Township voters reject fire district proposal, 118-78Voters from six townships cast their ballots for the status quo Tuesday evening at the Davison County Fairgrounds, and said no to the proposed Mitchell Rural Fire Protection District.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Voters from six townships cast their ballots for the status quo Tuesday evening at the Davison County Fairgrounds, and said no to the proposed Mitchell Rural Fire Protection District.
Of 198 ballots cast, there were 118 votes cast against and 78 for the fire district. Two ballots could not be immediately accounted for, but they would have made no difference in the result, noted attorney Jim Davies, who handled legal details leading up to the election.
Turnout was said to be between 20 and 25 percent, but election officials did not immediately have official figures.
“The taxpayers have spoken,” said a smiling Floyd Morrison after hearing the election results. Morrison, a member of the existing Mitchell Rural Fire Association board, was consistently anti-fire district.
Orville Stevenson, the self-appointed mayor of Betts, said flatly, “I voted against it because we don’t need any more taxes.”
The measure, had it passed, would have created a legal taxing entity with the power to set and collect property tax levies for the purpose of fire protection of those in the district. Without the district and the taxes earmarked specifically for fire protection, the Mitchell Rural Fire Association will continue to rely on its member townships to budget for fire protection from existing funds.
Proponents said the district would provide a steady stream of income to cover future fire protection needs and not take money from already struggling township budgets. Opponents said it would just cost more and will deliver no appreciably different benefits.
Voting was steady during the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. polling window, said Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke, who supervised the election with Hanson County Auditor Lesa Trabing.
Fifty-five voters submitted absentee ballots in Davison County. Only two absentee ballots were cast in Hanson County.
It was a tough defeat for Dean Strand, who had campaigned strongly for the fire district.
“I’m just dumbfounded,” he said. “In my mind it was a nobrainer, but I guess we didn’t explain it well enough.”
Strand repeated an earlier prediction that the defeat of the district will leave less cash available to fix township roads.
Mitchell Rural Fire Association Vice President Larry Olsen was equally deflated.
“I really don’t know where we’re going from here — probably the same old protocol,” he said.
That means the Mitchell Rural Fire Association board will meet soon and figure out how much it will need for fire protection and divvy that amount up, based on the valuation of the townships.
The fact that a 60-year-old system will continue is not necessarily a bad thing, said Randy , maintaining the Mitchell Rural Fire Association.
“I think the majority of people will be happy to see things stay the same,” he said.