Notes from Commissioner Linda Rausch

 Linda Rausch, District 3 Commissioner

Linda Rausch, District 3 Commissioner

It is hot and too dry.  We are all praying for rain.

Meade County Commissioners met for the second time this month on Wednesday, June 22.  The major business before the Commission was the preliminary budget for 2017.  When we hold budget hearings, all of the folks who want money from the County show up to ask for funding.  Those who want to limit spending and keep taxes down only show up during tax appeals. The Commissioners remember the taxpayers and maintain the balance as they consider the budget.  

In the last meeting we heard from people and organizations who were requesting funding from the County for things that the County is not required to fund.  In this meeting we heard from county offices/departments about their financial needs to do the County’s business and serve the citizens of Meade County.  All respective offices did a good job of requesting just what they need to operate and not what they may want.  

The big challenge this year is in the highway budget.  We are a victim of our own success.  We were approved by the State’s Bridge Improvement (BIG) to receive funding for two bridge improvements and studies on two others.  We will submit for funding for the bridge replacements based on the two studies, plus we intend to do a bridge replacement related to the improvements on Elk Vale and Elk Creek Roads.  This means we will spend about $6 million dollars in repairing or replacing five bridges next year.  $4.5 million will come from the State, but we need to provide matching funds totaling about $1.5 million.  This is in addition to the normal $5 million for road maintenance that we fund annually.  This will be good for our roads and bridges, but some other initiatives may need to be put on hold.

The other budget challenge is with health care costs for our county employees.  We are expecting about a 10% increase in rates.  We won’t be able to confirm this number until September, but we are including the 10% in our preliminary budget which is due in July.

In addition to budgets, we talked about roads.  It is the time of year when we apply “mag water” for dust control and road stabilization.  Some citizens appeared to express their disdain for the mess and corrosiveness of “mag water.”  They asked us not to apply it to our roads.  About as many people attended who supported the use of “mag water” and brought signed petitions to continue.  After much discussion, the Commission directed the Highway Superintendent to continue with the “mag water” application.  The highway department is testing a new substance that accomplishes the dust control and road stabilization just like “mag water.”  It is less corrosive and only needs to be applied once every five years versus annually.  If the test is successful, we may have changes to the “mag water” plan next year.

We talked speed limits on Ft. Meade Way.  No changes approved.  Sheriff Ron Merwinagreed to step up speed enforcement on this new road.

We extended the time for Bear Butte Water to complete their installation of new waterlines until May of 2017.  They informed us that many folks already are using water from the system and when finished there will be over 200 taps.

We approved a transfer of liquor licenses to the new owner of Glencoe.  We sent a letter to the SD water management board for a hearing in July to uphold the right of counties to impose ordinances on sewage treatment.

Lastly, we authorized the attorney representing us in the Buffalo Chip Incorporation lawsuit to appeal the recent court decision to the SD Supreme Court.  The costs for this appeal will be paid by the Buffalo Chip Campground. There will be no additional fees charged to the County.  A majority of the Commissioners did not agree with the decision by the court.  This is the quickest and most effective way to settle the legality of the Buffalo Incorporation as a City, once and for all.

Stay cool this summer!  Be careful of the dry conditions.  When the fire danger rating reaches Very High, a countywide burn ban is in effect.  No burning or fireworks displays without permission from the County.