IVANHOE - In addition to regularly scheduled business, the Lincoln County Board devoted a significant amount of time Tuesday discussing a critical shortage of volunteer first responders in the county and how to fill the vacancy in the county engineer position left by the retirement of Lee Amundson.
The discussion on first responders was added to the agenda at the request of chairman Don Evers.
"I think it's something that needs to be brought before the public," Evers said.
The board asked Chuck DeBates to contribute to the discussion. DeBates is a financial accountant in the county auditor's office, a volunteer first responder in Lake Benton and works for both the Tyler and Ivanhoe ambulance services.
DeBates said he recently re-certified but intends to retire after his certification expires.
"We've got the funds," DeBates said. "We don't have the bodies."
According to DeBates, Lake Benton formerly had as many as 26 first responders and now has only three.
What emerged during the discussion was that volunteer first responders must undergo 130 hours of initial training and a 24-hour recertification every two years.
County Emergency Manager Jeanna Sommers pointed out when factoring in on-call time, this is a serious time commitment for anybody and especially for people with families.
The board discussed a number of possibilities, including compensation for training or call outs and agreed to pursue the matter further.
The board scheduled a public hearing on improvements to County Ditch 33 at 1 p.m. March 18, after the regular board meeting.
On the recommendation of Dustin Hauschild, engineer's assistant and acting head of the highway department, the board voted to hire Erickson Engineering to conduct hydraulic sizing studies of a few county bridges at a cost of $3,600. The studies determine the impact of bridge openings on water flow.
On Hauschild's recommendation, the board authorized the purchase of a motor grader for Lake Benton at a cost of $188,000 including trade-in and a copy machine to be used by the highway, environmental and emergency management departments at a cost of $5,625 with trade-in.
The board discussed a proposed agreement with Pipestone County to share an engineer part time. Though all board members expressed a strong preference for hiring a full-time county engineer, the board has not been able to hire an engineer after six months of advertising the position.
Amundson has been filling in part time on a contract basis while the county searches for a replacement.
Commissioner Curtis Blumeyer made a motion to increase the salary offer from $85,000 to a range of $90,000 to $100,000, depending on experience.
Because of the absence of Commissioner Rick Hamer, the motion tied with Blumeyer and Larry Hanson voting for the motion, and Evers and Joan Jagt voting against.
The commissioners agreed to take up the matter again when Hamer was present.