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Fledgling township turns focus to roads

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Roads were the first order of business earlier this week at the second meeting of the fledging Mitchell Township Board of Supervisors.

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"We decided that we want to get the roads in shape," said Board Chairman Mark Schilling. "The need is there for road improvements, and it's pretty much up to the township to decide what we want done."

That means, Schilling said, the township will pay the Davison County Highway Department to place at least 2 inches of gravel on about 15 miles of township roads. The selected roads will be graded and graveled this summer or fall, he said.

"We must still mesh with the highway department's schedule for installing the gravel," Schilling said, "but the township can set its own priority list."

For the time being, money for road repairs or maintenance must be paid out of the county secondary roads fund, but that will change once the township sets its own tax levies. It has two years to do so.

Other than checking to confirm that the money is used for roads, the county cannot determine how the money is used. The township board is also in the process of setting up a checking account to pay bills or to handle incidental fees and taxes, Schilling said.

The original Mitchell Township dissolved in 2002 when its tax levy proved insufficient to cover expenses. The county took over and established a secondary roads levy to cover road maintenance, and a $3,500 annual levy to cover rural fire protection.

That fire levy proved insufficient to cover the former township's portion of a fire truck needed for rural fire protection around Mitchell. So the area's residents voted 103 to 32 on April 8 to take back local control of finances and township roads by re-establishing the township. It was believed to be the state's first-ever township re-establishment.

The township has no offices, Schilling said, but members of the board of supervisors are already receiving calls via cell phone reporting the condition of roads or suggesting repairs that should be done.

Dean Strand represented the Mitchell Rural Fire Association at the Monday township meeting. The association contracts with the city of Mitchell to provide fire protection to areas around Mitchell, including Mitchell Township.

Schilling said the current rural fire agreement will remain in effect with the association.

"We discussed the fire protection levy, and we'll be talking more about it at future meetings," he said.

He said the association will help the new township board to decide what the future fire levies should be.

The $3,500 a year in fire-protection levies generated under the county's management was considered insufficient by many on the fire association board, especially when it came time for the township to pay its $17,000 allotted share for a new fire truck.

"Overall," Schilling said, "we're very satisfied with the way things are going at this point."

The next township meeting will be at 6 p.m. June 10 at the Carnegie Resource Center.

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