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DOT restores some funds cut from GF&P

PIERRE—Nine years later, the state Transportation Commission agreed Thursday to restore some of the road money cut from the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.

GF&P received $2 million annually from DOT, prior to DOT's 2007 budget shortfall. GF&P's amount was slashed to $500,000.

The decision now adds $500,000 back, so GF&P will see a total of $1 million.

The additional aid could make some difference.

The total budget for GF&P from all sources for the current 2016 fiscal year is nearly $83.6 million.

The parks and recreation division, including snowmobile trails operations, is about $32 million.

Most of GF&P's roads are in state parks and recreation areas and at boat ramps.

Transportation Commission member Ralph Marquardt, of Yankton, made the motion to approve the additional $500,000 but said he can't support providing $2 million again.

Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said all of the recipients who were cut by DOT in 2007 have now seen at least some of their previous funding restored.

"There are certainly some benefits to us from doing this," he said.

The township road providing access to Lake Poinsett is an example, Bergquist said.

Marquardt noted GF&P can change its fee structure.

"They don't have unfettered discretion to do that," Bergquist replied.

He added that although GF&P roads aren't on the state system they are state roads.

Bergquist said the $500,000 would come from the $65 million of additional state funds DOT received through the package of fee and tax increases approved by the Legislature in 2015.

There are 350 miles of roads in the park system, according to Doug Hofer. He is GF&P's director of parks and recreation.

"We'll use it as part of our five-year plan to do preventative maintenance on our state park road system," Hofer said. "They require the same type of maintenance and ongoing work that any other roads require."

Hofer said he understood why DOT reduced GF&P's share. "They cut it because they were going through a budget crisis of their own," Hofer said.

He said GF&P received some federal stimulus aid and steered some other one-time amounts of federal funding toward park roads. He said GF&P also deferred projects.

"It certainly helps and we're very appreciative and it will be a positive step in mainatiing the integrity of those roads," Hofer said. "It all helps and we don't want in any way to diminish its importance."