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Lyon County free fair proposal to go to the public

December 7, 2012
By Deb Gau , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - A proposal to make the Lyon County Fair a free fair, and discussion on county employee pay scales became two main topics during the regular meeting of the Lyon County Board on Thursday. County commissioners heard both a report and appropriations request for the fair, and a proposal for a 2013 wage scale, but in both cases commissioners opted for more discussion rather than taking immediate action.

Pat Verly and Dan Johnson presented commissioners with a report on this year's county fair. Verly said the fair had a good response and good attendance at special events like the rodeo and demolition derby, although the weather didn't cooperate for a draft horse show. He said this year, the fair's bottom line was $3,200 in the negative, "which is challenging."

Verly and Johnson said fair organizers wanted to get more people to attend the fair.

"We would love to have a free fair," Verly said. People might be more inclined to go if they didn't have to pay for parking, and Johnson said several other county fairs in the region are free, including the Lincoln County, Murray County and Yellow Medicine County fairs.

However, a free fair would require more funding from the county, to help offset the revenue that is currently brought in by parking fees, they said. The fair board was requesting county appropriations of $40,000 for 2013. The funds would help make up for the lack of parking revenue and cover utility expenses, Verly said. The fair would also continue to seek sponsors to help host events.

Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said the county had originally planned on a fair appropriation of $14,500 for 2013, although it could be possible to set aside more.

Commissioner Steve Ritter said he had received several comments from the public on the possibility of a free fair.

"I think it's something that would probably make sense to have a public hearing and public comment on," Ritter said.

Commissioners also said they had some concerns about fair finances and the turnover of experienced Lyon County Fair Board members during the board's most recent elections.

Verly said two current board members were voted out.

"To my knowledge, the rest of the board is still there," he said. It was an open vote, he said. "I really take that as a challenge," Verly said of commissioners' statements.

Johnson said the board did have an external audit done this year as well.

The board set a public hearing to discuss the possibility of a free county fair at 7 p.m. on Dec. 18.

Later the same meeting, the board also decided to meet with county department heads to discuss issues related to proposed employee pay scales for 2013. Stomberg said that the county hired an outside firm to conduct a study and come up with comparable worth rankings and minimum and maximum salary amounts for county employees. Stomberg said the study and updated scales were required under state equity laws.

Stomberg said the proposed pay scales could be appealed if commissioners voted to accept them Thursday. He said a few county employees' salaries did not fit perfectly into the proposed scales. Employees who were already at their maximum pay scales would be frozen at that level. In one case, he said, an employee's current pay would be below the minimum of the new scale, and that would have to be addressed.

Some employees' new maximum salary level would be lower than it had been, Stomberg said. That would not affect the employees' eligibility for raises, but they could not have a higher salary than the maximum, he said.

Commissioners and some county department heads said they had concerns about whether the proposed pay scales accurately reflected the amount of work employees were doing. For example, Lyon County Sheriff Mark Mather pointed out the proposal included the position of chief deputy. That position is currently unfilled, and the job responsibilities have been divided among Mather and other deputies, he said.

Other department heads had questions about whether the proposal would allow overtime pay for certain categories of employee. Highway Superintendent Jim Thomasson said that could be a big concern for road maintenance work.

Commissioners Ritter and Rodney Stensrud volunteered to meet with department heads to discuss pay scale concerns following the board meeting.



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