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Jensen shares concerns about roads, bridges

Posted: Friday, Sep 28th, 2012

• Township officials, friends, relatives urged former highway supt. to run for commission

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of four profiles of candidates for Brookings County Commission. Larry Jensen is seeking the post for the first time, as an Independent candidate. Also running for one of two open spots on the commission are Republicans Alan Gregg and Ryan Krogman and Independent Tom Yseth.

BROOKINGS – This June, Larry Jensen listened to the urging of friends, family and some township supervisors throughout Brookings County by throwing his hat into the ring for county commission. Since then, he’s been amazed by – and is grateful for – the amount of support that’s come his way.

Jensen, 49, is running as an independent candidate. He is a 23-year veteran of the Brookings County Highway Department and was Brookings County Highway Superintendent until September of last year.

Now managing his family’s cow-calf operation and working part-time for a Bruce dust-control company and doing township maintenance, he’s maintained his ties throughout the county and feels he’s on the same page with many residents about what must be a priority for the commission now and into the future.

“I guess the concerns of the public and myself are the roads and bridges,” Jensen said. “The state funding is continuing to be the same as construction costs go up. We’re going to have to find alternate sources to fund basically the road and bridge construction within the county, more towards the bridge construction.

“Everything stems back to the roads. You know, the economic development within the county, the wind towers, the dairies – basically, it all comes back to a road issue. The public is traveling the roads. The townships are dealing with the increased maintenance levels, and we have to work to help these townships out.”

Jensen said from his years with the county, he not only knows the road and bridge system but has built good relationships with township supervisors, the mayors and city council members of towns throughout the county, and with state officials.

He also knows county and state policy on highway-related issues and attended commission meetings throughout his time leading the department.

Jensen worked as an equipment operator for nine years, then served as an assistant under former highway superintendent Ted Eggebraaten. On Eggebraaten's retirement, Jensen was interim director of the county road operations for a year, then served three years as superintendent. He resigned last September for personal reasons.

Jensen and his wife, Georgia, have two sons: Jacob, 19, a student at Lake Area Technical Institute; and Tyler, 17, a senior at Deubrook High School. Jensen is a graduate of Brookings High School and attended both Dakota State University and South Dakota State University before joining the county highway department in 1988.

During his time with the department, Jensen oversaw county infrastructure during Buffalo Ridge I and II wind tower projects; helped secure more than $1 million for road improvements near the Basin Electric Fuel Generation Plant; worked with FEMA to secure funds for rebuilding flood-damaged areas of Brookings County; and obtained a grant to replace all traffic signs in Brookings County.

Jensen has been active in both community and professional organizations. A former White resident, he served on the city council there and was a member of the White Community Club.

He is a member of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Associa-tion, the White Volunteer Fire Department and the South Dakota Firefighters Associa-tion. He is also a 4-H parent and volunteer.

During his years with the highway department, Jensen was a member of the executive board of the South Dakota Association of County Highway Superintendents and the Brookings City and County Highway Traffic Study Group.

Now, while doing dust control and road maintenance, Jensen sees and hears about road and bridge needs in the county and hears how funding is stagnant while costs to do the work rise. The state used to help fund work on 40 bridges a year throughout the counties; this year it was 20 to 25, he said.

“When I was there at the county, I had bridges programmed for 2010 to 2011; they’re not even done until 2014 now. The county traditionally, over the years, every year did two bridges. Now, it’s going to maybe get one. So, it’s not a good deal.

“And what’s going to end up happening is these bridges, just like north of Bruce, the county’s going to end up having to pay for them themselves without participating funds from the state, or close the roads. That’s the problem.”

This year South Dakota allocated $7.9 million for bridge repair throughout the state, and Jensen was told the number won’t go up for next year.

“The state, if their hands are tied – are they tied? I don’t know. That’s how much money is coming.

“I think Brookings County is one of the fortunate counties to have the tax base we have and be able to afford to do some on our own. There’s counties out there that don’t have any money for anything. They can’t even haul gravel, they don’t have any money. As you talk to superintendents, it’s tough.”

Contact Charis Prunty at cprunty-@brookingsregister.com.

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