By Cathy Nelson
HOT SPRINGS – When the Fall River County Commission met on April 15, Commissioner Deb Russell announced that the Black Hills District County Commission will meet on May 14 at Prairie Winds Casino. According to Russell one of their goals is to form the district’s counties into a coalition to make a unified front for urging the state to lower property taxes and to have some the designations of cropland changed to grassland, which would decrease the tax burden for landowners.
State Senator Julie Frye-Mueller, who attended the commission meeting, told commissioners she was “all in” for getting a bill drafted to control property taxes. “East River is having some of the same problems,” she said.
“We can’t do it alone,” said State’s Attorney Lance Russell. “We’ve got a year to get ready. We’ll work up a proposal, but you need to know they (Dept. of Revenue) will take punitive action.”
Director of Equalization Susie Hayes discussed owner-occupied and non-occupied tax status. “If they (owners) have property with several buildings, we do owner-occupied on all the buildings,” she said. She also explained that to qualify for ag status, the owner needs to do substantial ag on the property. “Ag has to be the priority use on the property,” she said.
The next subject discussed was the closure of the Nieman Sawmill in Hill City. Commissioner Heath Greenough asked Sen. Frye-Mueller what could be done to get the sawmill opened to harvest the lumber. Fry-Mueller said she had met with the National Forest supervisor and had told him that the closure of the sawmill had negatively affected 160 jobs. She said there is a push to reduce the timber program even more.
Commissioner Joe Falkenburg said the reduction in timber harvest could affect stock growers in the county, who have grazing permits on forest property.
In other business, Emergency Manager Frank Maynard said more than 15 inches of snow fell in the early April snowstorm and that low visibility, high winds and icy conditions caused semis to jackknife on Highway 18. He said he plans to contact the Department of Transportation to request that they put up a sign that warns drivers to stay off Highway 18 during a storm. “People who are traveling through don’t get the message on TV, etc.,” he said. “I’m working on shutting the highway down during a storm.”
Erin McGlumphy, who is 4-H and Youth Advisor, gave a quarterly report to the commissioners. Sixteen new members joined 4-H and 19 members participated in shooting sports recently. “We are having Achievement Days this year,” she said. “Things are looking well.”
State’s Attorney Lance Russell talked about the solar farm that is scheduled to be constructed in eastern Fall River County next year. Commissioner Falkenburg asked Russell to draft a letter requesting information on what authority the county has to ensure the solar company cleans up after itself. Russell said the company will be developing an entire section of land and asked, “what if they don’t clean it up?” Commissioner Greenough said Russell should ask other states what they are doing to regulate solar companies.
Highway Superintendent Randy Seiler reported that he had found out the cost for paving the main street in Oelrichs, which is six-tenths of a mile long. The cost is $99,250, with paving a mat for leveling the street and then putting a mat over the top. The commissioners approved the expenditure.
Commissioner Falkenburg said the people should put pressure on the state to become a second amendment sanctuary state. A sanctuary state, also known as a gun sanctuary, is a state, county or locality in the United States that has adopted laws or resolutions that oppose, or purport to prohibit or impede, the enforcement of certain gun control measures.
In other business the commission approved the following items.
• Hire Lynn Two Bear in the state’s attorney’s office
• Surplus to sell a 1990 Chevrolet pickup
• Purchase a tablet for Emergency Management for which the state will reimburse 50 percent
• Ambulance service’s bills for conducting renewal classes of AED and CPR licenses