Frequently Asked Questions on Proposed Road / TIF Projects

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CONTACT:  Jerry W. Derr 605.720.1625

 Frequently Asked Questions on 131st Ave / Cardinal Place Road Project  

Sturgis, SD -  The Meade County Commission continues to inform and seek public input on the proposed 131st Ave & Cardinal Place road project and financing opportunity via a Tax Increment   Financing (TIF) district. To address some common questions on the proposed projects, please see the following Q&A:  

Why Build this Road?  

Ft. Meade VA Hospital officials have stated, in public meetings with the county commission, over a period of years, that they need a secondary access for the 12,800 veterans they serve, as well as their 700+ employees. They need the access in case of emergencies, and also for the convenience of the many veterans they serve from south of Sturgis. We should not assume the federal government will continue to view Ft. Meade as a desirable place to maintain and improve as a VA hospital. The suitability of any given site for a hospital is heavily dependent on how long it takes to get there for patients, and good emergency access. Our current road system makes Ft. Meade a less-desirable location for a hospital.  

The road will save travelers time and money. The purpose of a highway system is to move people and goods as quickly and safely as possible. The Meade County Transportation Plan has listed this as a future major road since 2008 when that plan was enacted by unanimous vote of the commission.

It will improve access to tourism resources such as Ft. Meade Recreation Area, the Cavalry Museum, Bear Butte State Park, and Motorcycle Rally venues, which will promote growth in our tourism sector. 

Currently, Lazelle Street is the only route for trucks to get through Sturgis. If Lazelle is under construction, or if there is a flood or landslide or a spill of toxic or dangerous items hauled by truck, the nearest truck-worthy detours are Belle Fourche to the West and Phillip to the east. The new road will help relieve heavy truck pressure on Lazelle Street, which would make it a more desirable site for retail and service businesses. Trucks going through Sturgis do not now, and will never, spend significant money in Sturgis due to lack of truck parking.  Modern truck-stops take vastly more acreage than will ever be available at either of the existing Sturgis exits. Trucks going through Sturgis obscure signs and entryways for businesses, increase noise, and increase traffic congestion.  

The highway 79/34 junction is an important junction.  A road connecting that junction with I-90 would eventually become the location for new businesses and subdivisions, which would bring in additional property tax revenue for Meade County, which can be used to keep taxes lower and/or improve other county roads. There is no other road segment Meade County could build which would have a greater impact on the tax base and job creation. 

Won't the Existing Parts of the Road be too Narrow to Accommodate the Traffic?

131st Ave on the north will need some minor work to serve as a major county road, but no re-alignment is needed.  The junction of 131st Ave, Alkali, and Highway 34 will need a reconfiguration, but that is true with or without construction of the new road, and the state is already working on that. Cardinal Place on the south end does need some widening and improved drainage. The junction of Cardinal Place and Pleasant Valley Road needs some work.  Pleasant Valley Road is already a major county road, but it also needs some work.  The county's funding plan allows for all these improvements.

Is there a Better Route for the Road?

The county commissioners have studied different routes for the road.  They have personally traveled the route they chose.  It is the most direct route between the 34-79 junction and I-90.  It is the lowest-cost route to build and to maintain.  The county ruled out any route connecting the 34-79 junction with the National Cemetery exit for many reasons:  any such route would require approval of the BLM, and their management plan does not allow for a major connecting road.  Also, that exit is less conducive to truck traffic and would cause traffic flow issues with residents of the Blucksberg subdivision. Further, a major road through the BLM would not stimulate as much new construction as a road through private land. 

Why Not Wait for the State to Build the Highway?

The state is in preservation mode and is not building new highways.  The county commission has communicated with the South Dakota Department of Transportation, and they have clearly stated they have no plans to build the road.  The planned reconstruction of the old portion of I-90 between Black Hawk and Tilford has been taken off the state's construction plan.  When the state again has the ability to undertake new construction, this and all the portions of Interstates 90 and 29 which have not been rebuilt will have to come first, because they are already past their design lives.  It will be two and possibly many more decades before the state will build this highway.  

Didn't the State Decide the Highway Wasn't Justified?   

No.  The state had an agreement with Meade County to build the highway until that agreement expired January 1, 2010.  The state does not spend money on preliminary work or make agreements to build highways until it has decided for sure that a highway is needed.  

Will We Lose the Opportunity for this to be a State Highway Later if the County Builds it Now? 

No. The South Dakota Legislature, with the Governor's signature, makes all determinations on adding or dropping highways from the state system.  The federal government has no authority to, and no history of, telling a state which roads it can add to its highway system. 

Does the County Have the Needed Right-of-Way to Build the Road?

Much of the road is on a section line, where the right-of-way already exists.  The county is currently negotiating to acquire the additional right-of-way needed for the route it has approved for the road.   

How Will the County Pay for the Road? 

The county plans to use TIF to build the road, which allows the state of South Dakota to pay approximately two-thirds the cost of the road.  Here's how it works:  the county forms a TIF district and sells bonds to build the road. The increased property taxes from any new increase in value within the TIF district is diverted to a fund to pay off the bonds.  The State of South Dakota, through the school aid formula, gives the schools an amount of money equivalent to what they would have had if the new property tax revenue had not been diverted to pay off the bond.  The county commission will finalize the boundaries of the TIF district and finalize the amount of the bonds as design work progresses. The commission will get professional advice on how much new value to expect within the boundaries of the TIF district during the statutory 20-year pay-back period. The goal of the commission is to be conservative in estimating how much new construction and/or new value will occur, and to form a district large enough to pay back the bonds early.  

Will My Taxes Go Up? 

No.  State statute caps increases in county property taxes at inflation plus new growth. For the past four years, the county commission has set spending and taxing at a level which is lower than what statute allows.  The creation of a TIF district does not change the statutory limits on county levies. The county commission believes that in the long run, the increased economic development from the road will allow property taxes to continue to be reduced.  

Tax Relief?

Creating this development will vastly broaden the property tax base in Meade County. The best way to keep property taxes as low as possible, is to create new property growth.  Spreading the tax burden over more property will result in a lower mill levy, and lower property tax pressure for everyone.

Will this Increase Economic Development?

The I-90 corridor between Rapid City and Spearfish / Belle Fourche has seen huge growth since the 1970's.  Building this highway will expand and provide a new avenue to continue that development potential in Meade County.  The junction at Highways 79 and 34 is an important intersection; a road connecting this junction with Interstate 90 will become the location for many new businesses and subdivisions.