Notes from Commissioner Galen Niederwerder - District 1

Commissioner Galen Niederwerder - District 1 

Commissioner Galen Niederwerder - District 1 

Well, I was going to talk about roads today, but I’m sure everyone in Meade County has heard of Judge Jerome Eckrich’s ruling that the County Commission erred in its decision last year on setting an election for the residents of the then-proposed incorporation of the Buffalo Chip Campground as a city.  So, now what?

I don’t understand all the legal stuff, but apparently the Commission has to wait for the Judge to issue his final finding and order, which would, based on his ruling, order the Commission to vacate (or reverse; again I’m not sure of the exact legal terminology) its decision to set the election.  The Commission’s decision will come down to this:  Do we comply with the order or appeal to the State Supreme Court?

Personally, I don’t give a rip if the Chip incorporates or not, and haven’t cared since Day One.  I reject the notion it would in some way harm the city of Sturgis; there’s just no evidence of that.  There is no benefit to the County one way or the other; no advantage or disadvantage.  And based on conversations I’ve had with the other commissioners, and statements they’ve made during meetings, I don’t think they care, either.  So, again, based on conversations and statements made during meetings, I can tell you that each commissioner voted in a way that reflected their understanding of the law and their personal convictions.  That’s reflected in the 3-2 vote on the motion (Aker, Heidgerken, Rausch in favor; Bertolotto and Niederwerder against.)  The vote also highlights the poorly-written statutes governing this issue; one of which says if the Commission is satisfied there are “100 residents or 30 voters" in the proposed city, it shall set an election.  Even Judge Eckrich alluded to this in his decision, but ruled that although the statute says “or”, the legislature really meant to say “and.”  Hmmm, I don’t understand how he can magically transform the word “or” into “and,” but whatever.  (By the way, and I’m sure you’ll never hear this in all the hate-filled poison on KBHB regarding the Commission, but the Commission led an effort in the legislature this year to get that law changed.  Now the statute does say “and,” and that the residents have to physically reside there for at least 90 days during the year.  So, hopefully, this bullcrap can’t happen again.)

One thing the Commissioners did agree on from Day One, and we knew this with 100% certainty:  this matter is going to the State Supreme Court.  It was just a matter of which party, Sturgis or the Chip, was going to lose, and bring suit against the Commission.  And whichever side lost in circuit court would force an appeal.  Already, there is some indication that if the Commission doesn’t appeal, the Buffalo Chip will bring suit against the County.  So, despite Dean Kinney’s virulent admonition to the Commission during his radio auction the Saturday after the decision came out to wash our hands of the matter, and just comply with Judge Eckrich’s order, (and then submit our resignations) this ain’t over.  And it ain’t going to be over until the State Supreme Court rules.  Truly, that’s the way it should be; this is all unplowed, virgin legal sod.  It would have been obvious if Black Hawk or Wonderland Homes were to incorporate; all you have to do is count rooftops and look at the last census.  But can a campground utilize poorly-written law filled with loopholes to become a city?  Whatever your personal opinion, the statutes dictate the commission is the vehicle that’s going to be driven to the State Supreme Court to decide this matter, and the Commissioners are just along for the ride.

Well, I guess the roads will have to wait for another column.  

God Bless Meade County.