BROOKINGS – County Commissioner Dennis Falken says he knows the county can work something out with the townships, and he and fellow commissioner Stephne Miller have been tasked to do just that.
“We certainly don’t want to go through this every year in the Legislature, quibbling with our fellow citizens,” Falken says. “And we don’t want to see a battle between us and them. If it can be shown this is creating a hardship for them, somehow we’ll create a fund to cover those additional expenses.”
He says the state Legislature doesn’t want to deal with the problem because a precedent set in Brookings County would affect the entire state. A solution will have to be hammered out locally.
This isn’t a new discussion for Falken. He’s been involved with on-and-off negotiations with the townships for several years. And while the officials’ complaints are loud and clear, Falken says the commission’s response has been equally clear: “Show us the money.”
“We understand their situation – they don’t think their share is right. And we’ve always said we’re willing to talk, but we’re not willing to turn over these funds without proof of additional expenses.”
He says that, to date, the four townships have yet to present their figures detailing those extra costs.
Falken points out that there are “a tremendous number of county miles within each of the townships, and we take care of all of those. County roads are the most heavily traveled, and we have extra costs, too. … We even took over (maintenance of) two miles of township roads on the Basin (Deer Creek) project.”
He noted that while some townships have raised their mill levies – that is they’ve taken on additional taxation to pay for township services – these particular townships haven’t tried to raise their own mill levies for the added road costs.
(The township leaders counter by arguing that they’re providing a service that should be paid by the entire county, since every county resident is getting the benefit of the wind revenues.)
Falken says as the county budgets for 2013, the commissioners will be having further talks with representatives from each of the 23 townships.
“We’ll look at the possibility of a road fund for economic development and the costs associated with that development.”