County Attorney negotiating on prosecution services

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioners heard from County Attorney Terry Viesselman on Tuesday concerning his office’s new involvement with the city of Fairmont.

“With the recent vacancy in the Fairmont City Attorney’s Office, our office has picked up doing the prosecution on an interim basis for them,” Viesselman said. “We had told them that if it was going to be a sudden transition period we would just do it at an hourly rate while we negotiate with them.

“I know they’re exploring all the possibilities on what they want to do and, at some point, we will submit a bid to them to do a contract on an annual basis. That’s not a for-sure thing, because they’re going to explore to see if there’s other people interested, but right now we have a big stack of files they brought over, so we’re busy as usual.”

Viesselman also noted that his office is negotiating with the city of Truman to handle its prosecution as well.

“Jim Wilson recently resigned from that spot and Derrick Greiner is now their city attorney, and their office doesn’t want to do the criminal stuff because it’s more difficult than it was in the old days due to e-filing and [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] requirements, and we’re adapted to doing that fairly easily,” Viesselman said. “So we’re negotiating with them and if they do want to go with us then I’ll bring that back [to commissioners] for approval.”

Commissioner Elliot Belgard asked if either of the possibilities will necessitate the need for more personnel in the County Attorney’s Office.

“My plan is if we get a contract with Fairmont then we would add support staff, because we need support staff already and that will help us,” Viesselman said. “Right now, we’re doing a lot of stuff that a support staff would do. But if we pick up Truman, Fairmont and eventually some others, then we would need another attorney.”

He said that then his office would consider the possibility of doing some of the cities’ civil work. However, he said it is not possible for his office to pick up that particular workload at this time.

Turning to other matters, the board heard from Emergency Management director Abigail Nesbit, who gave an update concerning a preliminary damage assessment for the state after spring flooding and an April ice storm that caused widespread damage.

“For the state to declare a disaster, we have to reach $7 million in damages, and we’re at $36 million for the state,” she said. “So we’re going to a FEMA-declared disaster that will hopefully be state-led.

“For Martin County, we’re at almost $1.6 million in damages. Compared to last year’s tornado, that was only $102,000 in damage and the summer floods were at $1.1 million, so this spring has been detrimental to the county.”

For the sake of the public, Belgard noted that Nesbit’s information only concerns damage to public property, not private.

“So we’re not doing great with the damages, but it’s all going to be figured out by FEMA and the state, and a lot of the townships are buying into the hazard mitigation ideas, so there’s going to be a lot of updates being made whenever grants start coming out in regards to fixing roads and stuff,” Nesbit said.

In other action, the board:

o Approved a motion to authorize the installation of a veterans marker at Wolter Park in East Chain.

o Approved the hiring of a heavy equipment operator and a highway technician position for the county highway department.

o Approved a motion to advertise for an open maintenance worker position for the highway department.

o Approved the purchase of a $15,400 road groom unit to assist in maintaining gravel roads.