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Taking the case to Pierre

BROOKINGS – The Brookings County townships have taken their case to the state Legislature on three separate occasions, and while they get a sympathetic hearing from the county’s delegation, many of the other legislators think the wind money distribution is a local issue and should be addressed locally.

But the township leaders say it is a state-created problem, and redistribution of the wind tax revenue should be based on the number of miles they have to service, versus what the county has to maintain. The distribution ratio must be adjusted, they say.

It’s been an “almost” in Pierre each time, according to Richard Howard, lobbyist for the South Dakota Association of Townships and Towns.

“The past year, the township people were well prepared, but the measure died on the Senate floor.”

Richland Township residents Henning Hansen and Sharon Leiferman this spring made what is becoming an annual trek to Pierre to testify, but this time around their township proposal was countered by a plan by Brookings County that would establish an Economic Development Road Fund to provide $50,000 to $100,000 annually for road maintenance on roads impacted by wind farms, dairies, ag processing or CAFO developments.

Time ran out before county and townships could reach an agreement on the Economic Development Road Fund. And while the committee considering the township’s original legislation (SB 95) gave it a “do pass” recommendation, it failed to win a majority in the Senate. Nothing was resolved.

“The county holds all the cards now,” Howard says. “It’s their money. The townships, though, have a legitimate request – more township roads are impacted (by wind tower expense) than county roads.

“In South Dakota, roads are a high priority, and the county is simply reluctant to surrender money.”

Howard says those who argue it’s a local problem and that the parties should be able to work it out between themselves, have it backwards.

“Legislation created the problem, and it was really a major impact on the townships.”

“But it’s hard to get the attention of the Legislature,” he says.