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Commission stands by decision: Bennett will not be reappointed

Staff writer

Despite a finding that Marion County Law Enforcement and Public Safety Center Committee met improperly behind closed doors when the committee decided to ask Marion County Commission to remove Harry Bennett from the committee, commissioners stood by their decision Monday in a meeting with Bennett.

Commission Chairman Dan Holub said he had read a letter from Bennett addressing several concerns about the committee, but he said he saw nothing to change his mind.

The committee asked for Bennett’s removal because Bennett asked a property owner if he could go on his property. Bennett said he didn’t tell the property owner why he wanted to look at the property. The man later confronted Commissioner Bob Hein and told him what the asking price for the property was.

Holub said he was clear at the first committee meeting that discussion of property acquisition for a possible jail was not the purview of the committee.

Bennett asked if the county had ever contacted the property owner about purchasing the property. Commissioner Randy Dallke said yes, but it was not about a jail.

Bennett said he looked at the property to investigate whether the county could build a new jail inside an existing structure. During a committee meeting with possible architects, he asked if a jail could be built in an existing building, and they said it could.

Bennett read from a list of committee guidelines provided at the first meeting. One encouraged the committee to explore alternatives to new construction. Bennett said the city of Marion had success renovating an old railroad depot, turning it into a library.

Commissioners took no action on the issue.

Holub thanked Bennett for efforts to find information about the Keystone oil pipeline. A Web site he found about the effects of construction in South Dakota has been invaluable, Holub said.

In other business:

  • Commissioners signed salary change sheets for treasurer’s office employees, because of the decision to move them to a 40 hour workweek from 37.5. Sandra Svoboda’s pay was increased from $2,375 to $2,534 per month; Rose Funk, $2,629 to $2,804; Kathern Swan, $1,902 to $2,028; and Barbara Burnett, $1,754 to $1,870. Commissioners discussed the possibility of increasing Treasurer Jeannine Bateman’s pay accordingly, but decided to review the possibility later.
  • Road and Bridge Superintendent John Summerville said a county resident has been interfering with road workers. Commissioners decided to have County Attorney Susan Robson draft a letter requesting the resident stop.
  • Summerville received a letter from Kirkham Michael engineers with a sample road maintenance agreement the county could use as the basis of a similar agreement with Keystone pipeline officials.
  • Road workers patched holes on Limestone Road south of Tampa just months after it was double chip sealed.
  • Summerville met with commissioners in closed session for five minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • Commissioners toured a remodeled 911 and dispatch center in the jail building. Communications and Emergency Management Director Michele Abbott showed commissioners the improvements, which are not yet finished. She said she has a few issues to resolve with the architect and contractor.
  • Dispatch will purchase three computers from Great Plains Computing and Networking for $1,195 each. Dell computers were available for $32 less each, but the warranty isn’t as good, Abbott said. The existing computers are more than four years old.
  • Fall household hazardous waste mobile pickup collected more than 1,500 pounds of waste, Household Hazardous Waste Director Rollin Schmidt said.
  • A county mobile recycling collection program has saved the county $625, Schmidt said. That amount doesn’t include the cost of labor or equipment, but it also doesn’t include payments from Sonoco for recycled goods.

The next commission meeting will be Monday.

Last modified Nov. 25, 2009

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