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Letter: Funding township roads needs updating

Now that the state “has money coming out the wazoo” I would think this could be a good way to help out townships.

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To the Editor:

We live in a 6 by 6 mile township that has no hard surfaced roads, about 20 miles of poor quality county gravel roads and 29 miles of township gravel roads that our township officials are charged with the maintenance and repair of. In 1995 our ability to raise taxes to keep up with the costs of doing that was capped by the state government letting us levy about $1,000 more than in 1995. To make up for rising costs we have had to opt out creating another layer of needless paperwork.

Our roads were devastated by flooding in 2019 and we applied for help from the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) and the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management (SDOEM). Funding for approved projects is cost shared: FEMA paying 75 percent, SDOEM 15 percent and townships 10 percent. This was my fifth experience as local representative and by far the worst. We found both agencies difficult to satisfy and in some cases the employees completely inept. Redundancy ran rampant.

Our first two FEMA project managers were excellent but the last one who was to close up the projects was an idiot. In order to get something, I cancelled some smaller projects and gave up on those still inundated. We spent over $50,000 of our own money to get the roads usable. Gov. Janklow ordered the auditor to pay the 10 percent, also making the state responsible for the other 25 percent cost share. This was during very difficult financial times and money was hard to come by.

Now that the state “has money coming out the wazoo” I would think this could be a good way to help out townships. Our roads are the lifeline for our communities; providing transportation for livestock, grain, farming equipment, supplies, vet services and emergency vehicles. They were not built for modern equipment and need more work than “in the old days.”

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I understand some form of township assistance was passed that funded an inventory of large culverts and small structures. Absolutely not what we needed to help repair the roads now.
I would hope that during the upcoming special sessions the legislators would simply send us some money.

Jim Johannsen

Artesian

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