WORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners set the salaries of elected officials during Tuesday’s board meeting, giving themselves a 2.75% cost of living adjustment and approving salary increases for the auditor-treasurer, recorder and sheriff. County Attorney Joseph Sanow — in office for a month and a half — did not request an increase for 2020.

The largest share of discussion centered on the auditor-treasurer position. Joyce Jacobs has a current salary of $74,467.78, and her request was for a 13% salary increase, to $84,148.59. During budget discussions, she explained the duties of her job and the reason for the pay increase.

In leading off discussion, Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. said he did his homework over the weekend, looking at auditor-treasurer pay in seven counties in the area. He tossed out the high and low salaries, and after averaging out the remaining five, found that Jacob’s 13% salary increase would still put her salary slightly below the average.

Board chairman Matt Widboom said qualifications, job performance and experience are among the items considered for a salary increase.

That said, Commissioner Gene Metz presented a motion to give Jacobs a 7.5% pay increase, to a salary of $80,000.

“I’m not quite buying experience and years of service yet,” Metz said. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Justin Ahlers.

Before a vote was taken, Widboom said after conversations with Jacobs, his personal opinion is the increase should be higher than 13% “so we can get to the point where there isn’t a dramatic, higher number increase.”

Jacobs then asked for permission to approach the board.

“I understand that it looks like a huge increase,” she said. “Unfortunately, when you start someone at the very base level, it does make it look like there’s a significant increase.”

Jacobs said a comparison of salaries compiled by the Association of Minnesota Counties shows the average salary among 10 counties with populations of 10,000 or less is $84,379.

Nobles County’s population is nearly 22,000 (July 2018 estimate).

“That’s 13.31% higher than mine,” Jacobs said. “I don’t think my 13% request is out of line.”

Addressing the motion on the floor — the 7.5% increase — the motion failed on a 2-3 vote, with Widboom, Demuth and Ahlers opposed.

A second motion, offering Jacobs a 12.3% salary increase to $83,627, subsequently passed unanimously.

Nobles County Recorder Thelma Yager then asked to change her requested salary from $67,151 (a 7.4% increase) to $70,512.66 (a 12.78% increase), which would be in line with the county pay scale. County Administrator Tom Johnson noted to commissioners that elected officials aren’t on the county pay scale, but Yager said she believes that she qualifies for the steps based on her 11 years of experience in the recorder’s office.

When a motion by Ahlers for a 7.4% salary increase failed on a 1-4 vote, a second motion for the 12.78% increase approved on a 4-1 vote with Ahlers in opposition.

Sheriff Kent Wilkening had requested and was granted a 2.94% salary increase, from $118,920 to $122,420. Sanow’s salary will remain at $91,728 for 2020; and commissioners will see their salary increase from $19,717 to $20,259.22.

Wages for temporary and seasonal employees for 2020 were set at $13.50 per hour, with a 50-cent-per-hour increase for each year the individual retains employment.

Also, salaries for non-union employees will increase 2.75% for 2020.

County to pay beaver bounty

With beavers causing havoc in the county drainage system, Ditch Systems Coordinator Brad Harberts asked commissioners Tuesday to consider paying a $75 bounty on beavers trapped from the drainage system.

Harberts said getting a backhoe on site to destroy a beaver dam and haul the material away is expensive.

“The DNR (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) pays $75 per beaver to have them removed,” Harberts said. “We want to get (beaver) out of there so it’s not a recurring thing.”

Harberts has been in contact with three trappers, none of whom are “real willing” to trap them because of the low price of beaver pelts. By offering a bounty, he said trappers would be more willing to set the traps.

“We would designate where the beaver has to be removed,” Harberts said. “Some places it’s two or three beavers or up to five. Whatever, you gotta get them out.”

The bounty paid to the trappers will be funded through the individual ditch systems where the beaver are trapped.

In other business, the board:

  • Authorized spending up to $400,000 for a new security camera system, audio system upgrade and cable installation at Prairie Justice Center. The expense will be funded with the county’s building reserves. The current balance is approximately $1.9 million, comprised primarily of wind energy production tax revenues.

  • Authorized final payment of $156,605.23 to Duininck Inc. for 2019 bituminous paving work. The total contract cost was $2,200 under the original bid amount.

  • Authorized the purchase of a new vehicle fueling control system for the public works department. A quote of $26,453 was received.

  • Approved a biennial service agreement between the county and the Minnesota Family Investment Program. The agreement comes with $270,154, which will be used to provide employment and training services, support emergency assistance to eligible families and support the income maintenance unit within Nobles County Community Services.

  • Adopted the One Watershed, One Plan for the Missouri River Watershed. The plan encompasses portions of six counties. Once adopted by each county, its Soil and Water Conservation District and two watershed districts, the plan will be formally adopted by the state. That will release $1.3 million to the Joint Powers Authority to begin awarding dollars for conservation projects in high priority areas. Commissioners also approved participation on the Joint Powers Authority.

  • Approved a rewritten Nobles County Parks ordinance.

  • Recognized Julia McCaslin, correctional officer, as the October Excellence in Performance Award recipient.

  • Reappointed Nobles County Veterans Service Officer Bill Brockberg to a four-year term, extending through Nov. 12, 2023. Brockberg said this will be his final term as VSO.

  • Witnessed Bruce Heitkamp take the oath of office as the county’s emergency management director.