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How short is a minute?

Commissioners cut discussion from meeting records

Staff writer

County commission meeting minutes will now be shorter, but not because meetings will finish any faster.

Commissioners directed county clerk Tina Spencer to include only official actions and to make minor notes of any extended discussions, in addition to the legally-required who, when, and where.

The action came Monday after commissioner Dianne Novak challenged the minutes of the Aug. 21 meeting, which included a 30-minute argument between her and EMS director Ed Debesis. Novak said the minutes were slanted against her because they did not include much of her response to points raised by Debesis.

Commissioners amended the minutes, but Spencer asked for direction on how to write minutes. Commissioner Kent Becker said minutes should be shorter and only include what is legally required, such as official actions. However, they never directed Spencer on how to record minutes.

Novak brought the issue back up Monday, suggesting scaling back the minutes.

“It would eliminate a lot of work for Tina, because she does put a lot of time into it,” Novak said.

Spencer said she is sometimes criticized for shorter minutes.

“Sometimes I get criticized for being too sparse, like I’m sanitizing something out,” Spencer said. “I’ve been trying to include any relevant discussion for just those points that were decisions.”

The minutes of the Aug. 31 meeting are three pages and nearly 2,000 words long.

Spencer told commissioners that leaving out discussion would also mean the minutes lose context around decisions.

“It’s hard when you go back later if you don’t have anything in there about what you discussed,” she said. “You’re back at square one all the time.”

Becker said he was comfortable with how they have been written, but moved to change them.

“I just think the actions need to be the minutes,” he said. “If we have an extended discussion, it should be noted, just because it may come up again. And that’s it.”

Commissioners can still ask for minutes to include specific statements.

Transfer station supervisor Bud Druse presented bids for air compressors. It took 10 minutes to approve the lesser of the two, which was nearly a third the cost of the other.

Commissioners in a 2-1 vote accepted the bid from Sanders Electric for $575 instead of Elcon Services Inc. for $1,522.91.

Novak wanted bids put out to more electric companies, even though Druse was not required by county policy to seek bids or receive commission approval for purchasing the cheaper air compressor.

The county’s procurement policy, provided by the clerk’s office, states that department heads don’t need commission approval or to use a bidding process for goods and services under $1,000.

Over that amount, bids are required from at least two vendors, preferably three.

Druse also said a door at the weed department needs replaced, but he only has one bid. Two others never responded when he contacted them.

“Do I keep hounding them, or is one-time notifying them enough?” Druse asked commissioners. “I’ve got other things to do.”

Commissioner Randy Dallke asked Novak how many Druse should find.

Bid opening for the 330th Rd. project is Sept. 28. Road and bridge supervisor Jesse Hamm said contractors would need three to four weeks for the eight miles, with September to November as the best time to do the work.

“There are contractors out there saying if it’s anything like last year, they’ll be overlaying it in November,” Hamm said.

The entire road may need closed for the construction, which would force the county to identify alternate routes for drivers.

“I’ll for it as long as we get it fixed right,” Novak said. “If that’s what the end result is, I’ll be inconvenienced.”

In other business

Commissioners met in closed session for five minutes requested by Hamm to discuss personnel performance, followed by another five minute closed session to protect confidential trade secrets requested by county counselor Susan Robson. There were no actions taken out of either.

Commissioners met after their regular meeting at Tabor College. They toured the construction progress of the Shari Flaming Center for the Performing Arts and had lunch at the cafeteria with vice president Ron Braun and communications director Amy Doane.

Last modified Sept. 14, 2017

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