Helm at the helm for one more year

Ward County commissioners approved a year-long contract extension for a program administrator performing contract work with the county Emergency Management office. His contract was set to expire in August.

His new contract will extend to Aug. 15, 2014.

Curtis Helm’s pay as the program manager is partially reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration based on how disastrous an event he is working on is.

Following the 2011 Souris River Flood, viewed nationally as a massive disaster, the agency reimbursed the county for 97 percent of Helm’s wages, which are contracted at $35 an hour.

From August to December 2011 Helm averaged billable hours at $6,710.20 per month, totaling a salary of $33,550.09 for just that five-month period following the flood.

Throughout 2012, Helm averaged $9,817.26 per month in billable hours, totaling $117,807.06 for the year. Through July of this year, his averages jumped again to $10,028.45 per month coming to a salary of $70,199.18 for the year through July 2.

And now, voting four-to-one, Helm was granted a year-long extension to his contract.

Commissioner Alan Walter voted “no” on the extension, calling into question Helm’s reported working hours.

He mentioned the month of January 2013 as a month that Helm should not have had so much work that he had to bill an average of 60 or more hours per week, as he has continued to do.

Other business

The commissioners reviewed and approved a total of $3,485,895.81 in monthly bills. This breaks down into $108,037.29 in social services bills, $40,575 in total pay for North Dakota State Fair security work, $47,166.81 for county employee salaries, $160,132.74 in total general bills, $2,400,920.35 in total road bills, $1,810.21 in total park board bills, and $762,938.41 in total emergency assistance for road work and other emergency repairs.

The commissioners confirmed Ward County Emergency Manager Amanda Schooling as the primary applicant agent for the 2013 “flood event,” with assistant Ward County Highway Engineer Travis Schmitt as the secondary applicant agent. According to a memo issued by Schooling “in 2012 the commission agreed that the assistant county engineer would be co-applicant due to damages to the county roads.” Applicant agents work as executors for applying and receiving federal financial assistance for disasters.

Commissioners granted Building Supervisor Leona Lochtowe’s request to reward Restoration Technologies Inc., of Sprink Lake Park, Minn., the job of repairing cracks in the Ward County Jail and Courthouse. The job, which will consist of caulking the cracks and sealing them is estimated at $7,900 for the jail at $4 per square foot and 1975 square feet to repair. The rate is the same for the 950 square feet of repairs needed in the courthouse, which would total $3,800. Ward County Sheriff Steve Kukowski expressed concern that if the cracks aren’t repaired soon that water seepage may damage instruments in the jail’s control room, effectively taking out the electronic abilities of the doors in the facility.

Six plat applications recommended for approval by the county planning and zoning commission were finalized and approved by the county commissioners.