Notes from Commissioner Galen Niederwerder


The commission met in regular session Wednesday November 8th.

It was a pretty light agenda; the main subject being whether to continue with the five-year tax forgiveness program in what is called the Discretionary Formula.  The program was approved by the state legislature years ago as a means of allowing counties and cities to encourage economic development.  The relevant statute, 10-6-35.2, states this:  “Any structure…shall, following construction, be valued for taxation purposes in the usual manner.  However, the board of county commissioners of the county where the structure is located, may adopt any formula for assessed value to be used for tax purposes.  The formula may include for any or all of the five tax years following construction all, any portion , or none of the assessed valuation for tax purposes."

In 2001, Meade County adopted a forgiveness formula of 20-40-60-80-100 for commercial businesses for buildings valued at $30,000 or more, which was consistent with all the other counties in the state.  The commission changed that to 0-0-0-0-0 in 2010, in an effort to set us apart from other counties; and until recently was one of only two counties statewide to do so, as Fall River County has apparently also recently adopted this formula.  In 2012, the commission expanded the formula to cover Ag structures valued at greater than $10,000.

Until recently, the commission believed, and actually had it confirmed by the Department of Revenue, that the state made up the “lost” tax dollars to the school district.  When pressed, though, they were unable to show proof, and Auditor Lisa Schieffer confirmed that each year, she is given an added levy to be spread out over all the other taxpayers in the school district.  So we put this on the agenda to review two things:  1) Is this fair to all the other taxpayers, and 2) Is it having the desired effect of bringing in new businesses and new construction to increase the tax base. 

What we found out is this:  The taxpayers have made up an average of about $62,500 annually to the school district since 2012.  By my math (which is a little sketchy; I dropped Math in college - but then I took Business Math and got a B+), that comes to about 2 cents per thousand of valuation for each taxpayer.  Additionally, the county’s “lost” revenue has averaged about $83,000 in tax forgiveness over the same time period; the taxpayers have not been asked to make up that difference - we just got by on less.  

The main question we had, though, is it bringing in new businesses to the county, providing more jobs and increasing our tax base?  Scott Peterson of Scott Peterson Motors, Aaron Schoen of Jake’s Collision Repair, Ryan Aldren of Rasmussen Mechanical, and the mayor and city manager of Summerset, along with a developer from that city, all spoke to the commission about their experience with this formula, and seven other businesses provided letters.  Scott testified that after Storm Atlas, which destroyed the old Jacobsen Ford complex he had recently purchased, that he seriously considered not rebuilding - just walking away.  The Discretionary Formula was the over-riding factor which convinced him and his wife, Susan, to build the multi-million dollar complex at Exit 32.  I believe he said they now employ 28 people, up from eight in the old location.  Aaron re-located from Belle Fourche to the space vacated by Scott; and again, he stated the Formula was the main reason why.  Ryan said the Rasmussen family wasn’t even considering Sturgis as the location for their business until they were advised of the Formula; and said without it, they would not have built here.  The mayor’s contingent confirmed what the others told us in regard to their city.  Additionally, we heard that Butte County and the city of Spearfish, after seeing the success it’s had in Meade County, are now considering adopting the same Formula.  I really hope they don’t.

So the board majority affirmed the continuation of the Formula with no changes.  The revenue is now starting to come into the county and school district from the early partakers of this policy, it’s brought many new businesses to our county, and I like the fact that Ag also qualifies for the tax break.  It looks to me like it’s really paid off.

God Bless Meade County.

FireWise Program Hires Veterans

FireWise Veterans

FireWise Veterans

The Meade County Firewise Program is a veteran-hire program funded primarily by federal grant dollars through the Bureau of Land Management.  It is part of the “Veteran in the Woods” Initiative started in Meade County in December of 2012 with two goals in mind: mitigate the risk of wildland fires in our local communities and- more importantly- assist veterans in reintegrating into civilian life.  We achieve the first goal of mitigating the risk of wildland fires through a combination of public outreach and education efforts, as well as sending a crew out to partner with private landowners to physically reduce and clean up hazardous fuels- such as dense or overgrown vegetation and trees- which creates a survivable space around structures.  In Fiscal Year 2017, the Meade County Firewise Program treated 86.5 acres of private land in the Black Hills, protecting 32 structures on 20 properties.

However, the second goal is the most important focus we have, and it is where we take the most pride: aiding our veterans.  Since 2012, we have employed exclusively veterans in a short-term capacity to train them specifically in wildland fire mitigation techniques as well as giving them much broader employment assistance.  The Meade County Commission Office, under which the Firewise Program operates, handles a wide variety of tasks for the county: it houses the Human Resources department for the county, as well as the Veteran Services Officer.  The HR department offers veteran participants in the Firewise Program assistance with resume writing, job interviewing skills, and finds them pertinent job shadowing opportunities within the community.  The Veteran Services Officer offers assistance with the numerous veteran benefits for which a participant might be eligible through the various state and federal agencies.  Meade County uses all resources available to them as a public entity t o aid veteran participants in the program by giving them the tools to be successful.

We measure the true success of the program in lives positively impacted.  Many of the veterans that participate in the program have their own struggles in life, ranging from physical, emotional, financial, or sometimes even legal trouble.  The structure they had in their military lives is often absent in their civilian lives, and the camaraderie they shared with their brothers- and sisters-in-arms dissipates quickly with time.  It can be overwhelming.  The Firewise Program gives them a safe landing zone to work their way through those issues.  They get to plug into a network of veterans going through the same struggles.  To-date, we have had 37 veterans participate in the program.  We only count it as a success if the veteran leaves the program with full-time employment or enrollment in secondary education to pursue their desired career path.  In FY2017, we have had 8 veterans graduate from the program, and a current crew of 5 veterans are actively working towards a better future for themselves and their families.  Past graduates have gone back to school or have been hired into full-time careers in a wide variety of fields; a few actual notable examples include: law enforcement officer, correctional officer, EMT, IT technician, equipment operator, and truck driver.

None of this would be possible without the funding we receive from the BLM.  Since 2012, the BLM has made more than $600,000 available to the program through grant dollars.  By comparison, the cost share we have received from private landowners through our fuels reduction contracts (they pay 20% of services billed), has totaled nearly $40,000 in the same time frame.  The BLM and Meade County are proudly committed to serving those who have served our nation, and keeping our communities and the Black Hills safe and beautiful.

Notes from Commissioner Robert Heidgerken


The Meade County Commission met Wednesday, October 25th for their second regular meeting of the month. Economic development and roads were our main topics of discussion.

We had a good discussion on the discretionary formula which allows no property tax for five years on new construction of commercial or agricultural property over $30,000. No decision was made and the issue will be on the next meeting agenda.      

The revolving loan fund to new businesses through Sturgis Economic Development Cooperation (SEDC) was renewed for five more years.  There is about $140,000 in funds available for loans; contact them if you are interested. 

Load limits on the New Underwood Road were discussed.  Again, no action was taken.  Trucks will not be getting smaller, so about all we can do is try to build better roads which cost more money.  To this end, the Commission approved applying for a matching grant for $9,000,000 to rebuild eight miles on the south end of the New Underwood Road.  Stay tuned to see if the grant is approved.

While it is true that the county consolidated mill levy increased  from 3.906 mills to 4.113 mills, this is only on the county portion of your total tax bill, which makes up 27 cents of the total property tax dollar.  On $100,000 of valuation, this would be an increase of $20.70 per year, or $1.73 per month.  Well, I don’t like taxes any more than you do, but to be able to provide the minimum amount of services you expect, this is what it will cost.

Levy .jpg

I’m afraid we wont see much rain before the snow melts.  Pray for some of each.


Robert Heidgerken

District 5 Commissioner


Notes from Commissioner Ted Seaman

Commissioner Ted Seaman 

Commissioner Ted Seaman 

The Meade County Commission met in regular session on Wednesday, October 11, 2017.   We were honored to open the meeting by recognizing Lori Bratland, Deputy Treasurer and Kirk Chaffee, Director of Equalization and Planning for their respective thirty years (employment) of commitment and service to the citizens of Meade County.  

Lori Bratland, Deputy Treasurer  

Lori Bratland, Deputy Treasurer


Kirk Chaffee, Director of Equalization and Planning 

Kirk Chaffee, Director of Equalization and Planning 

Bob Weyrich, SD Department of Agricultural Development presented an overview of agriculture development within the state and the impact in Meade County. In 2016, the number of farms and ranches in SD was at 31,000 - down 300 farms since 2015.  He requested the Commission appoint representatives from our county to work with the County Site Analysis Program (CSAP).  The CSAP will collect Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data which is used to identify potential sites that could fit various ag related development projects within the county.   We selected Pat Kurtenbach, SEDC and Kirk Chaffee as our appointed designees.

Members from Bear Butte Valley Water, Inc. were on hand to request an easement for county right-of-way in the Northwest corner of the County. This ROW will allow them to put in more water lines and support more customers; their request was granted. 

December 13, 2017 at 10:00 am was the date/time set to receive bids for the Elk Vale Road project. The bids will be received at the Erskine Building in the Commissions’ meeting room.

The Commission discussed whether a local candidate in Meade County could form their own political action committee (PAC).  On the advice of the county auditor, and the SD Secretary of State, it was determined that a candidate cannot be the chairperson or Treasurer for their own PAC. 

We discussed a policy change on the overtime work-period for Patrol Deputies. That policy was changed from a 28 day work-period to a 14 day work-period for overtime calculations. 

Finally, each month we are honored to acknowledge a local veteran for their service, commitment and sacrifice to our country.  The October veteran of the month is Mr. Howard Mehringer.  Mr. Mehringer flew helicopters in Vietnam for one year with the 1st Air Cavalry.  Of note, his father flew B-24s, B-17s, and B-29s in WWII.  His son was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 where he passed away. Mr. Mehringer is an active member with the local Shriners.

Mr. Mehringer - October Veteran of the Month

Mr. Mehringer - October Veteran of the Month

It was nice to have a light agenda after a long meeting two weeks ago when we finalized the 2018 budget.


Ted Seaman

Commissioner, District 4

Meade County Veteran of the Month - September 2017


Mr. Charles Pickett

In 1984 after High School, Mr. Pickett observed an Army commercial after the invasion of Grenada and decided that was what he wanted to do and went to the recruiter.  Mr. Pickett went to South Carolina for basic training and after basic training, over to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for medic training. By accident, he was later sent to Fort Ord, CA with the 7th ID as a medic; it was a dream assignment right near the beach.  Mr. Pickett wanted to go to jump school which was part of his contract.  Three months later they sent him to Fort Benning, GA to complete jump school.

Mr. Picket went to the 82nd at Fort Bragg where he was assigned for 3.5 years and later deployed to Panama and Turkey - completing many jumps.

Mr. Pickett went to Colorado to go to school to become an licensed practical nurse at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center.  He was assigned to Fort Sill, OK and also spent time in Korea before separating from the military.

Military Awards: 

  • Army Service Ribbon
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Parachute Badge
  • Drivers Badge
  • Army Achievement Medal 1-OLC
  • Army Good Conduct Medal 3rd Award
  • Expert Field Medical Badge
  • Overseas Service Ribbon

After the military Mr Pickett worked in Lead, and Fort Meade before getting a job with the United States Postal Service where he has worked for almost 20 years. Mr Pickett has 2 children, and 2 grandchildren. Mr Pickett said that his family was very important and he enjoys spending time with them and being outdoors.


Notes from Commissioner Linda Rausch



The Meade County Commission met in regular session on Wednesday, September 27.  

The session started with a discussion with citizens that live on and use Pleasant Valley Road.  The road has been very muddy and slippery after the recent rains.  The Highway Superintendent explained that they were re-grading the road and had loosened it up just before the rain started.  The rain lasted about 4 days.  The intent was to re-grade, bring new rock with no fines and repack the road. That is still the plan.  Once dried up, the highway department was going back to finish re-grading and haul gravel the week of October 1.  Not sure how the rain this week has affected progress, but the County will continue to work n this road until it is a good gravel road.

The Commission voted 4 to 1 to pass a delete resolution for the South Dakota Department of Transportation to stop working on the paving of Elk Vale Road and Elk Creek Road.   The County will take a lump sum payment of the State Transportation Improvement Funds and will complete just the Elk Vale portion of the project.  The Elk Creek portion of the project has been canceled indefinitely.  The plan is to start working on Elk Vale next year.  We shall see.  We have been planning to start working on it for the last three years.

Most of the meeting was spent working on the final budget for 2018.  The provisional budget was increased by $85,000 to cover increased contingency funds, increased staffing in the Treasurer’s office, and increased funding for Sturgis Economic Development.  In addition, funding was added to the highway department to complete the Elk Vale project grading.  This increase is paid for out of reserves, since the money from the state transportation dollars will be paid to Meade County in 2017.

Employee Health costs are projected to increase 27.5% next year... That will take all of the allowable (by state law) increase for the Consumer Price Increase (1.0%) and for growth, new construction, (1.933%) and additional funds which we normally spend on new projects like road improvements.

In addition, the Commission voted, 4 to 1, to increase the property taxes for the county by an additional 2.9%to put the money in reserves for future projects.  Your County property taxes will go up by a total of 5.833%.

We scheduled several public hearings for vacating partial plats and for the 1st reading of Ordinance 34, the building permit ordinance.  These hearings are scheduled for October 25 at 1:00 PM.

We honored Mr. Charles Pickett as our Veteran of the Month.


Linda Rausch, Commissioner District 3.