Cavalier County Commissioners deal with tough topics at last meeting

The Cavalier County Commissioners had tough topics to discuss at their recent meeting.


Posted on 5/23/15

By Melissa Anderson

The commission first met with Highway Supervisor Terry Johnston to discuss present and future road projects and bridges. Johnston and the commission discussed at length the dangerous bridge located north of Wales.

Johnston stated that he has the necessary equipment and signs to close and barricade the bridge should it deteriorate any further. The commission agreed that with such hefty safety concerns the bridge is a top priority and agreed that engineering for a project to repair the bridge will begin July 1.

Another topic the commission discussed with Johnston was a proposal by the City of  Munich to spray anti-dust on a gravel road owned by the county close to a property that had filed a letter of complaint about dust. After some discussion it was agreed that this anti-dust spray was worth looking into as it could potentially be used on other high dust roads in place of having to pave said roads.

The application on the road located near Munich is being deemed an experimental application to see if the product is viable for other roads and the cost versus benefit has been examined. The commission approved the motion to apply the product on up to 1200 ft of county road outside of the City of Munich.

The commission then heard from Van Howatt on behalf of the Mt. Carmel Township and their complaints against the county gravel road maintenance crew, specifically against Kent Mikkelson and Commissioner Tom Borgen.

Howatt read a statement that he had already written to the commission detailing conversations he had with Mikkelson and Borgen about blading specific roads in Mt. Carmel Township. The overall complaint that Howatt voiced was that there is a list that dictates what townships get bladed first and then it’s a first come first serve basis. Howatt also stated that the method the bladers use to maintain the gravel roads is terrible and not in accordance with the townships wishes. Howatt  concluded his statement by stating that Borgen’s and Mikkelsen’s performances were highly unsatisfactory.

Howatt informed the county commission that the Mt. Carmel  Township has hired a service to blade their township roads. Howatt requested that something be done about the management tactics and practices of the blade operators or that Borgen be removed from that position.

Commission Chair Rick Ring asked Howatt what the township plans were for snow removal, to which Howatt replied that the township has no problem with the snow removal. Ring reminded the commission that at previous meetings they agreed that the road-men and the commission should act in accordance with the township’s wishes.

“We do what the townships want,” Ring stated.

Borgen responded to the criticisms with explanations and defense of his and Mikkelsen’s performance of grating township roads. Borgen explained that there is a list that when someone calls requesting road maintenance that they are addressed in that order unless road conditions are imprudent to maintenance. Borgen stated that Howatt’s personal expectations were too high and that the county employees were not his employees.

Other township supervisors present, including Leon Hiltner, stated that the confusion on the “list” issue is big problem. Hiltner continued stating that there is always room for improvement and that’s where training and education comes in which the county seems to be lax on.

Mt. Carmel Township joins Perry Township in the Langdon District and Osford Township in the Osnabrock District of not using the county road graters to maintain their gravel roads during the summer.

Prior to their meeting with the City of Langdon, the county commissioners discussed what they, as a commission, hoped to achieve and stress to the city about the city’s handling of 2015 assessments and advise the city on future assessment protocol.

The county commissioners met with a few members of the Langdon City Commission, Langdon City Attorney Cameron Sillers, Langdon City Auditor Connie Schrader, and Langdon City Assessor Mel Carsen to discuss the issues the City of Langdon faces with the 2015 property assessments.

Sillers spoke on behalf of the City of Langdon stating that he doesn’t believe there is a “fix” for the situation and went over again, for the county commissioners, what Carsen did in evaluating homes and the formula used to bring the residential property assessments in Langdon within the state mandated ratio of at least 90 percent of selling prices within the previous tax year.

“I can’t speak for the [city] commission, but what I’m suggesting the commission tell you today is that ‘we put you in a bad spot’, and the reason we are here today is to say ‘hey, we put you in this position and we are here to help you any way we can’, ” Sillers said.

Ring stated that the input he had been receiving from Langdon residents was that  while the residents understand the situation of the increased assessments, the residents stressed that there is a lack of fairness and consistency in how the assessments were conducted.

Commissioner Stanley Dick stated that he had discussed the situation with State Supervisor of Assessments Linda Leadbetter and that she had advised that the city have an assessment company come to Langdon for 2016 assessments and re-do the entire city so that there is a ‘baseline’ of assessments from which the city can work from in the future.

“They [Langdon City Commission] were given some options on what they can do and they are going to have to step up to the plate Tuesday night and decide what they are going to do. The county will continue to prepare for the county equalization meeting June 2,” Cavalier County Tax Director Pam Lafrenz stated.

The discussion turned to the county equalization meeting and it was decided that the 2015 Langdon city assessments would stand since there was not enough time to review all of the 705 notices. The county commission decided that the ‘burden of proof’ was the responsibility of those upset with their assessment.

The county commission stated that the residents wanting to have their assessments adjusted must provide reasonable proof their assessment is incorrect. Residents can provide proof either in pictures, letters, appraisals, or by having Lafrenz come and view a particular objection on the assessment. The county discussed a few plans on how they will handle the equalization meeting depending on  the number of requests for adjustments to assessments they receive.

In Other Business

• The commission met with Cavalier County Sheriff Dave Zeis, Cavalier County Emergency Management Director Karen Kempert, and a United Communications representative to discuss the needed updates to the Cavalier County 911 service. Kempert presented three options that had been discussed by the 911 board.

Kempert explained each option and finished with the option that was approved by the 911 advisory board and recommended to the county commission. The county approved the option recommended by the 911 advisory board.

• Sheriff Zeis introduced the new Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Gallagher, who was recently hired to the commission. The Gallagher will be patrolling in both the City of Langdon and throughout the county.

• The commission reviewed furnace bids for the Cavalier County Shed in Osnabrock.  The commission accepted the bid from Hensel Plumbing.

• During open discussion the commissioners reviewed information provided by Dick about the new regulations on assessor training. The new law requires that assessors have 80 hours of training for Class 2, which is what the entire county and city located therein falls under.