The Walworth County Commissioners Tuesday, July 20, decided it is important to clarify the need and the use of the opt out funding to taxpayers as there seems to be much confusion related to it.
Commissioners Scott Schilling and Kevin Holgard said they had received calls from county residents concerning a letter sent out by the county. Schilling told the board that there is no explanation that the opt out is necessary in order to move forward with a new jail construction project.
He said he was worried about how the letter was worded as the people he spoke with were concerned the opt out funding would be used for other things besides the jail.
Commissioner Rick Cain told the group that the county didn’t have a choice in the wording of letter as the resolution language is set by statute from the State of South Dakota.
He said getting the other information to the public is up to the county.
Holgard asked if the county should send a follow-up letter, one agreed on by the full commission, that would explain that only a portion of the opt out funding could be used each year, and for what purpose.
Cain explained that he had sent a letter to the editor (see page 5) to both the Mobridge Tribune and the Selby Record, explaining the situation. He said because of the need to get the letter sent to taxpayers in a short time period, he did not have time to have input from other commissioners or to add another letter with an explanation.
Holgard said the commission should move forward with public information meetings to help educate the taxpayers on the need and use of the opt out funding.
Cain asked that they hold off on the public meetings until the commission had made some important decisions about the project.
Both Schilling and Holgard said the public has voiced concern and the county needs to clear up the misunderstanding.
“We are totally not telling the public the actual truth to the matter,” said Schilling. “I am just as much to blame as the next guy, but we’re misinforming the people and I don’t believe we should be misinforming the taxpayers.”
Cain disagreed that the commission misinformed the public.
“We are complying with statute, now it our obligation as the trustees of the public’s funds to go through and explain,” he said. “We have to follow the law, it is our job now to educate the public now as to what we need and why we need it.”
It was agreed that commission would wait until Cain’s letter made public to decide if a follow up letter up necessary. All commissioners would have to agree on the contents and wording of the letter before it is sent out to the taxpayers.
The resolution includes an automatic referral election, which will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 21. This will allow time to make plan decisions before scheduling public meetings.
Holgard told the commission that the group from Colorado that he has been working with will be here on Tuesday, Aug. 2, to inspect the Shopko building in Mobridge then meet with the commissioners at the Tuesday, Aug. 3, meeting to discuss their findings and the plans to possible construct the new jail within the walls of the standing building.
He said the group will be staying at the New Evarts Resort and asked that the commission pay for their rooms as they have asked to be reimbursed for any expenses incurred on the two trips to South Dakota.
The commission approved paying the $300 for the rooms.
When discussing old business, Cain asked Sheriff Josh Boll about the space issues in the sheriff’s office in the courthouse. Cain said he is also concerned about holding prisoners waiting for their hearings.
Cain said if the county would have to build another facility to hold the prisoners waiting for court or a place to hold juveniles, it would cost the county more money that tit doesn’t presently have.
Boll told the commissioners the size of the office space in the courthouse has been an issue for years. He said materials are stacked and there is no storage space. There is also no room to meet the needs of law enforcement for interviewing, fingerprinting or other law enforcement business.
He asked that the commissioners take these things into consideration when making the plan decisions and to fix all of the issues instead of only part of them with the new jail plans.
In other business the Walworth County Commission:
• Approved adding commissioner Scott Schilling to the stakeholders members for the South Dakota Department of Transportation Master Transportation Plan.
• Approved the second reading of the covered load ordinance 2021-12.
• Approved a probationary raise for full-time employee Gordan Hanstrom and also adding assistant mechanic to his job description along with equipment operator and an additional $1 per hour for that designation.