Richland commissioners amend human services budget

The Richland County Board of Commissioners increased the 2020 budget for the human services zone it shares with Ransom and Sargent counties, bottom right. It has been a daunting process to make sure the zone is compliant with state requirements.

“They’re expecting a crazy amount of work to be done in a short time, but we’re getting it done,” Richland County Auditor Leslie Hage said Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Hage was describing the steps taken to ensure Richland County, North Dakota, is compliant with the statewide human service zones policy. Since Jan. 1, Richland County no longer has a social services agency. It is the host county of a zone including Ransom and Sargent counties, North Dakota.

With a 5-0 vote. the Richland County Board of Commissioners approved an amendment to the 2020 human services budget, increasing it from $1.9 million to $2.5 million. The request was made by Social Services Director Kristen Hasbargen, who received updated information from Ransom and Sargent counties.

Some flexible funding opportunities will be available, the North Dakota Department of Human Services stated in 2019. The North Dakota Association of Counties (NDAOC), meanwhile, called the ongoing work monumental.

“The greatest short-term challenge has been combining the budgets, indirect costs, capital investments, payroll and benefit variations from the existing 46 administrative counties into the 19 ‘host counties’ in the newly established human services zones,” said NDAOC Executive Director Terry Traynor.

County leaders, while aware of the challenges involved, praised Hasbargen and her work with officials including Hage.

“Kristen has done a lot. It’s a mess now, but it could have really been a mess without someone,” Commissioner Tim Campbell said.

Commissioner Campbell also gave an update on land in Fairmount, North Dakota, which received some attention last summer.

A house which stood at 303 First St. N. was recently demolished. The garage remains and received new siding.

Richland County’s commissioners voted 4-1 in September 2019 to approve both selling the house to the city of Fairmount for $1 and providing $2,000 for disposal once the demolition was complete. The house had been foreclosed on in 2018 and had visible exterior damage including peeling or broken shingles, siding and gutters.

“It’s a win,” Campbell said. “I’ve gotten a lot of compliments and it’s better than having a ‘No Trespassing’ sign (on the land).”

Commissioner Sid Berg gave the dissenting vote in September, Daily News previously reported. He had suggested Richland County provide a maximum of $2,000 per year, not project, in demolition assistance situations.

Following the vote, Commissioner Nathan Berseth said cities would have to work with the county if they wanted demolition assistance funding.

Commissioner Berg had praise of his own, for Highway Engineer Jesse Sedler and the Richland County Highway Department. Berg highlighted their work to get roads safe for travel after recent winter weather events.

“They endanger themselves to get to their jobs. I give them tons of credit. That’s dedication. It’s part of the reasons why more people are starting to appreciate our highway department. They’re seeing the improvement and they’re seeing the people coming out there,” Berg said.

The commissioners’ next meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Richland County Courthouse, 418 Second Ave. N. in Wahpeton.

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