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Stutsman County Commission

Nellie Degen

Age: 62

Education: high school graduate and one year of college

Business/Profession: developed programs in education and lobbied for policy and other changes at local and state level -- retired

Family: husband, Bill; one son, two grandchildren

Memberships: Chamber of Commerce, City of Hope National Medical Center, Industry Manufacturers Council City of Industry, Kiwanis International, Community Access Television board member (all past memberships)

Patrick J. Folk

Age: 79

Education: Graduate of Jamestown High School

Business/Profession: past owner and president of Frank's Electric Inc. -- retired

Family: wife, Dolly; two children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren

Memberships: life member of Jamestown Bowling Association, Elks, Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Good Neighbors Club, AARP

Dale Marks

Age: 61

Education: 1966 graduate of Jamestown High School, 1971 Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics and a minor in animal science from North Dakota State University

Business/Profession: ag producer

Family: wife, Ann; three children and three grandchildren

Memberships: Montpelier Lutheran Church, 20th Infantry Regiment, Fort Seward Reconstruction/Veteran's Memorial, Winfield Township Officer, James River Valley Library System

Ben Maulding

Age: 32

Education: Montpelier Elementary, Jamestown High School graduate, attended Jamestown College and Northwest Tech, Wadena, Minn., Certified Firefighter II by North Dakota Firefighters Association, correctional officer certified by the State of North Dakota, commercial driver's license

Business/Profession: Stutsman County Corrections

Family: wife, Nicole; two sons, Luke and Nolan; two daughters, Olivia and Cecelia

Memberships: Jamestown Rural Fire Department, Basilica of St. James and North Dakota Peace Officers Association

Craig Neys

Age: 55

Education: graduated from Buchanan High School in 1973 and attended North Dakota State College of Science for three years.

Business/Profession: Rural letter carrier in Stutsman County for the past 30 years.

Family: wife, Terrie; three daughters

Memberships: North Dakota Rural Letter Carriers Association, Knights of Columbus, Elks, Eagles and Dakota Anglers.

Dennis 'Denny' Ova

Age: 56

Education: Cleveland High School

Business/Profession: Farmer

Family: wife, Connie; son Kody

Memberships (up to 5): Dakota Anglers, Medina English Lutheran Church, Valley Springs Township Board of Directors, James River Senior Center Board of Directors, Central Valley Health Board

1. Do you support County Measure 2, the measure to create a county road committee? Why or why not?

Nellie Degen: Absolutely yes, the people need a voice and opening the door for the people to participate, by developing a county road board, will give equality throughout the county.

What's wrong with allowing the public to share in the decision making? Why would any government entity not allow the public to be involved? We're the stakeholders; we're all investors in this. We must all keep in mind it's always about the safety and welfare of the people.

Patrick J. Folk: I support a country road committee but not a 17-member board. They won't be able to make decisions because there are too many people on a committee of that size.

Dale Marks: First, I want to say that county commissioners are willing to do the people's will. If Measure 2 passes I will do everything I can to help it be successful. My concern is that 17 members is an unwieldy committee. It will be a committee with volunteers, naturally, most concerned about roads that run past their homes. To get a consensus on what to advise the commission would be like caging sparrows. Two from the commission hold the road portfolio. Commissioner Denny Ova advocates having all five hold the portfolio and hold monthly public meetings to gather input.

Ben Maulding: I do not support the measure. Many of the county agencies or agencies receiving county funds have a board or governing authority such as Stutsman County Social Services, Law Enforcement Center and Jamestown/ Stutsman Development Corporation among others. With the amount of money dedicated to roads, a committee is a good idea. The portion of the measure I do not support is making this measure a law. The commission already has the power to establish or create a committee.

Craig Neys: No, I do not support Measure 2. I feel it would be very difficult to have a large committee consisting of possibly 15 or more people trying to agree on decisions as to where monies should be distributed.

Denny Ova: No. The county has five elected commissioners to do the job. We are trying to be fair. We need to keep all main arteries open and safe and are doing our best on the rest.

2. Do you support County Measure 3, the measure to appropriate 2 percent of the county's taxable value to the Farm to Market Road Fund? Why or why not?

Degen: By supporting this measure we don't have to let anyone go, no one has to lose his or her job. There are always alternatives. This doesn't take effect till 2012; we have time to work on alternatives. We can do it.

For example, having attended the Chamber of Commerce forum, I learned that Stutsman County has more than $10 million in reserves, according to a 2009 State Audit. By amending the home rule charter to include Measure 3, it will allow us to transfer the money from most of our county funds, not just the general fund.

It'll be a challenge but doable.

Folk: I do not support County Measure 3 because it would take tax dollars away from other county departments causing severe funding problems for those departments. There would be losses in services provided along with losses in funding. Some departments such as 911 would no longer be able to operate. The correctional center would not be able to have state and federal prisoners causing a huge loss in funding with that loss in funding to come from the city of Jamestown and Stutsman County. The sheriff's department would have to cut deputies which would mean less law enforcement in the county.

Marks: No! Measure 3 is not new funding. It makes other people pay for road reconstruction by robbing county departments at the expense of at least 15 employees' jobs. Measure 3 will take money out of the road department's maintenance line item to insert it back into the road department's construction line item. Some of those 15 jobs are road department employees. Less road maintenance work will get done with less employees if this measure passes.

Maulding: I do not support County Measure 3. We as a county are in dire need of funding for our roads. This measure is not the way to get that funding. This measure would cause loss of funding to some very important services and job loss within the county. While no one can say for sure the depth of impact this measure would have if it passes, I feel that it would cripple the financial health of the county. I am for increasing road funding but I feel that the funding has to come from a new source not from robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Neys: No, I do not support Measure 3. This measure would not create any new monies. It would only take money away from important departments while only providing enough funding for the maintenance of possibly several miles of county roads. This will not fix our road problem. It will only create hardships for our working people.

Ova: No. That measure is moving money from one line item to another. There is no new money and it will not save anyone money. It will take $800,000-$900,000 out of services for the people of the county. It will drastically reduce funding for snow plowing, road maintenance, help to townships. Valuable services to the senior citizens would be greatly affected; impacts will be felt at the sheriff's department, courthouse business. We need to keep this county safe. Very possibly 20-25 jobs will be lost.

3. Why are you the best choice for the Stutsman County Commission?

Degen: I will listen and support the citizens of Stutsman County. I will respect the people, no matter what the issue. When one loses sight of the people, our community suffers. I'm here to serve the people of this great county.

I have experience with education, health and law enforcement. I've advocated for state programs and policy changes. I will uphold the Constitution and lobby for people's rights. When elected, I will work with local, state and national government on issues that affect you, as I have in the past.

Folk: I have 20 years experience as a Stutsman County commissioner. I know the operations of all the departments and their budgets. I have time to attend all commission meetings, all committee meetings and all board meetings. I have also served on the JSDC board, the Central Valley Health board, James River Senior Citizens board, LEC board and the city-county equipment sharing committee.

Neys: I have faithfully served as a county commissioner for the past six years. I feel I have gained much knowledge from serving on various boards and listening to the concerns of the citizens of Stutsman County. Also, I am a rural letter carrier and am very aware of the road situation we have. I would appreciate the opportunity to continue working hard in the best interest of the voters.

Marks: There are many people in the county that would be better than I am. I'm still a rookie commissioner until Nov. 2 when either I'm replaced or retained by the voters. The learning curve is steep and I have had a crash course in learning the facets of county government. Four years ago plus, a 93-year-old Helen Manns from southeast Stutsman County stated that our area needed representation. After discussion with my wife and with the controversy over County Road 62 raging, I became a candidate. Thank you for the confidence in me.

Maulding: I would bring a fresh view to the commission. I undoubtly will have a lot to learn on how the County Commission conducts its day-to-day business. This is a challenge I am willing to meet. My grandfather has owned and operated a trucking company in Stutsman County for more than 60 years hauling cattle and grain. I worked for him full time for six years and continue to help when possible. I understand the importance of roads.

Ova: I am reasonable and listen to our problems and try to get thing done fairly. The decisions are not always easy. Everyone in Stutsman County is important to me.

4. County roads have long been a controversial subject. Funding has for years been insufficient to maintain and improve paved roads. How and where do you think the county should get more funding?

Degen: Home rule can be a powerful tool. We need to use it to our benefit. By amending our home rule charter it will allow us to use other resources we're not utilizing at this time.

We need to ante more locally and then go to our different levels of government. Everyone, the state and the nation is talking road infrastructure and the need of repair, the timing couldn't be better. But we need to start locally to get to an acceptable level of support to show the higher government we're taking care of business here at home.

Folk: The state Legislature has to provide more funding to the counties and cities for streets and roads. I believe that all homes and buildings should be taxed and not be exempt as some are now. The taxable values on agricultural land should be raised. Maybe the county should be divided into districts with special assessments to provide the funding for the maintenance and improvement of those rural roads as is the case in the city of Jamestown where the adjoining property owners are now paying special assessments for those improvements.

Marks: We need new money to fix roads. Losing 15 employees to fund reconstruction of one mile of road is just wrong. In my first term two measures have been on the ballot. The 2008 measure was not popular with the rural residents. The measure last June was not popular with the urban residents. I could understand that. There are only two places where we can get the funds necessary for our huge road repair problem, sales tax and a mill levy increase. We the residents of the county must take on that responsibility, as unpalatable as it is.

Maulding: I believe the county will have to get the main share of funding from within Stutsman County. Where no one likes to pay more taxes, I feel the roads are our own responsibility. The funding will have to come from mill levy and sales tax increases. If elected I will work to bring a measure to the public for road funding. I will also work to preserve our paved roads.

Neys: This is a very difficult question. The majority of the voters have rejected our attempts to raise money for roads through an increase in taxes. We need to keep looking at all possible avenues for funding.

Ova: I will continue to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state officials, federal officials and our local legislators for funding and help. We need more mils to keep up with expenses. We still do not have a new federal highway bill -- why?

5. The county's road department has for years been hired for snow removal and other services on township roads. During the last three years the debt townships owe for those services has grown to about $1 million. What do you think the county should do about the money owed to them?

Degen: We all have to take responsibility, townships as well as the county. We are responsible for our duties and obligations. And there are existing laws that allow our townships to work with our county. Again it's implementing them. Example: townships can raise 3 mills, above their mill limitation, for mowing and snow removal, which could help pay down their debt being some of it is for snow removal done by the county.

Folk: The county should encourage the Legislature to pass laws that would allow the townships to have larger mill levies. The county should also encourage the Legislature to provide more funding for township roads.

Marks: Snow removal and road maintenance for townships helps the county generate some income. The debt had grown to approximately $1.3 million, but townships have taken measures to bring debt down to $700,000. The commission encourages townships to raise their mil levy to 36 mils max. which many have been doing at their annual meetings. State law allows the commission to raise a township mil levy by 9 mils per year. The county could charge 5 percent interest, but the townships have been hit hard by flooding and snow removal in the past 2 years reflecting no fault of their own.

Maulding: I feel the county has to continue to provide services to townships while not forgiving the debt. I feel the townships are responsible to pay as they can, while staying within their budgets. The townships need these services for children to get to school, people to get to work, movement of agricultural products, and the accessibility of emergency personnel l to reach people in need.

Neys: As of last year, the county imposed a 5 percent interest fee on the money townships owe the county.

Ova: The townships are in financial trouble due to record snow fall, high water, wet roads and traffic. We, the county, are their only resource. People need to get to work (a large number of them to jobs in Jamestown), school buses need to pick up children, fire trucks and ambulances travel these roads. All who live in the county travel for medical, supplies, education, church, shopping, and entertainment. The county is charging interest on new loans and have stressed to the townships that they need to levy the maximum allowable mills in their townships. Services cost money.

6. What role should the county have in economic development? Explain.

Degen: It's important for the county to be a part of economic development; it's the future of the community. When looking for other revenue sources, economic development becomes important as a new source. So we need to create a healthy climate for economic development. You're not going to get economic development without good infrastructure.

Folk: The county should stay involved in economic development as it now is. This involvement allows for the orderly development within the county. Economic development provides additional jobs in the commercial and industrial sectors with better-paying jobs. This increases the county's tax base.

Marks: This answer is not should but what is. The county levies 4 mills, which is a 20 percent share of the total city/county economic development fund to encourage business to start up and create jobs in Stutsman county. Two commissioners represent the county having JSDC as part of their portfolio. The business plan of a new company is scrutinized by the executive board of the JSDC and then the full board. After that the City Council, their lawyer, the JSDC lawyer, County Commission and the States Attorney have to approve of the enterprise before it is a done deal.

Maulding: The county's role is filled by the shared funding of Jamestown/Stutsman Developmental Corporation. JSDC helps existing and new business to expand and move into Stutsman County. The funding provided to this business is through loans and grants from the bank of North Dakota, North Dakota Job Service and federal programs. JSDC is our tool in county for economic development.

Neys: The county's role is to work closely with the JSDC board and employers. We need to evaluate their recommendations and requests in a fair and equitable manner to promote economic growth in Stutsman County.

Ova: We need jobs; we have great people in Stutsman County so let's keep them here by supporting our local companies and expansions and promoting new companies to provide variety. The county provides a key role in economic development by reviewing, funding and keeping an eye on projects.

7. Other than roads, what is the most pressing issue in Stutsman County, in your opinion? Explain.

Degen: People are the most pressing issue of Stutsman County. Everything revolves around the people. The people are the customers of those employed by the county and those the county commissioners were elected to serve. The roads are about safety and welfare of those traveling our county roads, and the emergency services are about getting care to the people, etc. Whatever the needs we are here to serve the people. Unfortunately too many forget that. I won't, that's why I'm running for Stutsman County commissioner, to serve the people. How can I help you?

Folk: Economic development and creating jobs are very important.

Marks: Safety. Our roads must not be a hazard for anyone especially our school buses. Safety. Having law enforcement reach to the corners of our large county. Safety. Keeping Emergency management and 911 up and running 24/7 as mandated by law. Safety.

Maulding: The completion of the Great River Energy project at Spiritwood along with the development of the biomass project or a feasible replacement to partner with GRE is a pressing issue. The power plant will provide roughly 24 on site jobs and another 19 jobs in the transport of coal from the Underwood area. The proposed Dakota energy Ag project which is in the preliminary feasibility study would add another 50-plus jobs when completed.

Neys: Other than roads, I feel the most pressing issue in Stutsman County deals with jobs. We need to create new jobs and expand industry in our area to keep our youth in Stutsman County and North Dakota. We also need to maintain the jobs that are currently available so that people are not forced to move to other areas.

Ova: We need jobs in Jamestown and Stutsman County. We need to continue to keep our kids safe so they can play where they want. Stutsman County and North Dakota is a great place to live. I serve on the board of directors for the James River Senior Citizens. The senior citizens are very important to this community and need to be treated fairly. Remember, they are the backbone of the community and need to be taken care of. The veterans are also very important to all of us. They are the reason we can do what we w.nt,