...Notes from commission meeting of February 14, 2018.
The Meade Commissioners are "going live”. Where will thousands of people be voting? Fire department funding and Sly Hill/Bear Butte Road were all topics at the Meade Commissioners when it met Wednesday.
Watch meetings live
A second major move toward increased governmental transparency has been undertaken by the commissioners. Its meetings will now be broadcast live over its Facebook page and YouTube. It will be a raw, uninterrupted, real time video feed. A sign notifying people that they too will be on film will be posted at the room's entrance. Edited video of commission meetings is available on the county's web page. This video cuts breaks , etc., so people can more easily reach a particular topic of interest.
The first major change was approved on a split vote last month. Its official meeting minutes are now in much more detail. The change took place with the Feb. 14 meeting. The expanded official minutes are published in its two official newspapers: the Faith Independent and the Black Hills Pioneer and on the county's website.
Sturgis voter location moving
Thousands of Meade County residents will have a different polling site for the June 5 election. All Sturgis voters, and those in precincts surrounding the county seat will not be voting at the Sturgis Community Center. The reason for the move is the national Cushman Scooter Convention is being held at the same time. Vendors will be in the community center's gymnasium.
Meade County Auditor Lisa Schieffer did a through research of all large Sturgis facilities and parking availability. After a schematic layout of the remainder of the community center rooms was drawn, Schieffer concluded it would not be suitable for voter privacy and noise control. She recommended the one time use of the Sturgis Brown High School gymnasium. The commission concurred.
The city and county are entering into a 10-year contract for reserving the community center for all future primary and general elections.
Schieffer will keep voters apprised of all polling locations as the election nears. In the meantime, if you voted at the community center in the past, you will be traveling to the high school for the June primary.
Since election integrity is a current a national topic, this is a good time to mention that Schieffer secured grants and Meade County this year will be using the very latest, most secure vote tabulators.
Sly Hill/Bear Butte Road
A delegation composed of spokesmen, James Heinert, Craig Shaver and Dan Geipert, presented the commission with a multi-page proposal for a hard surface solution for Sly Hill and Bear Butte roads. The men were representing 140 residents from Pine Cone Estates and Foothills Road developments located north of Sturgis. They use this direct route to get to Sturgis. Bypassing Sly Hill increases the route three fold. Last May the group submitted a petition request for additional service.
Unlike most road projects, simply having the funds may not cure the situation when it comes to Sly Hill. The landmark hill overlooking Sturgis is composed of a lot of shale. In the last decade there was a major slide which necessitated closing the roadway for a significant amount of time.
Ultimately, it took approximately $1 million in city, state, federal and county funds to shore up the slide. On the backside of the hill, Meade County rebuilt Bear Butte Road during this same time frame. Ultimately this professionally engineered roadway had to have slides also repaired.
Several factors complicate the situation. The Sly Hill portion of the roadway is in the Sturgis City limits. At the top of the hill, the road becomes the county's responsibility. There are differing opinions as to if the geological situation makes it feasible to spend significant funds on this road.
For years an alternate route has been discussed. Logistically the best route would be off the “S-curve Road” near Fort Meade, through Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property and across Bear Butte Creek. If the past is any indication, it is nearly impossible to get approval from the BLM for road construction projects. A costly bridge over the creek would also be required. A northern route would also be an engineering challenge due to a very step grade.
If these dilemmas are not enough, neither governmental unit seems able to discuss this predicament without it drifting off to Avalanche Road. This county road leads to the city owned landfill. Past commissions have indicated the city should help fund this project but the road is not in the city limits.
In the meantime, the county this past summer put down new gravel on Bear Butte and Foothills roads. The city did the same on Sly Hill. Both roads have had mag water applied. Sly Hill tends to wash board and drainage could be improved.
The group proposed a city-county cooperative funding agreement for the grading/reconstruction and road hard surface within five years. The goal would be asphalt on Sly along Bear Butte Road and ultimately to where Bear Butte Lake Road intersects with Highway 79. This would be multi-million dollar project.
The residents of these 65 households noted they have assessed property valuation of approximately $20 million and for decades they have paid "their fair share" into the county coffers. (Approximately two-thirds of the taxes raised from this valuation goes to the school district.)
It is their contention that this area is prime for future development and growth but adequate transportation is first necessary.
The commissioners could take no official action on the request due to the fact, this subject matter had not been publicly noticed for 72 hours prior to the meeting. But it will be on the Feb. 28 agenda for further discussion. The possibility of a formal ad hoc committee with the city and residents will be discussed.
HR/Commission Assistant Jerry Derr told the board his office has received calls inquiring as to if Sturgis emergency services are going to respond outside the municipality. They are.
The city is exploring a funding mechanism for the fire and ambulance departments. District proponents had wanted to submit petitions in time for the city's April election but did not obtain the necessary signers. The petitions can be submitted at any time for a different election date. In the meantime, the city has not limited its response area.
Dialog is continuing between city and county officials as to how to address this matter. Four of the five commissioners live in a district. The fifth member lives in the Sturgis city limits.
There are currently six fire and one ambulance districts in other parts of the county that generate more than a million dollars a year in taxes.
Specifically: Levied for 2017: Piedmont Ambulance, $224,580; Piedmont Fire, $282,319; Box Elder Fire, $93,303; Black Hawk Fire, $260,050; Doty Fire, $36,584; North Elk Fire, $119,526; New Underwood Fire, $17,780. Grand total is $1,034,145.
Meade County budgets two separate line items for fire departments. It appropriates $20,000 for the Rural Firefighters Association. The chiefs then divide the funds as needed between the 15 departments. The county also covers the workers' compensation insurance (approximately $10,000) for these ambulance/fire departments: Black Hawk VFD; Elm Springs; Enning ambulance/VFD; Faith ambulance/VFD; Hereford VFD; Mud Butte VFD; Opal VFD; Piedmont VFD; and the Sturgis VFD.
In addition there is the Meade County Fire Tax Distribution in compliance with state law 10-44-9.6. It generates $93,641 for 2017. It was divided as follows: Sturgis Fire Department, $36,206; Black Hawk VFD, $17,727; Doty VFD, $1,093; North Haines Fire Dept., $3,863; New Underwood VFD, $2,338; Elm Springs Fire Dept., $860; Hereford Fire Dept., $1,576; Enning Fire Dept., $5,870; Mud Butte Fire Dept., $1,024; Opal Fire Dept., $1,323; Faith Fire Dept., $2,400; Piedmont Fire Dept. $16,530; Box Elder Fire Dept., $2,549; Vale Fire Dept., $132; Whitewood Fire Dept., $143.
Approximately 10 percent of the City of Sturgis’ general fund goes to the ambulance and fire department.
The regularly scheduled commission meetings start at 8:30 a.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month and special meetings as required. In March, the board will be attending the S.D. Elected Officials Spring Workshop in Pierre on March 14 and 15. Thus, the March 14 meeting was cancelled. Instead the board will meet March 21. The special meeting topic will be ways to perform county functions cheaper, faster, better.