Tempers flare at SCDRC meetingA Stutsman County commissioner accused the South Central Dakota Regional Council executive director and The Jamestown Sun Wednesday of taking his comments out of context.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A Stutsman County commissioner accused the South Central Dakota Regional Council executive director and The Jamestown Sun Wednesday of taking his comments out of context.
The controversy stems from the recent decisions by the Jamestown City Council and Stutsman County Commission to pay for only the first quarter of 2013’s SCDRC membership dues, and then re-evaluate maintaining membership.
“I didn’t stab anybody in the back and I haven’t thrown any rocks and I haven’t done anything,” Stutsman County Commissioner Craig Neys shouted at Carrington Mayor Don Frye. “I wanted to have a mild discussion and Deb (Kantrud, SCDRC executive director) was the one who woofed this all up. ...”
Neys then pointed out that a Sun reporter was sitting nearby typing his remarks, before a council member reminded him it was an open meeting.
In a phone interview on Dec. 17 with The Sun, Neys said: “I don’t see why Stutsman County has to worry about what’s going on in Wells County and Barnes County. … we’re paying the biggest percentage of the dues.”
Neys added that most of what SCDRC does for the county, the JSDC could do instead.
On Wednesday Frye called Neys’ words into question: “If you’re telling me that Barnes County and Wells County aren’t important to Stutsman County…”
Neys interrupted Frye’s question: “I’m sure you wake up in the morning and I think ‘how can I help Jamestown, North Dakota?’”
“You’re damn right I do, because it’s my region,” Frye answered.
Eventually SCDRC unanimously agreed that the county and city have to commit — or not — for a yearlong membership by Feb. 5.
Stutsman County and the city of Jamestown have already paid for membership dues for January, February and March to the SCDRC.
The eight other counties SCDRC works for all signed a joint powers agreement for a yearlong membership. Kantrud did not send out the agreement to Stutsman County because the county only committed for a quarter-long membership.
SCDRC has to apply for U.S. Economic Development Administration grants shortly, and it needs Stutsman County’s share of dues to come up with the matching portion of those grants.
“That’s why we have our dues and commitment in place, and I have to send that application out shortly and I can’t say that (all the dues are in place),” Kantrud said.
The county’s concern comes from that fact that Stutsman County is the largest contributor of dues in the nine-county region that SCDRC serves.
The city of Jamestown is slated to pay roughly $22,314 in dues for 2013 with Stutsman County slated to pay an additional $11,157 in dues. But the membership to SCDRC is in the county’s name.
The city uses sales tax revenue to pay its two-thirds of the Stutsman County membership dues.
Casey Bradley, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer, said the local governments decided to review the progress SCDRC made in three months and decide then if a yearlong membership was a wise investment.
“In March we’re looking at you guys coming in and giving us an update,” Bradley said before the vote.
SCDRC Business Director Duane Spooner said the council would have to look for other funding sources in those three months while also working to satisfy Stutsman County. Still, the county may not decide to rejoin SCDRC, erasing more than 35 percent of total dues the SCDRC receives.
Spooner called it “death by chocolate,” saying SCDRC either moves forward assuming Stutsman County will join, or SCDRC has to look for replacement funding sources to make up the difference.
Before the discussion came up about Stutsman County’s membership to SCDRC, the council talked about a newly-formed Committee for Growth.
The Committee for Growth drafted a survey to send to all member counties and cities asking what additional services they would like to see SCDRC provide.
The services, such as a building inspector, could be shared and contracted out to different communities as needed.
Other items on the list of services the SCDRC could look into addressing as a group were solid waste planning and geographic information system mapping.
“We can be a leader showing other regions in the state how to solve some of these problems and we have that leadership in this room, and what we need to do is have more vision five, 10, 15 years down the road,” Frye said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org