NewsJune 15 2016

Move to eliminate health insurance dies on floor

Posted by Lucy

The Lyman County Commission took public comment Friday morning at their first meeting of the month with regards to health insurance, salaries, meeting times, the 1.2 percent HBR(Highway Bridge & Road)  levy, and the depressed farm economy.  Following, the 30 minutes of public comment, commissioner Adam Ehlers proposed eliminating the benefit of health insurance for county commissioners effective at the next renewal in April of 2017, the motion died due to the lack of a second.  He followed with a proposal that would give commissioners insurance but cut salaries by $500 per month starting January 1, 2017, which also died due to the lack of a second.
Prior to Ehlers’ attempt to change commission’s salary package, Deb Halverson, who is employed by the county, addressed the commission.
“As a employee of the county, I feel our policy is on the line,” Halverson said.
She stated that if the commission starts cutting health insurance to make it cheaper, the quality of employee insurance could also be cut. 
“Sure there are cheaper plans out there, but you get what you pay for,” said Halverson.
She added that as an county employee she’d like to see a guarantee given to employees that they will not lose their insurance, and that the cost of insurance not be the only consideration.
Gary Diehm, a candidate for county commission, inquired if elected, could he take the county insurance and pay for it himself? 
“Can a commissioner buy insurance from the county if it’s cheaper than what they already have?” asked Diehm.
Auditor Pam Michalek said she didn’t know if that would be possible to receive the insurance and reimburse the county for the cost.
“We’d have to ask the insurance company,” said Michalek. 
Dick Stanley told the commissioners he thought the scheduling of commissioner meetings during business hours “set the stage for low public input and representation.”
Dennis Stanley presented information regarding the down turn in farm commodity prices to illustrate his opinion that Lyman County’s economy reflects the same decline.
“I would propose when you set the levy next time, knowing this, you’ll  levy enough to get by in the near term, and not build more reserve,” said Dennis.
Chairman Ryan Huffman stated that the commission understood the farm economy.
“With  the exception of Leroy everyone on the board makes their living from ag,” said Huffman.
Mike Arnoldy said he adding a tax increase to farm ground at this time makes it tough for a farmer to make a profit this year.
“It’s not personal, and I hope you guys don’t take it that way,” said Arnoldy.  “But, I’d rather my money was put toward gravel, not health insurance. I’m selfish, I guess!”
The county had a grandfathered plan through Wellmark for a number of years.  According to Huffman, the commission has looked at other plans over the years.  They made the decision to change to an ACA  (Affordable Care Act) plan two years ago because it had similar benefits and the agent  projected it could  save the county as much as $40,000 a year.
The deputy auditor, Deb Halverson, stated after looking back she could only find a savings of around $20,000 in the last two years.
She also stated the plan doesn’t cover as much and costs employees more out-of-pocket. 
“I think it’s great that the county offers the reimbursement,” said Deb.  “I think you did that because you knew the plan would cost employees more.”
Following Ehler’s motions, members of the public in attendance including Dennis Stanley, Dick Stanley, Mike Arnoldy, Brad Karlen, Steve Taylor, Jim and Karen Gilman and Deb Halverson left the meeting. Gary Diehm stayed for the entire meeting.
Commissioner Leroy Choal, who was defeated in the June 7 Republican primary race for re-election to the commission addressed Ehlers and stated his reason for not giving the health insurance motion a second.
“This insurance issue should be the new board’s.  You and I have no stake in it.  We’re done.” said Choal.
Ehlers chose not to run for re-election and his term expires at the end of the year. Choal will also leave the commission at the end 2016.
In other business, 4-H advisor Misty Welter addressed the commission and asked for additional travel funds to attend the a National 4-H convention to be held in New Orleans in October of 2016. The commission will wait and see what Brule Co. contributes before making a decision.
Greg Henderson of District III presented the 2015 performance report and discussed the rural site analysis being completed for Lyman County.  Once completed, with the commissioner’s permission District III would start promoting sites in Lyman County for development.
Henderson said there are companies looking for locations in South Dakota for ag development such as an egg laying facility that would have up to 1 million lay hens.
“We would ask that the commission appoint a committee of local individuals to include producers, business people and property owners to be a contract for companies looking to locate here,” said Henderson.
The commission canvassed the primary election. (Results to be published with commission minutes).
Tim Long highway superintendent presented his report to the commission including the flooding damage to roads and culverts north of Reliance May 30, farmers south of Presho farming the road ditches, areas around the county needing gravel and a request to reshape a section line road between Lafferty’s and Straka’s also north of Reliance.
Long reported that he was still waiting on a cost estimate from Arnold Services,Valentine, Neb to grind the remaining pavement on 305th Ave. north out of Presho.
Long reported that seven miles of County Rd. #2 north of Oacoma has been re-graveled and another three miles still needs to be done to complete the project.
Huffman asked for a motion to go into executive session to discuss personnel.  After about 10 minutes the commission reconvened, no further action was taken and the commission adjourned.
The commission approved the following:
•A gravel bid from Reuer’s pit at $5.50 per ton.
•Renewing membership with District III.
•Building permits from Larry and Lez Moore for a shed; and Karlen Ranch for grain bins.
•An easement request from Golden West north of Reliance.
•Renting a loader as needed.

NewsJune 08 2016

Wheat Growers to host open house at new load out facility at Kennebec

Posted by Lucy

Wheat Growers Elevator at Kennebec will hold a grand opening of the new elevator Tuesday, June 14 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Facility tours will begin  at 4:00 and be given every 15 minutes until 5:30, when a complimentary meal will be served.
The SD Secretary of  Transportation Darin Bergquist will be the guest speaker. 
According to Jeff Tiede, regional manager with Wheat Growers, the elevator is not yet operational but the elevator staff has moved from the former office located in Kennebec to the new office northwest of the Agronomy Center.
“There is a lot of testing of electrical equipment going on now and will probably take a week to 10-days to complete,” said Tiede.  “Our goal was to be operational by the 2016 winter wheat harvest and I think we’ll make that.”
Wheat Growers announced in October 2014 they would build a new shuttle train load-out facility at Kennebec following the approval of the railroad rehab project from Chamberlain west to Presho.
Ground was broke on the new Agronomy Center in the spring of 2015 and was opened by February of 2016.  The new 130 foot concrete elevator was poured in October of 2015 and is expected to be open by the first part of July.
The Agronomy Center  employs 13 people and the grain facility has ten staff members. 
The grain handling facility with two scales for weighing trucks as they enter and depart will be more efficient and faster than the old site.
Tiede stated that the old office and scale may still be utilized during the busy harvest season but day to day operations will be headquartered in the new grain office.
Work has started on the circle track that will come off the main line of the MRC railroad on the west side of Hwy 273 and run between the flat storage and elevator for loading.  The track is expected to be completed to coincide with the completion of the railroad rehab project later this fall.

NewsJune 01 2016

Honoring those who gave the supreme sacrifice

Posted by Lucy

An outdoor Memorial Day service at the Kennebec cemetery featured presentations by members of the Johnson/Peterson including Charles Hamer (right) and Wayne Monson (left). An indoor service with Scott Muirhead as speaker was also held in Reliance.
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