What will happen in Pierre? Clay County Commission, local lawmakers discuss issues by David Lias District 17 Rep. Judy Clark, Rep.-elect B.J. Nesselhuf, and Sen. Joe Reedy visited a recent Clay County Commission meeting to hear input from the local governing board.
They didn't leave the meeting disappointed. The three lawmakers learned that the commission is concerned with a wide range of issues, from travel expenses it must bear for a reorganized Extension service, to challenges in deriving enough revenue from a small number of sources.
Commissioner Ralph Westergaard asked the lawmakers if the state could start picking up a bigger part of the Extension office's travel expenses.
"There's always a chance," Clark said.
Commission Chairman Jerry Sommervold noted that the state's Extension services were consolidated a few years ago.
"They specialized all of the agents in different areas," he said. "Now they (the state) have these agents driving all over 14 counties, and we have to pay the mileage for that."
The Clay County Extension office's travel expenses for this year will be about $4,000.
"This change was dictated by the state," he added. "I think they should seriously look at paying some of the transportation for these people," he said.
Clark, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, noted that she would bring the issue to the committee's attention. "We'll see if we can make an adjustment for you," she said.
Commissioner Gary Iverson asked if the state could funnel more state video lottery revenue to counties.
Clark explained that the video lottery proceeds are being used for property tax reduction.
"I think we haven't heard the end of it, as far as the repeal of the video lottery," Clark said. "Right now, if we had to replace that money that comes in from the video lottery, we would be in trouble, as I said before when we were out campaigning."
Iverson also wondered if travel expenses of Extension service personnel could possibly be reduced by greater use of computers and telecommunications.
"Those expenses do seem pretty minute compared to our total budget, but communication can be pretty effective, using e-mail and computers. I think that could help," he said.
Commissioner Paul Hasse, pointing to a map, noted an area of state-owned land in the county bordering the Missouri River that is quickly disappearing.
"This is Game, Fish and Parks land," he said. "It's a wildlife refuge, and it's rapidly eroding."
He told the District 17 lawmakers to give GF&P officials "an earful" about the problem.
"That river is going to take that whole thing out if they don't do something about that," Sommervold said.
Hasse said county officials have written letters, made phone calls, and even taken Corps of Engineers and state officials out on the river to inspect the erosion to no prevail.
"Maybe the Game, Fish and Parks Department needs to be prodded a bit to work with the Corps (of Engineers) on some problem areas like that," Sommervold said.
"I think our state needs a motor vehicle inspection program," Hasse said. "We used to have one years ago, but it was abused and they dropped it."
Without an inspection program, he said, there could be many cars out on the highway today that don't meet safety standards.
"I would ask that you write a letter to the highway department or the highway patrol about that," Reedy replied, "because two years ago we tried to get just a light inspection back, and the highway patrol just killed it."
Hasse also urged the local lawmakers to resist arguments for consolidation of counties that may arise this year. Hasse agrees that South Dakota has too much government, but counties are the wrong target for consolidation.
"I maintain townships have outlived their usefulness," he said. "Right now, we have 12 townships in Clay County, with an average population of maybe 200.
"We have a unit of government for 200 people. That's horse and buggy stuff," Hasse said. "Someday, someone is going to get fed up with all of the taxes that pay, and look for some efficiencies in government. I think townships should be looked at first."