Council says no to police raises; one employee receives raise

BY KYNLI SMITH

The town of Basin approved the 2016-2017 budget last Tuesday night during a special meeting.
The town budget is similar to last year’s fiscal budget, and again like last year, no town employee received a raise, with the exception of one town employee whose raise was tied to a promotion.
“I think our pay to our employees is deplorable,” said Councilman Roger Stickney. Since it had been years since employees last received a raise, he added that he hopes in the future to hopefully find a way to give town employees a raise.
He also noted how surrounded towns pay their town employees significantly higher than the town of Basin currently does.
After looking at five different towns, Stickney said that the Basin police chief is $5.87 below the hourly average and that the town clerk is $4.44 below the average.
“I think working our chief of police that far under the average of five towns around is just not the way to go,” said Stickney. “I know we can’t correct it 100 percent but I think we need to come up with some kind of a plan over a period of time where we can make it right.”
“We can’t run the town in the hole because then they won’t have a job, period,” said Councilmen Brent Godfrey. He added if they brought everyone up to par with other towns, they might have to lay off employees to do so.
“At this point in time I think we better ride it another year because where are we going to get the money from?” said Mayor Dennis Peters. “It is not that I don’t think people deserve it.
For the second year in a row, the council said no to raises of the town police officers. Back in April, when the town started looking into this year’s budget, Basin Police Chief Chris Kampbell purposed three different options for the police budget.
The first option allows for three full-time officers with an estimated budget of $131,040. With this option, there would be an increase in the overtime line item due to vacation, sick, training and emergency leave from work.
The second option allows for four full-time officers with an estimated budget of $167,648 and would increase flexibility of scheduling and unforeseen emergency absences. It would also have the least amount of overtime and would allow for more officers on the street and available for emergencies.
Option three would allow for three full-time officers and one part-time officer with an estimated cost of $149,344. It would provide some flexibility of schedule. The part-time position would cover shifts when others are not available. The one drawback is the part-time officer would need to be certified within two years of hire. Kampbell recommends hiring a certified officer for the part-time position.
The council approved $132,120 for the police salaries, which was more than Option 1 proposal of $131,040. However, the council did not approve raises for the police officers.
“This is the first time I have heard those raises have been removed from the budget,” said Kampbell. “That is disappointing.”
Kampbell also clarified with the council that they were saying to hire a part time officer would not cost us any more money than to give these officers a raise.
“In the budget right now we returned more than 10 percent of our budget. I don’ think there is another department in town that has done that. You are asking us to do more with less and we’ll do it. We will sit down and we will do it.”
Kampbell added that the department will not get a new police car that was estimated to cost $16,000 or hire a part-time officer with an estimated cost of $16,000 to make the raises work and return money into the town’s general fund.
“That line item for salaries is higher than I requested; I wasn’t requesting that money,” said Kampbell said. “When you changed it back to the previous year you changed it back to a higher number I was requesting.”
According to Kampbell, about 12-13 percent is estimated to be put back into the town’s general fund.
“The money that is there right now will pay for raises for those officers. You don’t have to add any money; it is in the budget right now,” said Kampbell.
The council asked Town Clerk Dani Chapman how the money Kampbell requested is lower than what he received.
“When I put in the requested raises it didn’t raise his budget, but I was told by the council to take that out and put it back to the way it was last year and that is what it reflected.”
“If the money is there and you want to spend it spend it, but when you run out of money you are done,” said Godfrey.
“I understand that Brent,” said Kampbell. “You guys have given me more money than I asked for and at the end of the year there will be $20,000 left in there that will be turned back into the town.”
“If you can give these guys raises with the budget you got, go for it, but I’m not going to go in and do an emergency transfer in the middle of the year because the police department runs into three or four major cases and a whole bunch of overtime or loses a car,” said Godfrey.
“We have talked I don’t know how many times for years that raises for all the employees,” said councilmen Bill Stoelk. “So if you allow them to do that, then you are going to end up with a personnel problem. You would just open a new can of worms with other departments saying we don’t need this money; we want a raise. It could get really ugly.”
According to Kampbell, the department has returned around $125,000 to the town’s general fund over the last three years.
During a budget workshop meeting last Monday night, the council went into executive session to discuss the open public works director position. When the council came out of the session they decided to fill the position and appoint Steve Vanderploeg as the new public works director.
The director position has not been filled in about five years, according to the council.
The council did not describe this as a raise for the employee, but did state that he would be making more an hour do to his new responsibilities. He will receive a few dollars per hour in-crease in pay.
The council stated that the new public works director would supervise water, utility, clerk/treasurer and municipal court.
Mayor Peters said after the meeting that the council would have to look into and work on change the current public works director position duties and change the chain of command for the town. Currently the public works director does not supervise utility, clerk/treasurer and municipal court, but only supervises over the town crew and water/wastewater operator.
The council said the town needed a public works director after five years of being vacant to help with “accountability.”
“If you don’t have leadership you don’t have anything,” said Stoelk.
The council added that Vanderploeg is the most experienced person on staff that they have.

Basin PD

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Hospital prepares to honor Claudson

BY KYNLI SMITH

South Big Horn County Hospital District plans to move forward with plans to honor Jackie Claudson after her sudden death over the weekend.
According to board chairman, Jeff Grant, the board can confirm that Claudson died Friday morning at the long-term care and rehabilitation facility in Colorado where she had been staying. In December, she suffered what hospital officials termed a medical event. Since then, she’d been in a Denver hospital and a long-term rehabilitation facility.
Claudson began her career at the hospital a little over 30 years ago, working as a nurse’s aide in the nursing home and was the CEO for 21 years.
Once the hospital shut down in 1994, Claudson stepped up and became CEO/administrator in 1995. She worked along with the board at the time to get the hospital reopened in 2002 and classi-fied as the first critical access hospital in state.
Many of Claudson’s coworkers recently described how she’d dedicated her life to the hospital.
“This place ran though her blood,” said Activities Director Vicki Wright. “She was an exceptional multi-tasker and has done just about every job out here. Jackie was a hometown girl and had special interest in this place to make it and she worked hard for it.”
Last month, the board agreed to name the new emergency room the Claudson Emergency Room. It agreed on Wednesday at the June meeting, held just before Claudson’s death, to pro-ceed with the sign that will honor her at the emergency room.
Bill Burbridge, who serves on the hospital board, said the meeting that he and his family had recently visited Claudson.
“She recognized everybody,” said Burbridge. “We visited with her for three hours and at some points she would drift off a little bit. And I don’t know if that is realizing she couldn’t contribute anything to the conversation. But she (was) making progress.”
Grant said that there would be a memorial service for Claudson at 2 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Basin.
“I told her daughter that we were going to name the ER the Claudson Emergency Room,” said Grant. “So I think Jackie knew that before she went.”

Hospital Business
Also during the June board meeting, the board approved the budget for the upcoming 2016-2017 fiscal year.
The total income for the next year is projected to be more than $7.2 million with total expenses coming in a little over $7 million. There is a budgeted surplus of 22,231.
The board also came one step closer to finalizing plans for the water treatment project. The hospital has until January 2017 to upgrade their current lagoon or replace it.
Option 1 for the board would be to put a leech field in the grassy area in front of the clinic or nursing home, while closing the current lagoon that is across the highway. Option 2 would put the leech field across the highway next to the current lagoon as well as making updates to the piping system. According to Grant, both areas have been tested and are permeable for the leech field; however, if they want to build the leech field across the highway they would have to purchase about three acres of land from the highway department.
Option 1 is estimated to cost about $435,000 and Option 2 is estimated to come in at $496,000.
Grant said that building the leech field across the highway would be preferable to building it on the grass in front of the building. He said mostly because if the hospital planted to build and expand in the future, they would have that area to do so.
“We need to get this started,” said Grant. “I’m hoping by the next meeting we will make a final decision on the project.”

Jackie 1

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More aggravated battery charges filed against Basin man as victim recovers

BY KYNLI SMITH

Three aggravated battery charges were filed against a Basin man at the Big Horn Courthouse last week. This comes after two months after Morgan Emmett, 25, allegedly shot his friend Ben Werner after a drunken brawl.
According to the arrest affidavit, Emmett allegedly shot Werner with a 300 WSM caliber rifle shortly after 10:30 p.m. on March 31.
Emmett fired two shots after the two allegedly had gotten into a wrestling match after arriving at Emmett’s house in Basin after a night of drinking at a local bar.
According to the affidavit, Emmett told Werner to stop, but Werner charged at Emmett and Emmett then shot Werner.
“Emmett said that they could have gone fisticuffs but he didn’t want to beat the sh—out of his best friend,” the affidavit stated.
After emergency personnel responded to the scene after the shooting, Werner was transported to a hospital in Billings and underwent multiple surgeries on his injured leg. Emmett was then taken to the Big Horn County Jail.
The affidavit states that a few days after the shooting, officers interviewed Werner who then stated that Emmett hit him in the head with the rifle after he was shot.
Werner said that Emmett struck him with the butt of the rifle multiple times while he was ly-ing on the floor after he had been shot. He also added that he didn’t remember the second shot that Emmett took or where it was directed.
Emmett now faces three counts of aggravated battery; one for shooting Werner in the leg, two for hitting Werner in the head with the rifle after the shots.
Emmett is currently released from the county jail on a $30,000 bail.
If convicted, Emmett could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count, which could total a max sentence of 30 years and a fine of $30,000. A preliminary hearing is set for June 22 at the Big Horn County Courthouse.
Slow Recovery
“When I was first in the hospital I had very bad nerve pain,” Werner said from his hospital bed. “It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I was just screaming at the top of my lungs because it hurt so badly. I was rolling around my bed, crying.”
Werner is currently in a Billings hospital after suffering an infection from his injuries. He has been in the hospital for over 50 days still recovering from initial gunshot wound.
“I came home end of April for about eight days and got an infection and have been here ever since. There is no end in sight yet.”
Werner said he is hopeful he will be able to keep his leg, but is also realistic about the possibility of losing it.
“I’ll be able to keep above my knee for sure,” said Werner. “The biggest problem that I have is in my foot, the nerves are really messed up. I can’t feel my toes, move my ankle, wiggle my toes-I can’t walk on it.”
Werner said that when he is finally released from the hospital he plans on giving his leg about six months to a year to heal, but then start looking into having it removed and getting a prosthetic
“There is no point walking around on crutches my whole life,” Werner said. “I rather get a prosthetic than that.”
After spending his birthday and probably Father’s Day in the hospital, Werner hopes to come home within the next couple of weeks and continue his recovery at home.
As for dealing with the mental impact of being shot, Werner added that he is staying strong mentally.
“At least I’m alive,” said Werner. “I’m dealing with it alright. I’m pretty strong mentally. It’s pretty hard to bring me down. I can’t go down because I have kid and I don’t want to show her I’m giving up in any way.”

COURTSEY PHOTO Ben Werner and daughter Riley enjoy time together on one the occassions she has visited him at the hospital.

COURTSEY PHOTO Ben Werner and daughter Riley enjoy time together on one the occassions she has visited him at the hospital.

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