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County board candidates face off

Contenders tackle topics including budget challenges, more inter-agency partnerships and highway maintenance at forum

November 2, 2012
By Deb Gau , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Candidates for the Lyon County Board were speaking out on Thursday night and weighing in on county issues during a forum event at the Marshall Area YMCA. The need for government collaboration and efficiency, as well as budgetary challenges facing Lyon County, were two of the major themes that emerged as candidates spoke.

Present at Thursday's event were incumbent and challenger candidates from three commissioner districts. Commissioner Bob Fenske and Charles Sanow are running in District One, Commissioner Steve Ritter and Jeanine Barker are running in District Two, and Commissioner Rodney Stensrud and Jerry Bottelberghe are running in District Four.

The first question of the evening looked at the sustainability of the county's zero levy increases. Lyon County has not increased its levy for the past five years. The incumbent commissioners said doing so has been a positive achievement for the county. However, overall candidates expressed uncertainty about whether the trend will continue into the future.

Trying to reduce levies and budgetary spending has been a great effort on the part of county departments, Barker said. "I'm just not sure how many more years we would be able to do that," she said, without sacrificing services.

Fenske and Sanow sparred briefly on the actual impact of the county's budgetary decisions. While Sanow commended commissioners for working to keep taxes low, he said county spending has actually increased some.

"We need to be honest about that," Sanow said. Later, he went back to the issue during closing statements.

"You're wrong," Fenske replied. Fenske said the county has been levying about $12 million a year. "And we mean to stay within range of that."

Candidates said the need for continued efficiency and inter-agency teamwork for county services was another key issue facing Lyon County. Ritter said combining county health and human services has been a positive move, as has partnering with the Marshall EDA and cities around Lyon County for economic development. Candidates across the board thought there would be more opportunities for teamwork in the future.

"Lyon County has always been recognized for the ability to work with other entities," Barker said, and advances in technology continue to make that easier.

Bottelberghe said he had seen some of the process of collaborative efforts working in the field of mental health services. Collaboration between public agencies "is as difficult as agencies want to make it," he said. Open communication is key for a good partnership, he said.

Candidates were also asked how they would address maintenance of county roads. Highway maintenance is an ongoing concern, candidates said, especially as agricultural equipment and trucks get heavier. At the same time, transportation funding has been getting lighter, Ritter said.

"It's a tough situation, how you do this," Stensrud said. Often, it seems in the time it takes to repair one county road, another takes severe wear. Several candidates, including Stensrud and Sanow, said some bonding might be necessary for infrastructure projects.



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