Berg visits Dickinson during budget meeting: City plans include adding personnel, pay increasesCity commissioners and administrators had a special guest crash their budget meeting at the Dickinson Area Public Library on Tuesday morning.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
City commissioners and administrators had a special guest crash their budget meeting at the Dickinson Area Public Library on Tuesday morning.
Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., addressed the group of city leaders as they were preparing to commence a special budget meeting. District 37 Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, was also in attendance.
Berg was scheduled to tour Wyoming Casing Services in north Dickinson and then address a joint session of the Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis clubs at a lunch meeting at the Elks Lodge. The representative was touring Williston and Dickinson on Monday and Tuesday.
“Growing up in Hettinger, this is kind of like, for me, coming back to home country,” he said. “If we had 535 people from southwest North Dakota and put them in Congress for like, six months, I think our (federal) budget would look a lot more like this (referring to the positive balance of Dickinson’s budget) than right now being upside down.”
One of the grievances the city has with the federal government is regulations that might not work in Dickinson, City Administrator Shawn Kessel said. One example was the triangle curbs delineating the north/south and east/west sidewalks down 10th Avenue East.
“I just know that our plows are going to take them out and someone’s going to hit a windshield,” he said. “It was a federal requirement; we had to do it. There was a lot of extra dollars, I’m sure.”
Berg said that federal budget changes he is working on would reduce funding for projects like that, but the reduced funds would come with fewer strings attached, leaving local governments to spend the money as they see fit for their communities.
“If there’s any of that stuff that comes up, let me know,” he said, adding that he wants to remove federal regulations that don’t make sense for all areas.”
2013 Preliminary Budget Talks
After downsizing during bust times, the city plans to add and recreate positions in its preliminary 2013 budget.
Full- and/or part-time positions would be added to the engineering, police, library, sanitation, planning, municipal court, assessing and city administration departments.
While many people focus on the cost of adding employees, Commissioner Klayton Oltmanns asked if the city kept records of how much revenue new employees could generate through fees and fines.
“Looking at police, for instance, writing more tickets, looking at solid waste being able to serve more homes,” he said, “at some point you have to look at how many more clients you’ll be able to serve and the amount of fees that’s going to generate.”
One example is an officer dedicated to truck regulation and traffic. That position was pulled into the general squad after three months, Dickinson Police Department Chief Dustin Dassinger said. In that time, it generated roughly $30,000 in revenue.
The permanency of the added positions is a concern, Commission President Dennis Johnson said.
“In trying to deal with the increased workload, how much of this do we hire staff for and how much do we outsource for?” he said.
The 2013 budget will allow for a 3 percent cost-of-living salary increase for all employees.
In addition to personnel, in the first draft of the budget the city plans to fund partially or in-full the creation of a waste reclamation facility, public works building, animal shelter, public safety center, expansion of the West River Community Center and a master trails system. Some of these projects would not be completed until 2014 or 2015.
There is a public forum regarding the West River Community Center expansion at 7 tonight at the center.