Weather Forecast


Nobles County budget talks continue

WORTHINGTON — As they continue to work through the budget process for 2015, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday sought additional information from two departments looking to increase their budget by more than $100,000.

Information Technology Director Angelo Torres has a significant increase in his budget due in part to a shift of all PCs, printers, monitors and related equipment from all other county departments into the IT budget. In addition, he’s requesting one additional staff person, the replacement of one-fourth of the telephones in county offices and the purchase of electronic tablets for all of the county commissioners, among other items.

“We do try to be as efficient as we can with primarily two people. You constantly have to prioritize,” Torres said. “That’s one of the reasons we want to request another person, so some of these things don’t stay on the wayside for months and months.”

His plan is to move the current help desk employee into a newly created technician role (the average salary for which is $37,250 annually) and then hire a new help desk employee.

“The challenge is that every department — with the exception of (finance) — is asking for additional employees,” said Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr.

Torres replied that he spends about half of his day helping users with their desktop computers.

“Another person would free me up to better organize and work on higher-end projects and be more efficient,” Torres said.

New phones (at $300 each), another email server and a couple of website servers are included in his budget to either replace outdated and failing equipment or to improve efficiency and security.

As for the electronic tablets, commissioners have talked about having them for their meetings.

“There’s no doubt that they’re useful,” Torres said. “We kind of feel the tablets will pay for themselves in less than half a year.”

The purchase of tablets for commissioners is just one of the steps Torres said he hopes to see in 2015 as his department works more with mobility issues — the use of laptops and tablets and increased access to wireless technology.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Kent Wilkening is focusing on improved security in 2015 at Prairie Justice Center. He is requesting an additional full-time deputy to provide courtroom security, as well as an assistant jail administrator — a position recommended by the state for jails who have more than 60 inmates housed in their facility.

Wilkening said the courtroom security person comes at the request of Judge Gordon Moore, who has asked for a single point-of-entry screening into the PJC.

“The only way we can do that is by having someone there full-time,” Wilkening said, adding that he would still need to use part-time deputies to fill in.

While there was a schematic design created for a single point of entry into PJC, complete with a metal detector and screening stations, neither Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson nor Wilkening had a cost estimate.

Commissioner Donald Linssen said the county needs to look at a single entry before hiring an extra deputy.

“I think we’ve got the cart before the horse,” he said.

Wilkening responded that the judge has the ability to order the sheriff’s office to provide courtroom security.

“I’m trying to get ahead of the curve on this one and get it done,” he said. “This position is something you will never know what you have deterred by doing this. It’s my job as an officer of the court to protect the courtroom and the judges. I’m just trying to do the best I can.”

As for the assistant jail administrator position, Wilkening said the rule used to be that if a jail averaged 60 inmates a year, an assistant jail administrator was recommended. The rule has since been changed to read that if a jail has more than 60 inmates at any time during the year, the recommendation is to create the position.

Wilkening said the jail reached more than 60 inmates “a few times” this year, and said the average number of inmates housed at any one time in 2013 was 51.36.

“I think (the position) would alleviate some of the overtime the jail sergeants put in,” he shared. “It would also help operations and efficiencies of the jail.”

So far this year, more than 1,300 hours of overtime have been logged either at the jail or in doing transports of inmates.

Additional items in the sheriff’s department budget that were further explained Tuesday were the replacement of two pickup trucks used by deputies. They will be replaced with police utility vehicles (likely Ford Explorers). The vehicles in the department are on a four-year rotation.

After fielding questions from commissioners, Wilkening had a question for them regarding PJC’s garage expansion.

“We haven’t talked about that yet,” Johnson replied.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330