Board hires interim public works director

MARSHALL – With the former Public Works Director Suhail Kanwar gone, there are some big questions ahead for Lyon County, members of the county board said Tuesday. Commissioners didn’t have immediate solutions on how to replace Kanwar, they did bring up some possibilities during discussion at their regular meeting.

Kanwar submitted his resignation two weeks ago, after accepting a position working for McKenzie County in North Dakota.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners voted to approve Aaron VanMoer as interim public works director. VanMoer is a licensed engineer working for the county and had expressed interest in the position. In a separate motion, the board set VanMoer’s pay at $33 per hour as an interim.

In the meantime, commissioners said the county had an opportunity to examine how the county organizes public works. The county departments that make up public works do need a coordinator or supervisor, said Commissioner Rodney Stensrud. However, he said, that supervisor might not have to be an engineer. Or, the county might be able to get by without a public works director, he said.

Board chairman Rick Anderson said this might be a good time for the county to consider sharing a county engineer or public works director with another county. However, he said, “The only way that’s going to work is if you’ve got good people (on staff).”

No action was taken on the matter.

A request from the Marshall-Lyon County Library for additional funding to cover pay increases for library employees didn’t meet with commissioner approval on Tuesday. Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig presented the matter to the county board.

In 2011, the city of Marshall conducted a job classification and compensation study on city employees, Marshall Public Housing employees and Marshall-Lyon County employees. The study found that 10 out of a total of 23 library employees weren’t being compensated on the same level as their duties. Martig said the positions of adult services librarian and technical services librarian have taken on more work responsibilities, and other part-time employees were being paid below the study’s recommended minimum.

The cost to make those changes, Martig said, was about $29,000. In February, the Marshall City Council had voted to pay two-thirds of that cost if the county agreed to pay the remaining third.

However, county commissioners didn’t agree to the proposal. Commissioner Charlie Sanow said he didn’t approve of the library’s rising costs, or of continuing to give money to an entity not controlled by the county. Ultimately, it’s the library board’s decision how to implement the study recommendations, he said.

Commissioner Steve Ritter said the additional cost would be better discussed as a budget item for 2014.

Commissioners voted 4-1 not to fund the changes at this time but to discuss the issue during the 2014 budget process. Commissioner Mark Goodenow cast the vote against the motion.

Commissioners also got an update on road and bridge projects planned for this summer. VanMoer said there are 10 county projects scheduled to begin construction, ranging from safety improvements at the intersection of Lyon County Road 7 and U.S. Highway 14, to bridge replacements in Camden State Park and paving projects on Lyon County Road 10.

Concrete surfacing on a 6.6-mile stretch of County Road 10 west of Cottonwood is gearing up to start as soon as next week, VanMoer said. Later in the summer, County Road 10 will also be widened and rebuilt from Minneota west to the county border, he said. Federal funding will make it possible for the project to pave the shoulders of the road and use a style of striping that will be more durable and stay reflective when wet, VanMoer said.

Commissioners voted to authorize a water study concerning the outlet of Lake Yankton. John Biren and Balaton Mayor Del Rutz approached the board with concerns about managing water levels on the lake. After heavy rain or snowmelt events, the water tends to rise quickly and stay high, causing erosion, Biren said. It’s possible that altering structures in the lake’s outlet could improve flood control.

To that end, county staff and the city of Balaton requested permission for a hydraulic study on the potential replacement of a Rock Lake Township bridge on 120th Street. The study could help determine if moving or replacing the bridge, which spans the lake outlet, would be beneficial, Biren said.

Commissioners approved the study for a cost of $2,000.

Anderson called for an item to be pulled from the consent agenda for discussion. In the commissioner warrants on Tuesday’s agenda, he said, the cost of publishing the county’s delinquent tax listings in 2012 seemed “a little high.” Interim county Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg said Lyon County paid about $17,000 to publish delinquent taxes twice in the county’s official newspaper and in the four other newspapers in Lyon County.

State statutes require that delinquent tax listings be published two times in the county’s official newspaper, said Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes.

Moberg said it might be possible to negotiate a different rate as part of the county’s next contract with the Lyon County newspaper association. However, Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said he wasn’t sure if the county signed a contract on the matter, or just approved the designation of an official newspaper.

Commissioners approved the warrants but asked Stomberg to look into the matter further.