Sheriff Bill Flaten spoke with the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners at the start of their Tuesday, May 8 meeting about the need to re-evaluate staffing approaches regarding the Yellow Medicine County Jail. He informed the Board that the Jail is “anticipating some turn-over in the next couple of months” and urged the Board to explore the issue further.

Flaten specifically mentioned to the Board about involving the Personnel Committee in the discussion, explaining that from his end, “we see how it works, but it would be good to sit down and get some outside eyes.”

He elaborated that Jail staff were currently stretched tight, and that the County was struggling to find replacements for recent departures. Flaten reported that like many other counties, Yellow Medicine Jail staff had a high turnover rate as employees either seek other positions or leave to complete their education.

The Jail has also seen higher than usual occupancy rates. Flaten said that currently, there are around 35 inmates in the facility, and that over 90% are Yellow Medicine residents. “I’m at a loss,” said Flaten. He stressed that staff do “a great job,” but worried that the County wasn’t fully meeting the demands of a growing jail population.

County Administrator Peg Heglund agreed with Flaten’s assessment, noting that it normally takes a full two months to train new Jail employees. She said that adding more staff isn’t necessarily the solution.

Commissioner John Berends also asked what role the union would have in the conversation. Flaten said they should have a seat at the table, and urged the Board to include them in any future conversation.

Flaten thanked the Commissioners for their pledge to address the problem, saying that “these are conversations we need to have.” He sounded a hopeful note that “outside eyes that aren’t as jaded as I am” would contribute to a real solution.

In other news:

Property & Public Services Director Janel Timm and County Assessor Connie Erickson gave a presentation about the potential of using Tax Increment Financing to fund development projects in Yellow Medicine. TIF works by diverting future tax revenue (ideally buttressed by future increases in property value) to help fund specific improvement projects for both commercial and residential projects. Timm said that TIF was a good way of making targeted improvements in “blighted areas of the community.”

The County has used TIF in past years, and still has several “active” projects benefiting from the tax subsidy. The exact duration for a typical TIF varies, but Timm said that the average duration for a normal property is 20 years, and 8 years for an EDA district. The presentation garnered interest among the Commissioners, though no specific action was taken during the meeting.

County Engineer Andy Sander also gave an update to the Board. Due to a prolonged personnel absence, Sander requested that the Board approve his request for a temporary, part-time administrative secretary. The Board approved his request, setting the new position at grade 10, with a starting salary of $14.33. Sander also remarked that his department was “stretching staff a little thin,” adding that “it is not going to get better” soon.

The Board also approved the hiring of Jaime Niemeyer as a part-time, non-scheduled Correctional Officer/ Dispatcher. She is expected to begin work on May 11.

The Board renewed the annual computer maintenance contract with the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc (ESRI). The contract covers regular desktop computer work, and will cost the county $4,380.27 for the whole year.