County OKs budget, routine items

The Ward County Commissioners heard routine memos from department heads and approved budgetary items at a regular meeting Tuesday morning.

The Juvenile Detention Center in the Ward County Jail is still having trouble maintaining part-time employees there, according to center administrator Mark Schrader. Two part-time employees had been hired since the last meeting but they have since found employment elsewhere. Since the employees had spent several hours in the training program, though, their names can’t be removed from the payroll lists until they have received payment for those hours.

Derek Just, who was promoted by commissioners to a full-time position in the center at a previous meeting, will begin his new hours soon.

“In 2011 we had a record year. We were up 11 percent from the previous year and I didn’t expect that trend to continue, I was completely wrong,”said Dale Braun, the Veteran’s Service Officer for Ward County, in his annual report to the commission. “For 2012 we were up significantly as far as dollars we processed through our office.”

“Total benefit, the bottom line there, we processed about $5.6 million in claims through our offices in 2012,” Braun continued. “That was up $1.1 million from 2011 or about 25 percent. So, we’ve been really busy, we’ve done a lot of activities more than I expected. I expect things to start leveling out pretty soon, but that’s what I thought last year.”

For every dollar the county services pays into the federal VA program it gets $192.72 back, the best ratio in the state, which Braun says he is “proud of.” Total expendiatures for the county services were $29 milliion compared to the $19.7 million the federal government gives for compensation and pension payments for veterans and their families, “and that’s a huge federal impact.”

The commissioners voted to allow the Sheriff’s Department to bid for six new patrol vehicles. Once companies have bid for the job, said Capt. Bob Barnard, the commissioners will then approve the lowest bidder so that the Sheriff’s Department can purchase the vehicles.

The courthouse server is at less than 10 percent capacity, according to Jason Blowers of the court IT department. He says a lot of the resources are being used by the Sheriff’s Department to store massive amounts of video and pictures, and from the Planning and zoning office to store data. There is a new server waiting to be put to use with a terabyte of space, but the server is running Microsoft Window’s Server 2011 operating system which he doesn’t have as much experience with when compared to the Server 2008 system the old server is operating, so he requests a renewal for a Microsoft support system that allows for four service calls a year. The commissioners approved the request.

Dana Larsen, the county highway engineer, introduced a highway department addition, allowing online permitting for oversize and overweight vehicles, an H-1B VISA for “non-immigrant workers,” permitting for gravel pits and construction engineering for two projects. The commissioners approved all of his requests and awarded the engineering jobs to the companies recommended by Larsen.

A special meeting of the Ward County Commission is planned for Feb. 21, where further topics on the upcoming expansions to the jail and courthouse will be discussed.