County Addresses 9-1-1, Rural Fire Department

The Barnes County Commission voted to terminate its contract with Valley City for 9-1-1 services during its regular meeting on Tuesday. Also, the commission, which did not formally approve a pay and benefits package for 9-1-1 dispatchers who may become county employees, did instruct emergency manager Kim Franklin to make employment offers to dispatchers using wage and benefit proposals she made to the commission.
Also, county commissioners discussed agricultural property tax increases with zoning coordinator Betty Koslofsky.
According to Koslofsky, Barnes County opted to set ag property taxes at 9.5 percent of the state's mandate, which equals an 8.6 percent increase over last year's taxes. The county average tax on agricultural property will be $640.99 per acre or $744.78 per acre for cropland and $151.24 per acre for non-cropland.
The commission approved a pay increase for a part-time employee in the Veteran's Service Office. Part-time employees were not included in Barnes County's across-the-board raises for county employees at the beginning of the year.
Terry Brock addressed commissioners regarding the Valley City Rural Fire Department.
According to Brock, the Valley City Rural Fire Department is having financial difficulties and would like the county to look at the difficulties. He believes the fire department should become a fire district which could be a taxing entity. To do so would require a petition signed by 60 percent of landowners who live on their property.
Currently, The Valley City Rural Fire Department shares space and personnel with the Valley City Fire Department, but has its own equipment and funding. The rural fire department has its own governing board. Though the department isn't broke, it may not be able to meet future obligations, said Brock.
"The county is in the business of taking care of this kind of thing," said Brock.
County commissioner Cindy Schwehr said she didn't think the county could do anything about the rural fire department.
Commissioner John Froelich questioned whether the county should spend money to take over the rural fire department.
It was decided that some of the commissioners should visit a Valley City Rural Fire Department board meeting to discuss the matter further.
Deputy Don Fiebiger, speaking for Sheriff Randy McClaflin, addressed the commission regarding the starting pay of one of the new deputies. The commission approved raising the deputy's pay to equal of another deputy's starting pay, as the two had similar starting experience. The pay increase will be retroactive to Jan. 1.
Also, Fiebieger told the commissioners that his department has begun the process of testing personnel for lead levels.
The basement of the Law Enforcement Center houses a shooting range that was recently shut down due to high lead levels. The sheriff's offices are located directly over the range area, prompting the county to have lead tests done on sheriff's personnel.
If personnel lead levels are high, then the county would need to address the situation.