The Cavalier County Commissioners had a very full agenda at their recent meeting.
Posted on 4/25/15
By Melissa Anderson
The commissioners continued discussion on the previously agreed to arrangement for Dawn Roppel’s assistance to the Cavalier County Courthouse, specifically her hourly rate of pay for assisting newly elected Cavalier County Auditor Lisa Gellner and recently appointed Cavalier County Tax Director Pam Lafrenz.
Roppel provided evidence that she had contacted other counties to determine what a fair compensation rate would be for her coming in to assist Gellner, Lafrenz and others in the courthouse should the need ever arise. Other counties have done similar set-ups where the retiring auditor stays on with comparable compensation rate of $35 per hour with no benefits.
It was clarified that Roppel’s retirement on April 1 was in accordance of the ND Century Code (CC) and that the original budgeted amount was only for 576 hours at a pay rate of $35 per hour. To date, Roppel has accrued only 16 hours.
Gellner stated that Roppel’s previous positions as the a county tax director and clerk of court were beneficial to her position as a the county auditor, experience that Gellner does not have.
Gellner and Lafrenz both were in agreement, along with a few of the commissioners, that since they were both recently put into their current positions that having Roppel available to answer questions was a great help to them.
Commissioner Tom Borgen felt clarity was missing from the previous discussions made during the working budget. Borgen stated that hours budgeted were too many and that Gellner and Lafrenz are capable of performing their positions.
Roppel clarified that minutes are not taken during working meetings such as that where the budgeting for her to come in was discussed.
Commissioner Stanley Dick raised concerns that this contractual hiring of Roppel to assist Gellner and Lafrenz may set a precedent for other positions that may and will be filled in the future and could prove to be costly to the county.
Dick does see a need for this but has faith in Gellner and Lafrenz to accomplish their jobs, and if mistakes are made they were done in good faith.
Commissioner Elsie Magnus thinks there should be a limit on the hours, but there are things that pertain only to Cavalier County that need Roppel’s expertise.
Commission Chair Rick Ring stated that he does not want to totally give up Roppel’s services because of how costly a “mistake” could be to the county.
“There is more at stake than just making a ‘mistake’,“ Ring stated during the discussion.
The motion was made by Magnus to decrease the limit of the budgeted hours to 300 and that should more hours be needed it must be approved by the commission. The rate of $35 with no benefits remains intact.
The issue of roads was the majority of the meeting. Leanna Emmer from the ND Local Technical Assistance Program gave a presentation on how paved roads are designed. The effect of overloaded trucks on roads was high-lighted during the presentation.
Cavalier County Weed Officer Leon Pederson was present to discuss the proposed weed protocol with gravel suppliers who submitted bids. Pederson informed the suppliers and the commission of LAP programs that would help offset costs for chemical to prevent the spread of weeds through gravel.
The proposed plan will be implemented next year so that suppliers will be able to include the costs associated with it in their bids. Many of the pits used to supply gravel to Cavalier County are located outside county lines. Surrounding counties are onboard, for the most part, with this proposed plan to mitigate the spread of weeds.
The commission approved a motion that Pederson inform the landowners that they must control the weeds where the gravel pits are located.
The commission was presented with three abatements recently approved by the Langdon City Commission. Langdon City Assessor Mel Carsen and Langdon City Auditor Connie Schrader were present.
The county commissioners raised concerns that properties requesting abatements are consistently dropped in their assessed value. Carsen explained that most assessments, with the exception of newly built homes, are conducted on the exterior only with information about the inside being provided from previous assessments.
In the case of Austin Lafrenz, Carsen stated that he made the assumption that the basement was finished, which it was not.
Borgen raised concerns that with the abatements the county commissioners do not have the ability to view homes and have more information to make their decisions except for the information being provided.
Carsen stated that there must be some reliance on the person making the assessments.
Borgen stated that there is a trend with the abatements having reassessment requests and the abatements being granted.
The commission reviewed the three abatements together and compared the assessed values. It was noted during the comparison that an older home was assessed at a higher value than new home.
Borgen pointed out disparities in the first assessment in comparison to the second assessment of the properties that requested abatement.
Magnus suggested that the City of Langdon should send out letters to homes being assessed to determine if any changes or updates were made to homes to help streamline and improve the accuracy of the assessment process within the City of Langdon.
Carsen explained to the commission how he assesses properties. Carsen stated that 705 notices of increases in assessment, most of them residential, are being sent out to the residents of Langdon.
The commissioners were in agreement that the City of Langdon needs to address the assessment process to make it more fair and equal to the taxpayers in Langdon. Consistency in the assessment work is also needed to maintain the fairness to the taxpayers.
Lisa Jacobson’s abatement request was granted. Devon Johnson’s and Austin Lafrenz’s abatements were tabled until both could bring appraisals or some form of evidence to support their requests.
In Other Business
• Pam Lafrenz gave an update on her work to improve the county website.
• The commission met with the Cavalier County roadmen to update them and to be updated by them on the condition of the roads, road signs and equipment.
• Cassi Bernier from the Domestic Violence and Abuse Center was present and gave an update on how things are going.
• The Sheriff’s Department requested that their phone system be updated. Karen Kempert from Cavalier County Emergency Services stated United Telephone is willing to work with the county to do this.
• The county received mowing bids for the property owned by the county in the City of Langdon. Wally Hawkins’ bid was accepted.