Notes from Commissioner Doreen Creed


Taxes, money behind road, insurance budget decisions

(Doreen Creed) - “Taxes and money" in one form or the other is always an underlying topic at Meade County Commissioners' meetings. This week was no different.  Final major budget decisions will be made on Sept. 27. Remember, there are five independently minded individuals on the commission. Each has an opinion as to how taxpayers' money should be spent.

Millions of dollar in requests have already been slashed; not because any were frivolous, there is a lack of funding. The future of this dilemma does not appear to be any brighter.

The chief county expenses are roads, crime-related expenses, employee compensation and insurance.

Meade County has nearly 1,000 miles of roads on its highway system. No other county in South Dakota has anywhere near this number of miles. Aging bridges compound the problem.

Two heavily traveled roads, Elk Vale and Elk Creek, need multi-millions of dollars in improvement. Exactly, what and when resulted in a split vote. Four commissioners decided to take the recommendation of its highway superintendent, Lincoln Shuck. The two roads will not be in one combined state project. Instead, only Elk Vale will be built. It will be a county, not state project and will be divided into two years. It is expected that a bid can be let in the next couple of months for the dirt work to widen and straighten the road. It will be hard surfaced the following year.

Shuck believes having the county in charge of the project could cut the estimated $3.4 million project by as much as $500,000. The majority of the project will be from the county's multi-year STIP build-up. The county will drain its entire STIP funds of $2,912,700 for this project. The Elk Vale Road is north from the Pennington County line near Rapid City to where it intersects with Elk Creek.

The Elk Creek project will now join other roads awaiting costly hard surface improvements such as New Underwood Road, Avalanche Road, Erickson Ranch Road , etc.

The board has also said it wants the highway department to concentrate on graveling existing roads.  

Health insurance

The ever increasing cost of health insurance is not topic reserved for Congress.

The turmoil in the insurance industry has greatly impacted Meade County. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, health insurance premium increases had been fairly close to inflation. No more. Prior commissioners attempted to ease the impact by going self-funded but historic claims have increased costs.

The commissioner heard a lengthy presentation concerning the approximate $1 million increase in its health insurance premium. (The slide preview can be found at

A thirty percent increase had been included in the provisional budget. The estimate was pretty close. Wellmark’s renewal last week came back with a recommended 27.5 percent increase. The increase only covers expected claims which have surpassed every year since 2015. 

County personnel are exploring the possibility of joining a larger plan group, the SD Municipal League. But that group would need to agree. The county is also exploring offering more than a single or family plan option. 

Meade County must have health insurance for its employees because it employs more than 50 people. As an "Applicable Large Employer” it must provide "affordable coverage" which according to the IRS, coverage in 2017 could not exceed 9.69 percent of an employee's household income.

In 2017, the lowest county wage is $13.81/hour, which amounts to $28,724.80 annual wage.  Although the taxable wage for an employee could end up differently, the county used the full value for calculations. An employee's healthcare premiums (employee only) are not allowed to exceed $2,783.43 annually, or $231.95/month. Currently, employees pay $70 for a single policy and $437 for their portion of a family policy.

The commissioners will decide its insurance options at its Sept. 27 meeting. All final budget decisions will be made for both the general fund, highway fund and non-mandated funding at this session. Public input is sought on budget and any other concerns.

The commissioners and department heads will be attending the SD Public Officials Convention Monday and Tuesday in Rapid City.


Meade County Veteran of the Month - August 2017


Mr. Carl Hansen: 

  • Born and raised in Faith, SD
  • Joined the military in 1958
  • Served 2 tours in Korea for a total of 26 months
  • Retired in 1978 and moved back to Faith, SD
  • 28-year trucking business before finally retiring 
  • 3 children, 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren 


  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Good Conduct Medal (6th Award)
  • Army Commendation Medal
  • Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Expert Rifle Medal
  • Sharpshooter Badge


Notes from Commissioner Galen Niederwerder


The Meade County Commission met in regular session August 23rd at the Erskine building in Sturgis.

Lincoln Shuck and Scott Tegethoff presented the five-year transportation plan for review.  We made a few changes, then set the Public Meeting for September 6th from 2-5 p.m. in the Erskine building.  Last year, only three people showed up; but if you would like to see what road projects are planned for the next five years, here’s your opportunity.  We’ll adopt the final plan at our second meeting in September.  It’s always subject to change, but the county is legally required to present a plan to the SD Department of Transportation to qualify for the Bridge Improvement Program.

We refunded vendor fees to two Rally vendors who submitted proof they are 501-C-3 charitable organizations.  We received a report from Deputy Planning Director Rhea Crane that vendor fees were down quite a bit.

We accepted the SD Department of Health’s offer, with one change discussed below, to re-instate the same County Health Services that were provided through 2015, at a cost of approximately $32,000 annually to the county, beginning November 1st.  This means two things:  1)County Health will be providing the same services as before, with the same hours as before, in both Sturgis and Faith.  2)The service is costing the county approximately $55,000 per year less than it did before. The commission eliminated its funding for the program during the 2016 Budget Hearings, primarily because we learned that the state was providing the same service for Hughes County for free.  (Of course, Pierre is located in Hughes County - think it’s a coincidence?)  We felt this was a reasonable compromise.  

One caveat:  the original proposal did not include expanded hours at Faith.  Wade Huntington, the DOH official on hand to discuss the proposal, advised that the office doesn’t see enough clients anymore to justify the same hours as before.  The commission insisted on a six-month trial period with the same hours as before, to see if the people who utilize the service need it.  We think that if we build it, they will come.

We were pleased to honor Carl Hansen as Meade County Veteran of the Month.  Carl was born and raised in Faith, and joined the military in 1958, serving two tours in Korea.  He retired in 1978 and moved back to Faith, where he ran a trucking business for 20 years before retiring for real.  He now resides north of Sturgis.

The rest of the meeting was pretty routine. Never dull - just routine.

God Bless Meade County

Meade County Veteran of the Month - July 2017



Mr. Ralph Besler was 17 when he joined the U.S. Navy on January 2, 1952. He took basic training at the U.S. Naval Training Center, San Diego, CA. He was then sent to Yokosuka, Japan and assigned to the USS Prairie AD-15 as a Machinist Mate from April 1952 until October 10, 1955. During that period, Ralph made several rotations to Japan and Korea. He attended the Machinist Mate Class "A" School at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in 1954, graduating first in his class. Ralph was discharged from the Navy on October 10, 1955 at the rank of Petty Officer First Class. He was the youngest

Petty Officer First Class in the Navy. He received the Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Navy Good Conduct Medal. 

On October 24, 1955, Ralph joined the US Air Force and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC). He attended 18 weeks of Bombing and Navigation (BOMB/NAY) School for B-47 Bombers. He was then assigned to the 19th Bomb Wing at Pine Castle AFB, FL. which moved to Homestead AFB, FL in 1956. During that assignment, Ralph served two tours in Morocco, Africa with the B-47 Bombers. 

In 1956 Ralph had married his wife. Then in 1960, Ralph transferred to Grand Forks AFB, ND where he served as advanced party in activating the 4133rd Strategic Aerospace Wing for receiving new B-52H Bombers from the Boeing Aircraft Co. He flew many missions on B-52H aircraft teaching pilots the proper operation of Advanced Capability Radar and performing in-flight maintenance as required. He headed the maintenance crew to support the Wing's aircraft in the annual SAC Bombing Competition. For his performance he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal. In 1964, Ralph attended the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy at Barksdale AFB, LA. 

While at Grand Forks, Ralph began pilot training. In 1966, Ralph was transferred to the 93rd Bomb Wing at Castle AFB, CA. where he served as Branch Chief of the BOMB/NAY Branch, 93rd Avionics Squadron. Ralph completed his pilot trainingand receivedhis Pilots License. In 1969, Ralph was transferred to the 72nd Bomb Wing, Ramey AFB Puerto Rico where he served as Branch Chief of the BOMB/ NAV Branch, 72°d Avionics Squadron. He was selected as Team Leader of the maintenance crew that supported the Wing's aircraft in the Annual SAC Bombing Competition.  Ralph frequently flew on the competition aircraft to train crew members.  He was awarded the AF Commendation Medal, 1'1 Oak leaf cluster. Ralph also served as President of the Ramey AFB Aero Club.

In 1971, Ralph transferred to Ellsworth AFB, SD and served as Branch Chief of the BOMB/NAV Branch and later as Maintenance Superintendent of the 281h Avionics Maintenance Squadron. Ralph again headed the maintenancecrew in the AnnualSAC BombingCompetition.   He continuedhis flight training and received his Commercial Pilots License for Single and Multi-Engine aircraft. He was awarded the 2nd oak leaf cluster to the Air Force CommendationMedal.   Ralph retiredfromthe U.S. Air Force on October I, 1972 at the rank of Senior Master Sergeant.

After retirement Ralph had continued to work for the government in Virginia as a valve systems and engineering planner for 12 years. From there he went to OK to work for a Naval weapons station as an inspector, tech writer, as well as logistics and plans. After 6 years her went to New Mexico to their Naval Weapons Facility and worked there until 1996 when he retired. 

Ralph and his wife were able to build their dream home in the mountains of Colorado. Only after living in Colorado a few years, they had it taken away by a wildfire… They moved back to South Dakota to help take care of family and raise horses in 2003. Ralph enjoys spending time with his family which includes his two children, 3 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. 

The people of Meade County would like to recognize and give a heartfelt thanks to Mr. Ralph Besler for his service to his country.

Notes from Commissioner Robert Heidgerken

August 2, 2017:  The Meade County Commission met one week early this month because of the Sturgis Rally.  Most of the County offices are preparing for this annual event.  The totals of the rally will be out later next week.

The Meade County Fair was held this past week.  Despite the drought - exhibits, venders and attendance were all up from previous years.  Good job Jenny Voigt, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor.  

After a lengthy discussion, a resolution was passed that declares Chaffee Place is not and has never been a public highway.  This will allow the land owners to control the use of this private road.  

We started discussions with RDO Equipment (John Deere) on our leased motors graders, which is up in December of 2019.  This has to be part of 2019 budget discussion next year.  

The highway department is working on replacing culverts all over the County as part of the ongoing maintenance of county roads.  Work is progressing on the Elm Springs Road, with a completion date before school starts.  

Keep cool and pray for rain.  


Commissioner Robert Heidgerken