One meeting after approving pay raises for themselves, the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners voted for a six percent raise to salaries for both the YMC Attorney and YMC Sheriff.
In a unanimous vote the board approved the six percent pay raises for County Attorney Keith Helgeson and Sheriff Bill Flaten in 2013, which broke down to a five percent pay increase and a one percent cost of living adjustment.
For Helgeson, this means a bump in pay of about $5,571.96, which will bring his annual salary up to $98,437.96 from $92,866. Flaten, meanwhile, will make $4,813.26 more in annual salary; bringing his pay up to $85,034.26.
Comparatively, County Attorneys, who work full time in the state of Minnesota, like Helgeson, make anywhere between $68,000-$156,000, according to an annual salary survey. Meanwhile, the nationwide average for County Sheriffs and Police Chief salaries is roughly $96,665.
“I don’t like doing this. I don’t want to do this,” said Sheriff Bill Flaten when discussing his salary with the board. “It’s uncomfortable, but we need to maintain the position as an attractive job so we can attract the most qualified personnel in the future. We all chose these jobs that operate in the public eye—and I’m betting we all chose them in part for that reason.”
The discussion gave all the board members an opportunity to detail the criticism received from constituents over the past couple of weeks after they voted 3-2 in favor of a 10.6 percent pay raise for themselves that brought their own compensation package up to roughly $38,500.
All commissioners said they heard from several constituents concerning the pay increase and defended their positions. Freshman commissioner John Berends, a dissenting vote against the commissioners pay increase, said his discussions on the matter usually ended with him asking the question “What is fair?”
“No one seemed able to answer that,” said Berends.
For Flaten’s sake, Berends' requested that he enumerate some of his duties that are not typically part of a county sheriff's responsibilities. In addition to the sheriff's office Flaten also oversees a county jail, is system administrator of the ARMER emergency radio system and oversees emergency management for the county in addition to his statutory duties.
Tax abatement in Canby
The board refused to have a public hearing on a request for a tax abatement by owners of the Subway Restaurant in Canby, ending any possibility of an abatement for 4Lancers, Inc., which built the restaurant in 2011.
“Unless you can show me a financial statement that shows you're going to fold without an abatement, I'm not in favor of it,” Commissioner Gary Johnson said.
The company was requesting a 10-year tax abatement of $1,100 per year. The city of Canby has already granted the company an abatement.
Page 2 of 2 - “I'm in the restaurant business,” said Commissioner John Berends, owner of Bootleggers Supper Club, “and if the county granted any other restaurant in town an abatement, I'd be upset. I've had bad years, and I've had to dip into my savings, but a thousand dollars doesn't make that much difference for a restaurant.”
In the end, only Commissioner Louis Sherlin, representing the Canby area, voted to schedule a public hearing.
Hagelstrom to retire
County Parks Director Myron Hagelstrom announced his retirement to the YMC board of commissioners Thursday.
Hagelstrom has been a part-time summer employee of the county for the past 33 years.
“My wife retired a few years ago, and she keeps going back to work,” Hagelstrom said. “It's about time we really retired.”
By “really retire”, Hagelstrom means he'll officially retire at the end of the year and donate his services gratis to help break in a new park director when the board hires one.
Hagelstrom’s impact on the county was displayed in the meeting when County Attorney Keith Helgeson added a personal note of appreciation for Hagelstrom as Hagelstrom detailed the number of youth he’s employed in the summers saying, “I worked for Myron on the parks 30 years ago.”
Hagelstrom was also a long time educator for Lakeview Schools.