St. Peter Lutheran Church closed last April, but my friend Charlie Johnson and other neighbors and congregants are working to preserve the old fieldstone church and repurpose the facility as a public rural meeting facility.
Get set for a tax vote in Lake County! The petition drive to refer a new 0.9-mill property tax levy for roads collected enough signatures to put the measure to a countywide vote. Petitioner Steven Kant tells me that he submitted 564 signatures to the courthouse yesterday. County auditor Bobbi Janke rejected 31, leaving 533 valid. 507 was enough to put the levy on the ballot.
The technology used at the residence in Lake County was a remote operated tactical robot. The tactical robot is equipped with multiple cameras, a light, and 2 way communications with the ability to listen to surroundings. It was used in this incident to better understand the layout of the exterior of the residence by driving around it. This allows law enforcement to evaluate the structure from a safe location. The robot is equipped to knock on the residence door and then proceed to the interior where it successfully navigated through the residence giving law enforcement a real time look of the entire structure while having the ability to give it commands from a safe location.
The tactical robot did not locate the subject, but did provide officers with the necessary information to enter the structure safely. The subject was located in the residence and arrested without incident. The tactical robot was then used to clear additional spaces in the residence including the attic space.
The tactical robot was a joint law enforcement purchase by the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office, Sioux Falls Police Department and the Division of Criminal Investigation [Attorney General Marty Jackley, press release, 2017.08.07].
Commissioner Aaron Johnson was the lone vote against the levy. An avid cyclist, Johnson recognizes the poor condition of Lake County roads and prefers to train on Minnehaha and McCook county roads. He opposes using property tax to pay for roads that property owners may not use in proportion to their contributions:
To illustrate why he objects to a property tax, Johnson gave the example of a neighbor who lives in Sioux Falls and drives to Lake County once a week to check on her land. For a piece of land like his neighbor’s, Johnson estimated the new levy would add at least $400 to $500 to her tax bill.
“Her Subaru [is] not doing nearly the damage that her custom farmer is doing…to the roads…Just because you are a property owner doesn’t mean that you are using the roads,” Johnson said [Dave Askins, “County Commissioners Reflect on Road Repair Funding,” Madison Daily Leader, 2017.07.18].
I note that Johnson is getting smooth training in Minnehaha and McCook counties on roads he’s not paying anything for, and that that smooth country asphalt is paid for by a lot of homeowners and car buyers in Sioux Falls who never drive lovely, quiet 248th from Colton to Island Lake. When that’s the lemon taxing mechanism the state grants, that’s what county’s have to squeeze to get their lemonade.
But Steven Kant tells me the new levy will raise his taxes on Lake Madison 7.7%, and he says nuts to that. He says about a dozen people are carrying petition sheets around the county, seeking 507 voter signatures by August 7. SDCL 7-18A-15 says a county referral petition needs signatures 5% of the county’s registered voters as of the last general election, and Lake County’s November 2016 count was 10,127. (The August 1 count is 10,382, 5% of which is 520, so this time, be glad statute uses the older count!)
Whether this tax levy makes the ballot and is rejected by voters or not, Lake County residents will feel some pain in the backsides, either a pinch in the pocketbook or bruises on their bums as they bump along those battered back roads.
Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is in full swing here in East River. The pipeline crosses Highway 19 just south of the Montrose corner. Saturday, the pipe had been laid under the road and was awaiting connection with the line on both sides of the road.
My dad looked at that standing water and said that won’t hurt that pipe any. What that pipe and its eventual 450,000 to 570,000 daily barrels of Bakken oil may do to our water is a separate question.
This section of the pipeline was Made in the USA, so surely nothing will go wrong. Of course, that burger was also Made in the USA, and it still left someone on the Michels crew dissatisfied.
Those barriers will keep the excavated dirt from washing away, but they won’t replace the corn that’s been buried.
North and west from the 19 crossing, just a couple miles west of Buffalo Trading Post on 248th Street, Michels has connected some sections of the pipeline.
Just over the hill from that crossing, folks were out boating and fishing on Island Lake. In sight of the northeastern shore is the pipeline construction route.
Up in Lake County, Dakota Access crosses 451st Avenue just north of Orland. Here Michels had to pump water out of the trench to get some work done. The water appears to have spread out beyond the construction easement onto the surrounding cropland.
Orland farmer Charlie Johnson tells me he met with Dakota Access public liaison Eric Munz to review the layout of drainage tile lines in the Orland township farmland that Dakota Access traverses. Johnson said Michels Construction had already severed one tile line and had left it unrepaired and spilling water for several weeks. Johnsons says Munz granted him and his contractor permission to review the final repairs will eventually make to severed tile lines. The next morning, public liaison Munz sent Johnson this message:
I just want to clarify a couple things about our conversation yesterday. I had explained to you that DAPL is required to restore the tile to pre-construction condition including taking measures so it does not sag or settle. I also stated they will use a tile bridge (Mad Dog Foam Bridge) and will run a scope to inspect as well as following the Aggicultural Impact Mitigation Plan which you stated you are familiar with. You and Alan questioned several times why DAPL was not willing to go beyond their legal responsibilities to “do the right thing” or be ethical in regards to the letter your attorney sent and the request to have your tile contractor approve their methods of repair. I suggested part of the reason may be due to the fact they do not agree with or believe some things to be true that you have put on social media and the fact that you oppose the pipeline. I offered to alert you as much in advance as I can of when the tile repairs will be performed and to be present at that time to document conversations between you, your tile repair contractor and the people involved in tile repair [Dakota Access Pipeline public liaison Eric Munz, e-mail to Charlie Johnson, 2016.06.21].
Translation: Dakota Access may favor some landowners with better treatment than others based on whether they support the pipeline and keep their mouths shut.
On Wednesday, June 22, Michels Construction severed Charlie Johnson’s six-inch tile line. The next morning, water was still spilling out of the cut tile line, filling the pipeline trench and inundating adjoining farmland where Johnson is trying to grow oats and alfalfa.
When Johnson heads to town, perhaps he will imagine an alternative route for Dakota Access:
Madison is maxed out on tax increment finance districts, so it had to get the county to back the latest TIF district project, a plan to turn about 15 acres of farm land on the south edge of Madison into new housing and retail space:
This $875,000 TID allows Phase 3 Development, LLC to build a new development in south Madison. The multi-family housing and retail space will be located between Bethel Home and Union Avenue, just north of Madison Regional Health Systems.
…Phase 3’s development will include two 14-unit, multi-family townhome apartment units, two commercial strip malls and a fast-food restaurant on the 15-acre site. These improvements are projected to cost almost $5 million, said the project plan [Jane Utecht, “County Approves TID #4 for South Madison Development,” Madison Daily Leader, 2016.04.21].
A project of that scale must have market demand. It’s right across from the new hospital, which should synergize with the commercial space and provide folks visiting patients with an easy meal stop and others coming for check-ups a chance to hop across the 10th Street/Highway 34 bypass and run a couple errands at the strip mall shops (and, Madison, you will be making Union and 10th a controlled intersection, right, with lights and crosswalk buttons?). Bethel Lutheran Home right next door adds customers. The developers say Madison’s housing study shows demand for more rental units.
So with all this demand, why does government have to intervene in the free market? Can we build nothing in South Dakota without a tax break any more?
Tax increment financing is supposed to be a lever we use to make economic development happen where it otherwise would not, in hopeless, blighted areas. This 15 acres isn’t blighted. It’s bare land, sitting right next to a primary road, two health care facilities, and lots of hungry patients, visitors, and workers. It is opportunity.
Tax increment financing may be the first place we need to look to reform our tax system and better capture the wealth we have to support schools, roads, and other public goods. Taxpayers have already floated the loan and bought the old building that made the new hospital and commercial hub possible. Instead of leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars of new revenue on the table to pad developers’ profits, the county and school district should require developers to pay full taxes on the full value of their projects the year after they are built, just as we homeowners do. Then we might see much less pressure to cut programs and raise taxes.
Bob Mercer links to this map from the Public Utilities Commission’s hearing on the Dakota Access Pipeline, showing how the Bakken oil shipper will hook into Energy Partners’ national pipeline network:
Orland organic farmer Charlie Johnson puts that map in local context with one photo:
Dakota Access Pipeline is placing orange survey stakes across area roads. This organic field has been farmed organically for 25 years by the Johnson family. DAP is planning to bury 30 inch pipe four feet under ground , severing tile lines. Up to 500,000 barrels of crude oil will flow across this field daily — all within a half inch of our precious South Dakota soil and water [Charlie Johnson, Facebook post, 2015.10.07].