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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

County begins budget process

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

McCOOK, Nebraska -- More, more, more. Everyone wants more.

The state wants more weeds controlled in Red Willow County. Insurance companies want more money from Red Willow County. County employees want more wages from county commissioners.

At this rate, "more" is going to become a four-letter word.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has identified seven parcels of privately-owned rangeland, waste land and hay ground in Red Willow County on which infestations of musk and Canada thistle need to be controlled.

The smallest infestation is three acres; the largest, 300 acres. Severity of infestation ranges from "light" to "severe," from the flower stage to the mature stage.

An inspector from the Department of Ag and Bill Elliott, Red Willow County's noxious weed control specialist, will inspect and investigate the infestations on Wednesday, and Elliott will report back to commissioners on Aug. 9.

According to the Noxious Weed Control Act, it is the duty of each person who owns or controls land to effectively control noxious weeds. County boards or weed control authorities are required by law to administer the state's noxious weed control laws.

Commissioners, sitting Monday morning through their first workshop for the 2010-11 budget, are looking at an 8.46 percent increase in insurance costs.

Last year, commissioners budgeted $943,000 for health insurance for 51 full-time employees. For 2010-11, they're guessing they'll need about $1,021,809 -- plus an additional $53,000 to repay a "loan" taken this year from the county's inheritance fund.

Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said, "We've had an extra-bad year on health insurance." Fellow commissioner Steve Downer suggested shopping around for better insurance rates.

McNutt suggested having employees pay for more of their insurance premiums -- without adding the difference to their wages.

Fellow commissioner Leigh Hoyt agreed, saying that it is possible to live on less, something, he said, he knows first-hand.

Speaking of more and less, commissioners are trying to figure out raises for county employees, bearing in mind that even a minimal increase could mean an increase in taxes.

"We may have to go back to the old times, when there was no arguing -- every employee got, say, a $50-a-month raise," rather than a percentage, McNutt said. Downer said, "That's an easy way to budget."

McNutt said they may even need to differentiate between 40-hour-a-week and 35-hour-a-week employees when determining raises.

Commissioners are tentatively thinking a 2 percent raise for full-time employees other than the 10 elected officials and department heads.

Budget workshops will continue.

In other business:

* The Nebraska Department of Environmental Qualify notified commissioners that Timmerman Feeding Corp. of Indianola has applied for a major modification because it has converted parts of two flood irrigation fields to pivot irrigations for land application of feedlot waste water. The modification does not increase the existing 17,500-head capacity of the feedlot.

* EMC Insurance Companies, the county's liability insurance provider, provided commissioners with a reservation of its rights regarding Thomas K. Leach's lawsuit in district court against Red Willow County. A "reservation of rights" letter from an insurer is a notice that even though the company is proceeding to handle the insured's claim, certain losses might not be covered by the terms of the policy. By the letter, the company reserves its right to deny coverage based on the terms of the policy.

Leach is claiming ownership of equipment that Ron Willocks claimed as collateral for the now-defunct Pawnee Aviation, which defaulted on a $300,000 loan from the county's revolving loan program. The county has taken Pawnee Aviation property, including the equipment that Leach claims is his and was loaned to Willocks, into its possession and plans an auction.

Leach, of Louisiana, wants the court to stop the county from selling the equipment and return it to Leach. He is also seeking damages and is asking that the county pay Leach's attorney fees and court costs.

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