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Pictured is John Jerke's property, at 25881 Highway 37, rural Mitchell, facing the highway. According to the state Department of Revenue, the address is the location for tax licenses for both Paul and John Jerke. Davison County has denied a conditional-use permit for a towing business. (Luke Hagen/Republic)

Neighbor spat over illegal towing business flares again

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The Daily Republic
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

A rural Mitchell woman lodged more complaints with the Davison County commissioners Tuesday about a neighbor she claims is illegally running a business.

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During Tuesday’s weekly commission meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell, Wanda Kobes asked about the status of Paul Jerke, whom she alleges is operating a towing service and mechanic shop without a conditional-use permit out of his father’s garage along state Highway 37 south of Mitchell.

Jerke has been issued a cease-and-desist order from the county to stop operations in the garage, but Kobes claims he still is working in the shop.

“He’s running a business, working on equipment and having vehicles out at 1 in the morning,” she said. “A lot of times, they don’t work in the shop until 8:30, 9:30 or 10:30 at night, and then you hear all the banging and power drills going on that late.”

Jerke’s house is about 3.5 miles south of Mitchell on Highway 37, and his father, John, lives south of him on Highway 37. Kobes shares a driveway with John Jerke.

The Jerkes did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. The Daily Republic interviewed Paul Jerke afterward by phone.

“The cease-and-desist order has been followed as far as running my towing business out of there,” he said. “But of course the cease-and-desist order says nothing about a hobby shop.

“All of my towing business is towing. It’s not any repair. It is moving disabled vehicles from the side of the road to local shops in town and I do a lot of long-hauling.”

Jerke said he no longer lives at his house but rents it out because he’s aggravated with Kobes. He applied for a conditional-use permit to operate a towing business at his residence in April 2012. In Davison County, a conditional-use permit is necessary to operate a business in the ag-residential zoning district.

When he applied for the permit, the county received letters against granting it. The letters said past history showed that type of business collects inoperable vehicles, and the letters alleged the business could be a safety concern because of potential visibility issues for drivers coming over nearby Enemy Creek hill. The permit was denied.

According to minutes from a past commission meeting, neighbors who lived near Jerke witnessed activities that showed he continued to operate his business despite not having a conditional-use permit. In November 2012, the sheriff issued a cease-and-desist letter to Jerke, which stated he must stop operation of his business at his father’s garage.

In April, and again earlier this month, citizens’ complaints have come to the commissioners based on Jerke’s alleged activity. Kobes said Tuesday she is puzzled as to how he can continue to operate the business when he does not have a conditional-use permit and when a cease-and-desist order has been issued.

“He continues to do whatever he wants to,” she told the commissioners during the citizens’ input portion of Tuesday’s meeting. “Everybody is watching you guys and they’re watching to see what you do to him.”

Jerke said he uses his father’s garage to fix his own vehicles and uses it as a “hobby shop.”

“Vehicles break down everywhere. It’s a way of life,” he said. “I just use the equipment that I have to make life a heck of a lot simpler. We do some demolition derby and we do get into some mud racing, but there’s really no law against any of that.”

An online advertisement for Paul’s Towing lists the address of the business as the Jerkes’ property.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke said that is not enough proof Jerke is violating zoning laws, because the advertisement may not have been made by Jerke. But Bathke did inform commissioners that there is a state-issued sales tax license for one of the Jerke properties.

“A tax license shows proof that he’s running a business out of that location, which then in turn we can say you don’t have a conditional-use permit to run a business out of that location,” Bathke said.

Jerke told The Daily Republic there is a tax license at his father’s house because Paul Jerke is an electrician operating his business out of his home.

The Daily Republic contacted the state Department of Revenue, which confirmed that both Paul and John Jerke hold tax licenses at John Jerke’s residence at 25881 Highway 37. John Jerke has a license for his electrician business, and Paul Jerke has a license for the towing business.

Bathke told Kobes she needs to bring physical proof, perhaps photos or video, of Jerke operating a business on his or his father’s property. But Kobes said she’s been told by the sheriff’s office that Jerke could file harassment charges against her.

“I’m caught between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

Bathke also told Kobes the complaint is in the hands of the state’s attorney’s office and she needs to be patient for the legal system to do its job.

“This has gotten to be quite a convoluted piece over the years, and we just want to find a resolution,” Commissioner John Claggett said. “We have to let the state’s attorney handle this to be fair to everyone.”

Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins was not immediately available Tuesday to discuss the situation.

Land sale gets approval

The sale of a parcel of public land auctioned by the county and sold to Boyd Reimnitz for $90,000 Friday was given a final OK Tuesday by the commissioners.

The land is south of the county’s Public Safety Center, which was the site of the old Methodist Hospital complex. It was appraised at about $124,000, and Reimnitz said he plans to turn the property into subdivided lots for single-level duplexes.

Before unanimously approving the sale, the commissioners made sure they were comfortable selling the land for a price below its appraisal.

“This land is not generating any income now,” Commissioner Denny Kiner said. “We also don’t have any future plans for it right now.”

Kiner added he believes the land will need “quite a bit of development” with sewer, water, drainage and other issues before it can be used. He said if the sale would have been for any less than $90,000, he would have been hesitant to approve it.

Commissioner Randy Reider added, “The sooner someone starts developing on it, the more tax dollars it will make for Davison County.”

Reider said that if the commissioners had put the land up for sale by private bids or other non-auction methods, the county would have been required to sell it for no less than 90 percent of the appraisal.

Other business

In other business, the commissioners:

Heard a report from Civil Deputy Kathye Fouberg, of the sheriff’s office, on third-quarter civil income that showed a grand total of $23,030.79; that there were a total of 626 papers served for civil cases for a total income of $8,021; mileage and fees totaled $4,148.10; mobile home taxes and fees totaled $10,861.69; and there is $4,678.40 still owed to Davison County in past-due mobile home taxes.

Approved a resolution to vacate an alley located west of the corporate limits of the city of Mitchell and platted and recorded in the original Home Park Addition, and the portion of the alley located between the east right-of-way of North Lytle Street and the east boundary of Lot 4 and Lot 9, Block 28,

Home Park Original Addition.

Approved a resolution to request a rural development site analysis, paid for by the state Department of Agriculture, and conducted by Planning and Development District III, that researches sites in the county best suited for agriculture or other types of development.

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