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Steinbach announces retirement at county budget meeting


August 2, 2021

Kathy Steinbach has announced her retirement, effective November 30. She has served as county veteran’s service officer (CVSO) and housing authority director since June 1, 2018.

Steinbach told commissioners Tuesday that although she wasn’t planning to retire yet, recent developments have prompted her to focus on her family.

She presented the CVSO budget for 2021, which reflects an overall increase per the county pay plan. She proposed a reduction in the office expenses, but acknowledged the fact that the budget was simply a starting point. A new person in the position will require training and likely take a different approach once settled.

“There has been trust that has been built up with the veterans,” she said of her tenure, noting that she has assisted younger Vietnam and Iraq veterans. Burial flag requests have been consistent, and she was delighted to see that Miller’s Fresh Foods in New Rockford recently installed a reserved parking space for veterans.

“The position, when I came in, was all about travel,” she said, as her predecessors made veterans’ transportation their priority. “I’ve worked with people about getting on the bus or getting a ride to Carrington to get on the bus to Fargo (to the VA Hospital).”

Three quarters to 90% of veteran claims submitted for VA benefits come through county veteran’s service offices, Steinbach cited. Once they come to her office, she educates them about what benefits are available based on their service connection, disability and income.

The commissioners will begin advertising to fill her position as CVSO in the next few weeks. Simultaneously, the Eddy County Housing Authority board will also be advertising to fill the director position she is vacating.

Eddy County is one of five counties in the state that has its own housing authority director. Other counties either share an employee with neighbors, or contract with an outside agency to administer their housing programs.

Steinbach said contracting does have its appeal, but that combining the CVSO and Housing Authority Director positions locally also makes sense. She said it’s “good exposure” for the county to have the VSO office open three days per week.

As for the recent chatter about moving the VSO and Housing Director out of the courthouse’s upper level, she said she understood the reasoning. However, she wasn’t keen on using the commissioners’ room, which is on the main level and is connected to the auditor’s office.

“Keep in mind that you have got to have privacy,” Steinbach said. “We do not have privacy on the first floor.”

Steinbach offered two alternatives: the newly-renovated basement room that houses the election equipment, and the social services office. Assuming there is space to spare, the social services office is a good fit, she thought. The building, which is owned by the county, would offer not only privacy for both veteran and housing clients, but also convenience for those who qualify for other programs such as WIC and food stamps. A referral would be a quick trip down the hall rather than to a different building. The commissioners agreed to evaluate that option.

Eddy County Emergency Manager Lisa Thompson also presented her budget. She has a lot of work ahead of her, and she said after nearly eight months on the job she is starting to feel like she’s up for the challenge.

She is currently working on the Local Emergency Operations Plan (LEOP) for Eddy County, which was first written in 2017 by Kristy O’Connor, and hasn't been updated since.

“It’s just a lot of research,” she said. The plan includes contact information for emergency contacts, public officials, churches and other community resources. Using Wells County’s plan as a template, she is working through it.

Eddy County’s hazard mitigation plan is also up for renewal in 2023, and she needs to apply for grant funds now to meet that deadline. The cost to update is estimated at $30,000, and one adjacent county has been working on theirs for 18 months, she said. When the plan was last updated in 2018, Eddy and Wells County officials developed a joint plan.

Then there’s the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA), which is looming. Add in the slew of emergency management classes that must be completed within one year of hire, and it’s easy to see that Thompson has a full plate.

“The training is what has been very time-consuming,” Thompson said. With only eight hours per week designated for emergency management duties, she said she’s done the bare minimum that the state says the office should do.

For 2021, she proposed increasing the work hours to 12 per week. The added cost is reflected in her 2021 budget request. Commissioners agreed.

Several other agency budgets were also reviewed at the special meeting.

Allen McKay, administrator for Lake Region District Health Unit, presented a hold-even budget for 2021. Eddy County’s portion is $45,000, or about four mils. They were able to avoid an increase due to the CARES act dollars the agency received due to the pandemic. “This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve (local public health units) gotten a direct payment from the federal government,” he said.

State’s Attorney Ashley Lies included a half-time salary in her budget for her new assistant, Tia Davis, which she shares with the sheriff’s office. She also proposed a return to having her salary paid out based on 20 hours per week. “Our caseload has definitely slowed down a bit,” she said. “With the assistant it’s going good.”

“Last year I cut way back on my expenses because of COVID,” Clerk of Court and County Recorder Patty Hilbert noted. She requested to return her office expense budget to its pre-pandemic level. She needs to purchase some specialty items for the recorder’s office, for which the costs have risen dramatically.

The Eddy County Museum and Historical Society proposed $2,500 in general fund support in addition to their one-quarter mil allocated per N.D. Century Code. Treasurer Sandy O’Connor reported that their top maintenance priority was paint. They hired a contractor to paint the schoolhouse last summer, because it was in the worst shape, and the cheapest to paint. New Rockford resident Jackie Williams stripped the windows in the church and cleaned all three buildings this spring.

The organization has spent $25,768 in the church so far, and O’Connor encouraged the commissioners to visit the museum to see the progress. Painting is next for the church, which is estimated to cost $10,000. The depot also needs paint, to the tune of about $6,000.

The commission plans to finalize and approve all agency budgets at the Tuesday, Aug. 3 regular meeting, set for 8:30 a.m. at the courthouse.


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