Lyon County positions to become appointed

MARSHALL – A proposal to make the Lyon County auditor/treasurer and Lyon County recorder appointed positions instead of elected offices passed with no objections from the public on Tuesday. In fact, no members of the public came forward to speak at a hearing the Lyon County Board held on the matter.

The auditor/treasurer and recorder positions will become appointed starting in January 2015, after the end of the current officeholders’ terms.

Tuesday’s hearing was the last step before county commissioners could officially take action on ending elections for the county auditor/treasurer and recorder. The issue was one that commissioners had talked about for years. In the past, board members had said appointment would make it easier to insure candidates for the two positions had proper qualifications. But getting to that point involved holding a series of public hearings and more than two years of waiting for legislative permission to change the elected positions.

Now it was up to commissioners to decide whether to appoint the auditor/treasurer and recorder, said Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg.

The commissioners’ actions on the issue would not necessarily be final, Stomberg said. The legislation allowing Lyon County to appoint its auditor/treasurer and recorder also allows for members of the public to petition to have the matter put to a public referendum. The petition would need to be filed within the next 60 days and be signed by at least 10 percent of the registered voters in Lyon County. Stomberg estimated that would equal about 1,350 people or more.

After three years, it will also be possible for future county commissioners to pass a resolution going back to elections for auditor/treasurer and county recorder, the legislation says.

Stomberg urged commissioners to make a decision at Tuesday’s county board meeting. Otherwise, he said, the 60-day petitioning period would come too close to the filing period for November elections and make things confusing.

“I think it’s prudent to try and pass the resolution today,” agreed County Board Chairman Rick Anderson.

In a roll-call vote, commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to make the auditor/treasurer and recorder positions appointed. Commissioner Rodney Stensrud was absent for Tuesday’s vote but with one commissioner absent, the board still met the state’s 80 percent majority requirement for the resolution to pass.

Several items of business at Tuesday’s meeting continued earlier county board discussions. Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig appeared before the board again to ask about a county contribution to the children’s wing that will be built at the Marshall-Lyon County Library this year. However, commissioners were divided on the issue and will revisit it in April.

Martig presented commissioners with a request to help fund up to $51,146 for non-building costs for the children’s wing, like furniture and fixtures. Last week, the Marshall City Council voted to contribute up to $102,293 toward non-building costs, as well as covering the cost of planning and design review fees and the expansion of the library’s parking lot. Martig said the library also intends to do private fundraising and pursue a grant for the expansion project.

Commissioners had initially wanted to take some time to consider how best to fund the request and whether the county should also consider making contributions to the other local libraries in Lyon County. Commissioner Charlie Sanow said it might be better to discuss contributions to the Tracy and Minneota libraries with Rodney Stensrud present. Sanow said he was also uncomfortable with putting more money into the Marshall-Lyon County Library when library board members were undecided on whether or not to split with the Plum Creek regional library system.

“To me, those are two different issues,” replied Anderson.

Commissioner Steve Ritter also questioned whether the county’s contributing to the children’s wing would take away library supporters’ motivation to continue private fundraising.

Commissioner Mark Goodenow moved that the county commit to up to $51,000 for the children’s wing project. The vote failed 2-2, with Anderson and Goodenow voting for the contribution and Sanow and Ritter against. Anderson asked that the matter be brought back to the board at its April 15 meeting when all five commissioners will be present.