoke to the commission about hiring an executive director. The position would pay $60,000 per year with an additional $12,000 in benefits.

Economic development group chairman Clint Siebel proposed two options. Under the first, the new employee is accountable to the commission and the economic development group serves as advisory board.

The second option is to hire the person with the county as paymaster and the development group handling oversight. The county has the ultimate decision on hiring and the development group will use the county’s employee handbook.

The commission voted 2-1, with Novak opposed, for the second option.

“I disagree with Randy about having the county serve as paymaster and having them serve as oversight,” Novak said. “That really worries me.”

One of Novak’s reservations was that the cities in the area withdrew funding, leaving the county as the sole financial backer.

The board believes if a director is hired and progress is shown, area municipalities will be more likely to help with funding.

“Most of the communities are on board,” board member Darin Nuefeld said. “Even the ones who didn’t sign up for it, we talked to some of them.”

The board will have to rewrite its bylaws. Dallke said he has confidence in the board and the advice of county counselor Brad Jantz, who inspected the bylaws with Siebel.

Last modified Sept. 5, 2018

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