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January 22nd, 2018 News

It May Have Been Cold Outside But Temps Were High In The County Commissioner Meeting Room On Tuesday

Murray County Commissioners met on Tuesday, January 16th. Those in attendance were Commissioner James Jens, Commissioner Glenn Kluis, Commissioner Lori Gunnink, and Commissioner Dave Thiner. County Attorney Travis Smith and County Coordinator Aurora Heard were also in attendance.

The meeting started with the approval of the agenda and the meeting minutes from January 2nd and January 4th meetings. County Auditor/Treasurer Heidi Winter was first on the agenda. She presented the Board with the week’s warrants which were reviewed and approved. She also presented the Board with the ditch bills. These were approved in two different groups. First, reviewing and approving the Judicial Ditch 3 bill and then reviewing and approving the regular County Ditch bills. Winter did present the Board with one addition. It was a donation for $1,000 from the Red Rock Sportsman Club for the purpose of future expenses for Lake Louisa and Buffalo Aeration Systems. The Board accepted this donation and thanked them for it. 

Jean Christoffels was next on the agenda. She presented the Board with two different conditional use permits. First was a permit for EDF Renewable Development, Inc., they are requesting to put a switching substation in Chanarambie Township. This will be for a wind farm that will cover Pipestone County and a small portion of Murray County. There will be 39 total wind turbines with only 4 in Murray County. The recommendation to the Board was to approve this CUP with the special conditions, including a plan for dust control on the road. The next CUP was for Great River Energy who is planning to put a Solar Field in Leeds Township and they would like to construct a 69kV Transmission Breaker Station and would like to replace the existing 1 mile single line to a double line. They feel this will improve the reliability on the system. The Board approved both of these requests.

Dennis Goebel, MCMC CEO gave the Board an update on recent activities at the hospital. They continue looking for new doctors to bring into the area. Dr. Snow recently left to move on to an opportunity in Mississippi. The financial report showed a lower income than budgeted, with a drop in the expenses as well.  

Heard presented the Board with a request about the sidewalk around MCC School. With the new gym addition to the school the architects have to redo the sidewalk to meet ADA standards. This would include them changing the grade to the county parking lot there along the east side of the school where the shop door will be. There will be no cost to the County for this and no loss of parking spaces. The Board approved this request. County Attorney Smith presented the Board with an updated parking lease as well. The Board next approved the 2017 transit invoice from United Community Action, this includes the County’s portion for ride share and also their portion of the new bus that was purchased. The total was $30,000.  

The next item on the agenda was to appoint Annette Seivert as the Interim License Center Deputy Registrar. They also approved for Laurie Hill to be crossed trained in the License Center to help with coverage. This will cause an increase in her hours. The Center will be closed every day from 11:30 to noon because of the staffing shortage and until the positon has been filled. 

Christy Riley presented the Board with surplus items to sell on eBay. These are Verizon Wireless hotspots. Riley was asked why the Sheriff’s department doesn’t need them anymore and she did not have that answer. Later in the meeting the Board asked this question of Deputy Chris Lewis who explained that Verizon gives them new ones each year and these had just been in a box in his office. Each squad needs one to run its computers. The Board agreed to sell these on eBay and Riley will take care of this. 

The Board was ahead of schedule and next addressed two items relating to positions in the Sheriff’s office and the need for these positions. Without the input of Sheriff Steve Telkamp the Board didn’t feel they had enough information. Commissioner Thiner made a motion to request Telkamp to attend the future Commissioner meetings and meet with the Personnel Committee to help clear up staffing issues. Originally the Board moved to send two letters to Telkamp one regarding the PT Administrative Assistant Position and one regarding the Intermittent Deputy Sheriff position. (At the end of the meeting it was decided to rescind those motions and table the topic until the Tuesday, January 23rd meeting.)

At this point in the meeting Sheriff Steve Telkamp and Deputies Chris Lewis, Jarrod Larson, Devin Gillette, Brian Gass and Emergency Management Director Heath Landsman entered the open meeting room. Justin Hoffmann with the Parks Department was next on the agenda. He presented the Board with a request to replace three of the mowers with new ones from Murray County Implement. Hoffmann has them on a 2-year rotation. The new mowers will have the new Tweel Turf tires and he’s heard good things about them. They claim to be “flat-free” which Hoffmann says they deal with on a regular basis. The Board approved this request and the purchase falls within the $10,000 budgeted amount at $9,900.62 after trade-ins.

Next on the agenda was the Coroner contract. Board Chair, Commissioner Jens stated, “It’s not 11 o’clock but I think you’re all here so we can get started.” To which Sheriff Telkamp replied “I wasn’t requested, I’m just here because it says, “open meeting” – “nobody requested me be here” – “if you want me to be here you need to put me on the agenda”. Jens moved on to the Coronor topic asking who was there to discuss this. At the December 26th meeting the Board had approved a 1-year contract with McGee for his coroner services but the contract that was signed by the Board Chair, Sheriff and Assistant Human Resources Director was for a 3-year agreement. This is back on the agenda to clarify the time-frame for the agreement. After much discussion, the Board agreed that the intention had been for a 1 year contract and County Attorney Smith advised them they would need to get in touch with McGee’s office to request this. It was clarified that the Sheriff, because he is an elected official, does not get paid anything more than his salary to cover the coroner portion. State Statute prohibits that. But because of the needs of the department he isn’t able to pass these duties to another officer. 

Sheriff Telkamp stated he was there to find out what his position would be, in regard to the Coroner, which is a responsibility of the County. Telkamp expressed that depending upon the Board’s actions to cut his budget (PT administrative assistant and intermittent deputy hours) he may not be able to cover the duties of the Coroner and there could be other services that the Sheriff’s department currently covers that the County would have to hire for – example would be the emergency management services. Commissioner Gunnink replied “but we didn’t make any cuts that way” to which Telkamp responded, “in my overall budget? And If you cut my people, my time and the staff that I have, that is a cut and then I have to fill that time with somebody else.” Gunnink “but we didn’t make those cuts, you brought your budget” Steve “it’s coming up, right? Devin Gillette? It’s on the agenda, that’s why he’s here too, to see if you’re going to attempt to cut his time and see if his wife and child will have a home to live in”. Telkamp continued to express his concerns about the cuts that will have to happen in his office if they remove his employees and their hours. “We can continue to do that (the duties being discussed) and have taken on these other jobs and responsibilities but it takes people and money. I’m just here to listen to see what you’re going to do and where I need to make cuts.” Telkamp stated. “If you’re going to attempt to make me sign a letter to reduce my staff – I have options too and that would be to take it to court.” 

“My job is to provide public safety to the residents of Murray County and that’s what we do.” He expressed the exemplary efforts of his staff and the work they have put into investigations. Commissioner Kluis agreed that they do a great job. “We have great people,” Telkamp stated.  He also pointed out the hard work of the Drug Task Force and the many awards they have received. Commissioner Jens agreed and expressed interest in having them do another presentation for the Board. 

Commissioner Thiner asked, “What was different between this year and last year? Has your budget been cut that much that you can’t do it? I’m not sure?” Telkamp replied, “Maybe, yes, because the next couple things on the agenda is a letter that you’re going to try and make me comply with to try and make me have Devin work only 380 hours. I can’t guarantee that.” He pointed out that Gillette is covering hours of people who are no longer working for the department but the positions were never filled. Thiner asked, “Did you request him (Gillette) to be a full-time position?” Telkamp “I sat in her (Heard) office and have tried to explain this for over a year, what I would like to have done to establish an organizational structure for my office. And if that’s not going to work I guess I’ll just hire Devin as my Chief Deputy.” “I’ve been trying not to add unnecessary positions…” “….and I don’t want to hire a Chief Deputy right now.” Thiner “Did you bring this to personnel?” Steve “Many times I sat in with you and her in her office...”

This discussion continued back and forth with high emotion for about 30 minutes. At one point Sheriff Telkamp brought up the subject of a conversation held between Commissioner Thiner, Commissioner Gunnink and Coordinator Heard that he had recorded on video. The video was seen by Deputy Lewis, Landsman, Larson and Gass. They all agreed that the conversation they witnessed discussed eliminating County Employees, not just limited to the Sheriff’s department, and not giving employees raises. No response was given by those individuals accused. 

Commissioner Kluis asked Sheriff Telkamp if he was willing to come to next week’s Commissioner meeting where they as a full board could sit down with him and look at his “plan” for his department? He could bring the schedule that they had requested along with his budget (which Telkamp will work with Winter on) and it’s felt that a good 80-90% of the issues can get figured out at that time. Telkamp agreed to this and was put on the agenda for Tuesday, January 23rd at 10:15am. As an open meeting the recording is available at the County Office. Commissioner Jens and Thiner agreed that being able to discuss this with less emotion will be more productive. 

Deputy Lewis and Landsman  were next on the agenda. The Board felt they needed more info and they will bring back details for a state bid for two new vehicles for the Sheriff’s department. The Board went through their committee reports and the meeting was adjourned. 

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Produce Won’t Be The Same Frances Retires

By Theresa Nysetvold

Jim’s Market in Slayton won’t be the same without the friendly face of Frances Guild greeting us in the produce section of the supermarket.  The 28-year employee recently retired (again!) from her career in retail service.  “Well, I’m 93 years old and I have a bad knee.  I just decided it was time.”

In 1960 Fran began her work in supermarkets at the Hy Vee store in Worthington.  She said, “I’ve always worked in produce.  I became the produce manager at Hy Vee and retired there about thirty years ago.  But my granddaughter’s husband worked in produce at Jim’s Market and one day he asked me if I’d do a demonstration.”  That demo became 28 years of employment choosing, stocking and arranging fruits and vegetables in a manner that was always appealing to customers.  “It’s in my blood,” said the gracious Ms. Guild.  “I always had the incentive to make it look pretty.  I wanted to keep it looking nice and full.”

Frances recalls the early years when produce was received in bulk and she sacked everything herself, including the potatoes.  Along with her creative displays, Fran enjoyed listening to customers and filling their requests.  “Sometimes people would ask for a new fruit or vegetable and I liked listening to them and trying to please them.  I would split or cut products - whatever I could do to make the customers happy.  It made me feel good.”

If Frances felt good, her customers felt even better for her pleasant disposition and commitment to excellence.  Our community extends a hearty “thank you” to a beloved friend and we wish her all the best in her second retirement!

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JD’s Diner Open For Business

By Theresa Nysetvold 

A new sign has been erected at the intersection of state highways 30 and 59 in Slayton and it is just one of the changes new owners Dusty, Cheri and Jay Thompson have brought to the familiar family restaurant formerly known as The Country Host.  “JD’s Diner” has been redecorated, the menu has been updated, and the new name reflects the personality and ownership of the Thompsons.  Cheri said, “Dusty and I have been in the restaurant business for forty years but we’re grooming Jay to manage this place on his own.”  The Thompsons lived and worked in Mason City, Iowa for many years and most recently managed the Log Cabin restaurant in Dovray.  For the past year they have been operating the Slayton restaurant with their son Jay while making plans for updates and preparing Jay for management.  “We like this town,” said Dusty.  “We bought a home here but we also have family in Florida and Cheri and I like to visit them too.”

JD’s Diner specializes in homestyle meals and is open from 8:00 am - 2:00 pm every Tuesday through Sunday.   Breakfast is served all day, and the lunch menu begins at 11:00.  “Our lunch menu has soups, sandwiches and burgers with a $5.95 special every day,” said Cheri.  JD’s also offers catering, carry-out and the party room accommodates about 40 guests.  The Slayton Kiwanis and other groups regularly meet at the diner and if your group is interested in a regular or occasional restaurant meeting space, call Jay at: 507-836-8332.  Stop by and greet the Thompsons while you enjoy a delicious meal in a friendly atmosphere!

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