By Jim Magdefrau
VINTON – Weeds, mowing and opioids were the topics for the Benton County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, at the service center conference room in Vinton.
Weeds and vegetation
Wayne Siela urged the supervisors to postpone the process for hiring the roadside manager and weed commissioner. Ben Bonar recently resigned from the position. Siela felt it was a good time to look at the job description and areas of responsibility. Siela felt there is room for improvement in certain areas. He wants to see more focus on the rural roads and what is growing in the ditches. He also talked about sighting issues at some corners caused by trees and brush. He also felt roadside vegetation would be better done by the conservation department.
Siela urged them to narrow the scope of the job, focusing on taking care of noxious weeds and brush. Siela also questioned the need for a college degree as a requirement for the job. He felt weeds should be taken care of by secondary roads. Board Chairman Tracy Seeman said they would discuss this later in the day. They are not rushing to hire anyone.
Benton County Attorney David Thompson asked what it takes to get the job done. Supervisor Richard Primmer said maybe a bigger staff is needed. Taking care of weeds throughout the entire county could be too much for two people.
Kirsten Nelson, human resources, emphasized that weeds and roadside management need to be their own department.
Supervisor Gary Bierschenk stressed there needs to be farmers on the hiring committee.
Siela advised that the county’s business is agriculture. The agricultural community should be represented in the hiring process.
Nelson said the hiring committee is hearing the county’s concerns. She said she is not comfortable in pausing the hiring process. Bonar is leaving the job on Sept. 9.
Siela and officials discussed how to manage weeds and which weeds cause the most problems, such as thistles, milkweeds and rag weeds, and what it might cost, sight distance at intersections and the need for wildflowers in ditches.
When asked if the board would pause the process, Seeman said they are still taking applications.
Bids were awarded and accepted for the purchase of two single-axle trucks for the secondary roads. They went with two Freightliner trucks for $329,892.
The board also accepted the resignation of Michael Myers. He is a maintainer operator out of Norway.
Jerry Greif met with the board about alleged damage done to his property by a road crew, which occurs during the mowing of his ditches. Greif’s property is west of Oak Grove Church. Engineer Myron Parizek said they would no longer mow the property. Greif then asked if the county would fix it. Thompson asked Parizek what can be done and also stressed they needed to have a civil discussion on this. As for being asked to fix this, Parizek observed there was nothing malicious in the mowing of the property.
County Attorney Thompson met with the board regarding the Janssen Opioid Settlement and forming an Opioid Response Team. They also discussed creating a special fund for the settlement. The county received its first check of $13,884.81. They will get 18 total payments over 18 years. No one knows how much the county will receive in future payments. He expects $700,000 total. The money can be used for certain things. He wants to form a committee to administer the funds. Thompson stressed this is a serious issue. The board approved forming a committee and setting up the fund.
Bids were opened for new vehicles for the sheriff’s department. They approved the purchase of three vehicles from Thys Motor Company, Belle Plaine. The Dodge Rams will be ordered in October and arrive in December. They are $38,820 each.