Nov. 4 election - Stutsman County CommissionVoters will select two people to serve a four-year term on the Stutsman County Commission. Early voting begins Oct. 20. Incumbents Douglas Kaiser and Mark Klose are seeking re-election. Also running for a seat on the commission is Randy Williams. The Sun asked 10 written questions of these candidates. Here are their answers, limited to 100 words.
Nearest city of residence: Buchanan
Employment: Retired; 42 years as a grain inspector; 35 years part-time farmer
Education: Buchanan High School
Immediate family (spouse, children, number of grandchildren) Wife Patricia, 2-sons, 2 grandchildren
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: Jamestown Knights of Columbus, Kensal American Legion
Mark T. Klose
Nearest city of residence: Jamestown
Employment: Small business owner
Education: graduate, Jamestown High School
Immediate family (spouse, children, number of grandchildren): Wife Mona, 1 son, 1 daughter
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: North Dakota County Commissioners Association, North Dakota Association of Counties, Atonement Lutheran Church, Jamestown College Jimmie Boosters and Jamestown Elks.
Nearest city of residence: Jamestown
Employment: Randy’s Auto Express – owner; Crossroad Repair -Self Employed
Education: Jamestown High School
Immediate family (spouse, children, number of grandchildren): Wife Cheryl, 3 sons, 3 daughters, 3 grandchildren
Five memberships/organizations most important to you: Member of St. Mathias Catholic Church in Windsor, El Zagal Shriners.
1. County residents rejected a proposal to increase funding for county roads by increasing the mill levy for agricultural land owners in June. But county roads still need work and money is needed to do it. Is there another way to get the work done? Explain.
Douglaas Kaiser: With a 2-1 vote in the June election Stutsman County residents do not want to increase taxes to fund county roads. It is hopeful that the state Legislature and the federal government will appropriate more money to the county needs in North Dakota. With the oil impact in the west and agriculture in the east the entire state needs more funding for roads.
Mark Klose: Stutsman County has two primary funding sources available for road repair and construction, that being property and sales tax. In order to increase revenues a positive vote of the citizens in the county is required. State and federal sources may be available, but would require either Legislative or congressional action.
Randy Williams: I’ve been on both sides of the fence: a farmer in the past, and a current business owner in Jamestown. I know that we are an agriculture community, and if the city and the county can’t produce a solution together, the city will be at a loss! I know that it hurts when the taxes go up, but that is where we will find relief for road problems. Uncle Sam will not hand out everything this county is in need of.
2. For years, county commissions have said that if there is not adequate funding for roads that some will have to be turned back to gravel. Is it time to stop talking about doing it and actually turn some back to gravel? Explain.
Kaiser: We are dealing with 2008 expenditures and 1972 revenues. We have 232 miles of paved roads in Stutsman County. With the funding we receive I recommend we maintain the good pavement first. Some of these roads will become a soft issue and the county can be found liable. Without adequate funding some of these roads will have to be turned back to gravel.
Klose: The cost of hard-surfaced roads continues to increase and with no additional financial re-sources we have no way of maintaining our current road system. Turning roads back to gravel is the county’s last resort and there will be cost associated with that also. We have recycled four miles of road already, and will have to do more in the future. As the patching costs on different sections of road becomes too great it will become necessary to turn it back to gravel.
Williams: Turning some low traffic roads back to gravel to cut down on high maintenance is a black and white answer. By that I mean roads with less traffic will survive with gravel alone. However the roads most traveled would benefit their travelers, such as farmers, if they continued receiving a high level of maintenance.
3. The largest item in the county budget is salaries and benefits. Should the county continue to cover all increases in insurance premiums for county employees? Why or why not? Explain.
Kaiser: I think the insurance premium in-crease, the step increase and the cost-of-living in-crease should be combined at budget time. This would make the best package possible for the employees and the county.
Klose: The county is fortunate to have some very loyal and dedicated employees. The benefit package that is offered is competitive in our community. We review our wage and benefits each year at budget time to determine how we compare with other employers as well as consider what we can afford. This is a year-to- year evaluation and no commitments can be made beyond that.
Williams: Benefits and insurance are a given in large employment areas. If employees are needed for this county, they must receive treatment as they would from other businesses.
4. County employees ask for step increases in addition to cost-of-living increases because they say it’s unfair to bring in a new employee at the same salary level as one who is experienced. Do you agree with this policy? If so, why, and if not, what would you propose instead?
Kaiser: I am proud of the dedicated department heads and employees we have in Stutsman County. To keep these good employees the county has to pay respectable wages and benefits. I think an experienced employee is worth more to Stutsman County than a new employee. The experience should be reflected in their wage.
Klose: I have reviewed several pay systems and it seems that there are questions and problems with all of them. In the past, the county has given step increases but not always, given cost-of-living in-creases, but not always. Again it is reviewed at budget time to determine if we are competitive and what we can afford.
Williams: If you are a good employee you shouldn’t have to ask for a raise. Therefore, you shouldn’t be worried about someone else starting just below or at your wage level. Yes, I agree to both cost-of-living increases and step increases.
5. The voters are being asked to merge the city and county library operations. Should it pass, a new board would be appointed that would have control over the future of the county library. Are you in favor of this? Why or why not? Explain.
Kaiser: I am in favor of a combined city and county library. With operating two libraries we are duplicating books, heating cost and building maintenance. I am in favor of continuing the Bookmobile services in the county as long as it is being utilized.
Klose: I believe it is a good idea and support it. This could be a win-win situation if set up properly. One staff to handle the duties of running the library and possibly one building to maintain will certainly benefit both entities. Combining book collections and purchases will provide more selection and less duplication.
Williams: I believe we should merge the libraries together in order to increase efficiency. Both are located in Jamestown, but we do still need the Bookmobile for travel to the rural areas.
6. State support for counties has steadily decreased through the years, forcing counties to rely more heavily on property taxes. What do you think the state’s financial obligation should be to counties?
Kaiser: A good example of this is in social services. The state implements programs and funds them for a few years. The state then turns the programs over to the county with no source of funding. Counties need the state to help more with the funding.
Klose: Over the years programs were created with different reimbursement percentages. Through time, those reimbursement percentages changed with more property taxes needed to fund the programs. I believe that the state’s share should be consistent with possibly more responsibility placed in the social program area. Also if the county could receive a larger share of the gas tax revenue it would be beneficial in running and maintaining our road department.
Williams: Our state taxes need to increase aid to cover our county problems. The state should not wean its counties to the point of severe financial strain.
7. What’s your opinion of current economic development policies here? Do you think changes are needed? Why or why not?
Kaiser: I think Connie Ova and the members of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. are doing a very good job. I don’t’ feel any changes are needed.
Klose: I think the current policies are fine. We must all remember that the JSDC was set up to attract industrial development and create good job opportunities for the citizens of Stutsman County. This should continue to be our priority. By increasing industrial development we also increase our county’s wealth by adding to our tax base and provide employment opportunities for our citizens. They in turn buy goods and services and possibly raise a family. This will strengthen our retail business and possibly increase enrollment in our schools.
Williams: We have a very attractive area for businesses, major highways, roads and air support; we need to advertise it.
8. If you are an incumbent, why should voters return you to office? If you are running for election, why should voters support you?
Kaiser: It takes one term as county commissioner to learn how the commission and the county work. I have served one term and have learned lots in the last four years. I vote in the best interest of the county and the people of Stutsman County. I hope to have a chance to serve another term as county commissioner.
Klose: As an incumbent, I have had the privilege of serving on several boards. While serving the citizens I have gained valuable knowledge on the workings of county government which is very beneficial. Whether it be preparing budgets, establishing policy or interacting with other government agencies, the experience gives me an understanding of what has worked and what may require change. The relationships that one establishes also are important, in that I believe I have gained the respect and trust of the people that the county does business with.
Williams: I need your support in this election in order to better our county with the use of new and down-to-earth ideas.
9. What can Stutsman County do to facilitate wind energy development here? Is enough being done? Explain.
Kaiser: The county is working on a zoning ordinance for wind farms. The wind farms will be good for the county.
Klose: Stutsman County has been involved in wind energy since 2003 when we partnered with the city through the Development Corporation to fund a study on wind potential within the region. Although no construction has taken place a number of companies have ex-pressed serious interest in development in the western part of our county. Our zoning board is developing ordnances to deal with potential problems should they arise The Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corp. has assisted companies and communities in wind development. It is my hope that we see more activity in the near future.
Williams: We have the resources, with a foundation of development, but a lack of necessary funding to further the development process. I’m not sure what it will take to get those companies here, but I believe that is something we need to focus on together.
10. The Stutsman County sheriff requested funding for another deputy which the county rejected. Are there enough law enforcement serving in our county or are more needed? Explain.
Kaiser: The request came in late on the budget. There will be more discussion on possibly adding another deputy.
Klose: I do know at times the sheriff’s department has trouble with staffing and there have been requests made for additional personnel. We normally review these requests at budget time, although a case can be made to add additional personnel, in an effort to balance our budget all requests cannot always be approved. I believe that our department heads understand our situation and work with the commissioners in resolving issues in department budgets.
Williams: I’m in favor of funding another deputy. Our sheriff’s department has been running efficiently. I trust the sheriff’s department’s decision to fill the need of additional staffing.
Thursday: District 12 candidates for North Dakota House of Representatives