County passes amended floodplain resolution

County commissioners passed a floodplain resolution that has been on the table for a couple months, but amended it from the county Water Board recommendation of the floodplain management elevation plus three-feet to CFME plus one-foot before the motion came to a unanimous vote.

At the regularly-scheduled meeting in the County Commission chambers on the second floor of the Ward County Courthouse Tuesday morning, the commission held a public hearing to address the issue which had been recommended by the Ward County Planning Commission on Dec. 13. County engineer Dana Larsen presented hydraulic elevation maps, flood insurance rate maps and county floodplain management area maps to the commissioners and answered their questions.

There is no set elevation that new buildings will have to be built at, since water is not flat but instead always flows downhill, Larsen said in an interview later in the day. Elevations will be dependent upon where the building will be located, based on flood and hydraulic elevation levels based on that particular area.

Larsen said it was his intention just to see CFME levels met so it didn’t matter whether it would be CFME plus one-foot or three-feet, as both would allow for added protection against future floods.

The CFME levels are based on the “Mouse River Flood Protection Plan” and the historic 2011 flood that left many homes ruined and many people displaced.

In other business, a proposal by Juvenile Detention Administrator Mark Scharader to promote detention employee Derek Just from a part-time position to a full-time position was passed by the committee in a four-to-one vote, with commissioner John Fjeldahl voicing the dissenting vote. The proposal was tabled in last week’s meeting pending full clarification of budget numbers and other financial impacts of the move since the 2013 budget had already been established in December.

“Where is this money going to come from?” commissioner Alan Walter asked both Schrader and Devra Smestad, the county auditor and treasurer.

This led to significant discussion on yearly budget rollover, which is where money not spent in a department’s budget is rolled over into the general fund which can be used for necessary expenditures across departments.

The concern both Walter and Fjeldahl expressed was that money in the general fund is also generally budgeted out itself, already. Smestad disagreed, and both Fjeldahl and Smestad discussed just what the general fund can be used for, although Fjeldahl appeared more concerned with a seeming breach of procedure than he did with the immediate concern of the promotion.

“It’s like a savings account,” Smestad said about the general fund in an interview later in the day. “Each of the departments zeros out in their 12-month period. At the end of that period, whatever” is left-over is rolled into the general fund.

Last year, the juvenile detention center underspent by $50,000, she said, so the department would have been well within its means to have proposed the promotion during budget proceedings. Now that it has been introduced outside of those proceedings it will fall within the 2013 budget and the department will have “to adjust accordingly.”

Once Smestad clarified certain points about the usage of the fund, making it clear money wouldn’t be diverted from another project, Walter seemed to be okay with the proposal and voiced a yes vote at roll-call.

“I didn’t have this problem in December,” Schrader said in defense of his not having brought up the concern in the budget.

In last week’s meeting, before the issue was tabled, Schrader had described the flow of part-time employees in his office as “a revolving door.” The part-time jobs, for one, were not paying enough to meet cost-of-living in Minot and Ward county, and the flow of part-time employees left very few employees with the proper experience to handle detainees. Until the promotion was passed Tuesday, the detention center had only two full-time employees: Schrader and one officer.

Despite years of experience, Just was considering leaving as well to look for a better-paying opportunity and Schrader felt the loss of experience would be detrimental to the program and its budget.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Ward County Commission will be held Feb. 5, at 9 a.m. in the commission chambers. A special meeting is to be held Jan. 24, between the commissioners and the Citizen Committee to discuss the new administrative building, the jail expansion and the remodeling of the courthouse.