First, let me congratulate the winners of the June 7th primary election for the County Commission - Doreen Creed and Ted Seaman. You both won hard-fought victories. And I want to join with the other commissioners to thank Bob Bertolotto and Alan Aker for their service to Meade County these last several years.
The day after the election, the Commission held its first discussions on the 2017 county budget. The discussions were limited to the non-mandated portion of the budget, since we don’t have all the information compiled to complete it yet. By non-mandated, I mean consideration for requests for funding from organizations the state doesn’t statutorily mandate counties to fund, such as fire protection, libraries, CASA, etc.
There were many people in attendance to give us their views on these requests, especially for the libraries; Angela Ostrander from Faith, Jane Abernathy from Piedmont, and Julie Moore Peterson from Sturgis. All gave compelling reasons why the libraries in the County need additional funding, and the citizens, including more than a few children, echoed their sentiments. We also heard from Bob Young and Walt Haley for the volunteer fire departments, Dan Ainsley from the City of Sturgis, and Diane Hahn from Tri-County Conservation. I especially appreciate Angela and Diane making the long trek from Faith; I don’t think people in Sturgis realize how that just takes up the entire day up, driving in from so far.
The relative conundrum regarding non-mandated county funding boils down to this: What do residents of Meade County believe in more: Limited Government, or Services not mandated by statute - yet nevertheless considered to be essential by many? How do we balance our fiscal conservatism and belief in Limited Government with keeping Meade County the best place to live by providing for these many requests? And I think that’s the key - finding the balance as best we’re able.
In 2008, the non-mandated portion of the budget was over $550,000. In 2016, that figure is about $140,000, plus another $35,000 as a result of the Glencoe Campground settlement with the federal government for environmental violations. That’s over $400,000 savings - per year. But, has the Commission gone too far? Obviously, there had to be a lot of pork in the amount spent in 2008, but were we too frugal these past few years in our effort to offset outrageous ag assessment increases by trying to lower the mill levy? (I know, I know - we didn’t have to build Ft. Meade Way; but, although I don’t have room in this column to address it in detail, there is already significant interest in economic development out there. And one opponent of the road was the first to use it to avoid having to truck cattle through Sturgis - before it was even legally opened. I think in the long run, which is one of the most important functions of a deliberative body like the County Commission has to work for, the road will significantly benefit the county.)
We did approve some requests. The fire departments requested $20,000; we allotted that amount, plus the County will again pick up the Workers’ Compensation for the firefighters, at a cost of an additional $10,920. We also approved $11,000 to the City of Sturgis to repair creek banks damaged in Atlas, and the same amount to Tri-County Conservation toward the replacement of a pickup or other equipment. The last two are one-time distributions from the Glencoe settlement.
Also, it was our great privilege to honor Eldon Herring as Veteran of the Month. Mr. Herring turned 100 in February, and is just an amazing man. Thank you again for your service, Eldon.
Well, there was a lot more stuff we talked about, but we can save that for another time. We sure do all need to be praying for rain, it’s really getting dry.
God Bless Meade County