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Local fire protection district could go to voters

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News Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
Local fire protection district could go to voters
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Residents in parts of six townships surrounding Mitchell could vote later this year to decide whether to form a fire protection district.


The Mitchell City Council approved a new contract earlier this month with the Mitchell Rural Fire Association, and it requires the association to take steps to form a fire protection district.

If approved by voters, the fire protection district would have the authority to levy a property tax to fund fire protection in the district. As it exists, the association relies on funding from its five member townships to pay for a contract for fire protection from the Mitchell Fire Division.

Dean Strand, a Mitchell Rural Fire Association board member, said the association hopes a vote to form a fire protection district will take place during the Nov. 4 general election. In 2011, a similar proposal to form a fire protection district was defeated by voters.

Before the proposal can be put to a vote, Strand said Jim Davies, an attorney in Hanson County, will meet with both the Davison and Hanson county commissions to get their approval, and then public meetings will be held to inform voters of the proposal.

Strand, who represents Prosper Township on the association's board, said his township receives about $13,500 per year from Davison County, of which $10,000 is used to pay for fire protection.

"That doesn't leave much of anything to take care of other expenses," he said.

The township is also expected to pay for road maintenance, snow removal and weed spraying, Strand said.

In the association's new contract with the city of Mitchell, the association agreed to pay the city $12,556 for services between July 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014, and transfer ownership of a grass rig fire truck and a water tanker fire truck to the city to cover the $79,946 cost for services between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2017.

Whatever happens, the association -- or, if approved, district -- will not include Perry Township, which elected to leave the association in favor of fire protection from the Letcher Fire Department, Strand said.

Perry Township is located to the north of Mitchell, specifically, to the north of 250th Street, which runs near the entrance to the Mitchell Municipal Airport. Perry Township's border to the east is 412th Avenue, to the west is 406th Avenue and to the north is 244th Street.

"Those people can almost see the Mitchell Fire Department," Strand said. "I don't know if they're going to want to wait for Letcher to come."

Townships currently in the association include Beulah, Lisbon and Prosper townships in Davison County, and Plano and Hanson townships in Hanson County.

Floyd Morrison, a Perry Township board member who used to represent the township on the association's board, did not respond to the The Daily Republic's request for comment Friday.