Jerauld County voters consider opt-out to pay for roads, bridgesOpponents object to rebuilding 'Alpena road.'
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
WESSINGTON SPRINGS — Voters in Jerauld County will choose whether they want to pay for a $450,000 eight-year opt-out in an election today.
If the measure passes, taxpayers could pay an additional $3.6 million over eight years, above normal tax rates.
The Jerauld County commissioners voted in December to approve the opt-out, but five residents circulated petitions to put the matter to a vote. The opt-out money would be used to replace bridges and repair roads. The majority of the money would be used to reconstruct 221st Street, a four-mile paved stretch from state Highway 281 to Alpena.
An opt-out means a local government has made a decision to opt out of state-imposed limits on annual property tax increases. An opt-out allows local governments to collect more taxes per year than those limits would otherwise allow.
Gary Wenzel, a farmer and one of the main opponents of the opt-out, said those against the measure don’t think the county should pay to rebuild 221st Street, also called “the Alpena road.” The four-mile stretch is “used excessively,” Wenzel said, by semi and other large trucks hauling to and from the LSI Jack Link’s plant, Stan’s Feed Inc. and the Wheat Growers elevator.
“We’re strongly against the portion of the $3.6 million that’s going to be put into the Alpena Road,” Wenzel said. “We think it’s costing us way too much money for what we can afford to pay.”
Wenzel and others who oppose the opt-out say the three large companies that run trucks along the road should “kick in some money” to pay for the reconstruction.
The county currently has a $150,000 annual opt-out, which runs through the next two years. If residents vote in favor of the $450,000 opt-out, the $150,000 one would end. The tax increase would begin for 2012 and payments would begin in 2013.
County commissioner Leo Channel said the commission is “feeling positive” that the election will come out in favor of the opt-out.
“We’re glad it did go to a vote so it’s up to the county taxpayers to either vote it in or out,” he said.
The commission recently learned some federal wetlands issues may delay the Alpena road project should the opt-out pass. If so, the county could start with the bridge or road projects first.
If the taxpayers vote down the opt-out, Channel said the county will still “try to repair as much as we can, but it will be limited because of the available money.”
Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:
• Precincts 1 and 2, Jerauld County 4-H building in Wessington Springs;
• Precinct 3, Alpena Community Center;
• Precinct 4, Mary Jackson garage in Lane;
• Precinct 5, Jerry Fastnacht garage in rural Wessington Springs.