New commissioner shares experiences with Rotary

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By Peg Wunder

“I’ve learned a lot since I ran to be a county commissioner last year” was the opening comment made by Duane Martin as he addressed Rotary on Monday, Feb. 25.
He has learned in the few months he has been a county commissioner that there are 50 plus employees of Walworth County and that there are 5,438 residents who live in the county. There are 792 miles of county roads and only 30 miles of those county roads are paved. The budget for this year is $4,706,000.
Duane talked about the three things that he is most interested in pertaining to the county.
The first thing is the inequity in the tax structure. There are problems how properties are assessed and the assessor’s job is to apply uniform assessments. It is difficult to know about all the new very big buildings and if some buildings that are old and no longer useful are gone. The assessor’s office is staffed with one full-time person and one part-time person and they are responsible for keeping track of 8,000 parcels in the county. The State Department of Revenue in their audit stated that there should be one full-time employee for each 2,500 parcels, which means there should be three employees in that office. The whole thing is terribly outdated and many times the valuation is not known until the parcel is sold. It needs to be standardized so everyone is taxed equally. Duane said the goal is to get it straightened out in the next year. Due to the size of the county the use of an airplane may be the most feasible idea. It could be left as it is now, but it is not fair to many people.
Duane is also concerned about recycling and source reduction. In 1992 Dennis Bierschbach worked to purchase the land for the landfill and worked to help meet all the requirements. The landfill is currently regulated very carefully. The landfill generates its own income and some of that income is set aside as all the areas of the landfill have to be monitored for 30 years. The idea of recycling needs to be presented to the public because the landfill has a limited life. Last year $511,000 was generated by taking in 16,000 tons of garbage. Mobridge contributed nearly a third of that amount. The expenses from last year were about $400,000.
Duane said that the county commission has ordered a feasibility study concerning the jail, which has not yet come back. Presently, the jail has beds for 32 inmates and it runs at about 50 percent occupancy. Last year there were 877 inmates who served a total of 6,096 days with an average of 16 days’ stay per inmate. The state prisons are full and the state would like to send non-violent inmates back to their county to be housed, but they have already stated that they want those who they send back to be held longer. There are 16 contracts from other entities in the area and those inmates are housed in the Walworth County Jail. Duane said 90 percent of the inmates are from Mobridge. The county commission is researching the possibility of increasing the size of the jail to hold 54 inmates. The federal government would also like to house inmates at the county jail and, Duane commented, they pay a better rate.
Marc McClellan announced that it’s time to contact people for the NCAA Basketball Pool, which Rotary has each year. There are 64 teams and it is a small fundraiser with Rotary only making about $260 with $380 being paid out to the winners.

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