Monday, May 24, 2010

Enough Already

I don’t think the county commissioners know how to stop spending. They sure as hell can’t keep within the budget. (Budget?) It wasn’t enough that they spent $45,000 for the “parking lot”, $47,000 for the “bridge” to nowhere, and $25,000 for the old port of entry facility, but now they went and spent $20,000 more for access to the port of entry. How much more can they spend before the end of the year? I mean what is going on here? As far as I know, none of this money was in the “budget” for 2010. (Don’t you just love the quote marks? (“”). I mean it adds so much emphasis to what I’m saying don’t you think? If I’m not cynical about my own writing, I’m liable to take it out on the commissioners.
Now let’s stop a minute and reflect about what is happening here. They are or have spent over $45,000 for a “temporary” parking lot for the court house. The city of Elk Point waived the demolition fee if the commissioners, excuse me – the county - would put up a sign saying “public parking.” So of course they agreed to that. The building that occupied the “parking lot” has been demolished and the hole filled in; graveled and is ready to be paved. Oh come on! I believe Campbell construction in Jefferson came in with an excavator and demolished the building but the county did the rest of the work. I wonder if the highway department budgeted monies for the equipment, manpower, gas and whatever else for doing this work. You can bet your bottom dollar they didn’t, so where is the money coming from? Oh, silly me, it must be coming from the contingency fund. I wonder how much money is left in this fund before we go broke. You would think it was a bottomless pit because they can’t spend it fast enough. Well, that is enough about the parking lot, but before I leave this, do you think people would have minded parking on the street if they knew they would be saving the county over $50,000 for the “parking lot.”
Now for the bridge to nowhere. This bridge in Prairie Township was marked for replacement in 2003. Now 7 years later, the state let a contract for $247,000 replace the bridge. Wait a minute! Isn’t the state running over the budget this year? I remember the politicians in Pierre passing a budget on the last day of the session for a $32,000,000 shortfall and they have money to replace the “bridge to nowhere.” Enough already, I can’t stand it. Anyway, of this $247,000 the county is responsible for 2% of that total or $47,000. I do not remember seeing any money in the 2010 budget for this. If it is, I apologize. I really do. After all, I think the county ran out of money after paying for all the snow removal this last winter because they are going to opt out in July because of a shortfall in funds for highway maintenance. This is getting really serious ladies and gentlemen. The county is going to opt out because of a shortfall in the budget for maintenance and upkeep yet they are spending money like there is no tomorrow. Is this called responsible government or what? I sure as heck can’t figure this out. Can you? The commissioners must figure we can’t add 2+2 and come up with 5.
I saved the best for last because the commissioners bought the old port of entry facility from the state to either use it for a substation for the sheriff’s department or for the highway department. Funny thing is, neither of these two departments wants anything to do with the place. If the highway department uses it they must put somebody down there. In the winter if they use it for sand they still have to drive a sand truck down there to fill up. They can’t just leave a truck up there because it runs on diesel fuel and takes time to warm up before they can get going. Does that make sense to you? Doesn’t to me. If the sheriff uses it, does that mean he is going to increase manpower because if it is manned as a substation then somebody has to be there just to answer the phone I would think. Now can the place be left unmanned? If it can, why do they need it in the first place? God I hate it when I have all these questions about how the county runs its business. Now here is the best part. That $20,000 they spent on the facility this year – they had to spend it to gain access to the property because there wasn’t any way to get there except from the interstate, it was landlocked so they paid Jon Nelson $20,000 for an easement to get to old highway 77, or maybe they spent the $20,000 for the adjoining property (whatever) so they could get to it. Either way it cost the county another $20,000 THAT WE DON’T HAVE! Is this getting past the point of being silly or is it just plain sick? Enough Already!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If I'm Lyin, I'm Dyin

Unless I’ve been reading the wrong stuff, cap and trade is going to kill us. First of all, let’s call it what it is. It is a TAX!
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, if it looks like a tax, sounds like a tax and quacks like a tax, then it must be a tax. Let me give you my version of cap and trade. There is no doubt that we are experiencing climate change/global warming. What I don’t understand about this whole thing is why people who don’t have a clue of what is happening are the ones who determined that cap and trade is a good thing. Here is the dictionary definition of cap and trade.
Emissions trading (also known as cap and trade) is an administrative approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.
A central authority (usually a governmental body) sets a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Companies or other groups are issued[clarification needed] emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits) which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level. Companies that need to increase their emission allowance must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Thus, in theory, those who can reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest cost to society.
This all makes perfect sense right? Baloney! Let me give you my scenario on how this will work in our society. Hyperion sits in their office and says they have to make some extra money, so they inflate the amount of pollution they are going to emit. In this case, they say they will emit 19 million tons of carbon dioxide, when in fact they will only emit 10 million tons. This figure was approved by the State of South Dakota DENR so it is accurate as far as the state is concerned. After all, Hyperion knows what it is talking about. Now since this is a new operation and it is going to take them 5 years to build it, they have 19 million credits to sell on the open market to the highest bidder. The law says that the total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, and since they didn’t produce anything the first five years, they are home free. After all, the law is the law. Now in the 5th year they go into production and only produce what they figured they would which is 10 million tons. They can still sell 9 million credits on the open market. God, don’t you just love it?
Now who is going to pay for these credits? We are. Hyperion refines the crude and pass off the carbon tax to the next person down the line because they, sure as hell, aren’t going to pay for it, which passes it down the line until it gets to you. The price of oil, gas, diesel, fertilizer, electricity and anything else that uses oil products or its derivatives is going to skyrocket and we are going to bear the brunt of it. This is absolutely not going to be good for the economy because it will stifle any incentive to produce anything. The only ones that are going to make out on the deal are the polluters. If there is a way to screw us, the politicians and the oil companies will figure out a way to do it. If this is such a good deal, why isn’t it being done all over the world? I’ll tell you why, other countries have tried it and it doesn’t work. I’ve listed just one example of the results of cap and trade for the state of Kentucky.

• Due to lower industrial output as a result of higher energy prices, the costs of complying with required emissions cuts, and greater competition from overseas manufacturers with lower energy costs, Kentucky would lose as many as 23,000 jobs in 2020 and nearly 50,000 jobs in 2030.

• Disposable household income would be reduced by as much as $2,500 per year in 2020 and up to $6,000 by 2030.

• The price of gasoline in Kentucky would increase between 74 percent and 144 percent in 2030. Electricity prices would increase by between 122 percent and 159 percent. Kentucky residents would pay between 99 percent and 142 percent more for their natural gas by 2030.

All of Kentucky's largest manufacturing sectors would experience output losses.

Kentucky's 1,865 schools and universities and 134 hospitals will likely experience an increase of up to 35 percent in expenditures by 2020 and as much as 123 percent by 2030.
I have the solution for cap and trade, it is called conservation. We are paying $2.70 for gas now and I just got notified today that my electric rate is going up by 11% for next year. If I limit the amount or distances that I drive and conserve my use of electricity, I can save more money than can be saved by cap and trade. We have become such a throwaway society. It is cheaper to throw it away and buy a new one than to fix the one that is broke. Sometimes, being cheap is okay. It is better to volunteer to do something than to be forced to do something. Do people really care where the oil comes from? Honestly?
I’ll climb off my high horse now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food For Thought

Food For Thought (not lutefisk)
I think I finally hit the wall. This is the first time since I’ve been writing these articles (over 2 years) that I have absolutely nothing to write about. I’m just going to start writing and see where it leads. The commissioners continue to do things in secret. They went into executive session to discuss the proposed parking lot and the property they purchased on the Interstate. Hyperion is keeping their mouths closed, which is good because I could criticize them forever if they were to contact the people in Washington to beg for money to build the refinery. Course they very well could be doing that because their version of transparency means be secretive as well. There is nothing in the news about anything except the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the press is beating that issue to death.
I want to assure everyone that the actions of the oil companies do not cause a reaction as stupid as building a refinery in South Dakota. I guess we just hunker down and wait for a shoe to drop.
Is this a good thing that nothing is going on or is it a bad thing? Personally, I think it is a good thing because time is running out on Hyperion and the drop dead date is only a little over 3 months away.
I do have something to prattle about that might perk interest in some folks.
There is a law on the books that says existing counties in the state can split into one or more counties with permission of the county. There are people that I talk to that want to organize a movement to split the county into 2. They have checked into the state constitution and can’t find anything that says it can’t be done. Everything north of highway 50 should split from Union county and become Foss County, (in memory of World War II Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe Foss.) That would be Brule, Spink, Emmett and Prairie Townships. The county seat could be built in the central part of the county and begin to act as responsible people for a change. Of course, the county would never let us do that because the PROPOSED refinery site would be in Brule Township with spillover into Spink Township and we would get all the money. It is always about money isn’t it?
The rationale behind all this is that 2010 is also the year the government does the Census and all the district lines will be redrawn according to population. So goes the population, so goes the Commissioners and so goes the appropriation percentage for monies distributed for the infrastructure of the county. This is called gerrymandering. Dakota Dunes is now bigger than Beresford and Alcester combined. It is conceivable that the Dunes would get 2 commissioners and all the area north of Highway 50 reduced to 1. If we don’t have a strong commissioner representing us when this happens, it will happen. The southern part of the county would purposely be redrawn to give all the power of the commissioners to the lower half of the county. We have 5 commissioners, and 3 of them are currently from the southern half of the county; Dakota Dunes, North Sioux City, Jefferson, and Elk Point. Do you see what is happening here? We are being squeezed out of the picture and pretty soon, we won’t have a voice at all. That is why I say it is entirely possible the Dunes could add one commissioner and we could lose one. If that does happen, we will need a commissioner with a grim determination and an ability to seek compromises. If we don’t, we are at the mercy of the rest of the county. I would put this into the category of taxation without representation.
If the lines were drawn according to size and not by population, we wouldn’t have a problem, but that isn’t the way it works. It is people and money. When the lines were redrawn in 2000, it was done by the Southeast Council of Governments (SECOG) in Sioux Falls. The commissioners rubberstamped it and the lines were redrawn and Roger Boldenow and Dale Harkness found themselves out of a job. Isn’t that interesting? Two commissioners at one whack. That is NOT in the best interests of the townships. It was done strictly to give the advantage to Southern Union County. Have you ever noticed that the paper in Elk Point has changed its name from the Elk Point Leader Courier to the Southern Union County Leader Courier? Inch by inch, Foot by foot, step by step we are being absorbed by the southern part of the county, and pretty soon we won’t have a voice at all. Think About It!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Button, Button, Who's got the Button

May 5th, 2010
Button, Button, Who’s got the Button
It sure is fun to read all the legals in the local papers. I find out that I’ve been attending the wrong meetings, because when I read something in one paper, it is completely different in the other, and completely different from what I had an understanding on.
Let’s take the latest fiasco in the Union County Government. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a fiasco, but then I’ve always told it like it is and if it looks like a fiasco, sounds like a fiasco, quacks like a fiasco, then it must be a fiasco.
The county commissioners spent $45,000 for this lot across the street for a parking lot to be used during the reconstruction of Main Street. That $45,000 was just for the lot and I believe the money came from the contingency fund, although I’ve never seen exactly where the money came from. Slush funds are illegal now, so it must have come from contingency.
Now we have to spend anywhere from $7500 to $9500 to have the building demolished. But wait a minute there might be artifacts in there someone would want. The last I heard Mr. Jordan was going to advertise in antique auction magazines, but that would take too long so they told Mr. Roggow to go through the building and remove anything he thinks the county could use and then they would decided what to do with the rest of the stuff. (Oh man, that is my favorite word: stuff).
There was one slight problem though, there is a lean to within 1 foot of the property line and when an excavator comes in they aren’t too careful with the bucket, so the commissioners designated the states attorney to see if they (the county) could build a new one for him or repair the damages or whatever.
Now it seems to me that they have to put this demolition out for bids, and that takes time because they have to have bid sessions and open bids, award bids, get completion dates etc. Main street will be done before they get around to all this. Then again, maybe county workers will use county equipment and county time to take it down, fill it in and pave it. The downtown portion of the project is due to be completed in August and the rest by November.
Anyway, back to my story. I was reading the elk point paper yesterday and in the minutes for the city council there was a demolition application from the county and that they asked for the demolition fee to be waived. ($500) The city has agreed to waive the demolition fee if the county would agree to let the city park in the lot during the main street construction and that they put up a public parking sign. (Now hold on here). It is my understanding that this lot is being constructed to be used as overflow parking for the court house during the street reconstruction because there won’t be enough parking for people conducting business at the court house. (If you’ve ever been at the courthouse when there is jury selection you would understand). Anyway, back to my story again. Now the city sent this back to the county for action and if the county agrees, then the city will waive the fee. You know as well as I do that the county is not the fastest acting agency in the world. And again, the street project might be done before the lot is. Now the big question is why in the world is the county spending over $55,000 for a flipping parking lot to accommodate overflow for a period of about 6 months? I’m sure people would understand what is going on and wouldn’t mind parking on the street and walking a block for 6 months. Besides, I would be willing to bet that lot won’t hold over 10 cars anyway. That is a lot of money to park 10 cars.
There has been a breaking story last Friday (April 30th) that 3 oil companies are suing TransCanada to get out of their contract for shipping tar sands to their refineries because of skyrocketing shipping costs. I’m sure by the time you are reading this that the other 2 refineries will have been identified. The one refinery is Coffeeville, Kansas. The rest of the pipeline goes to Cushing, Oklahoma which is the central distribution point for the pipeline. It seems that the cost of shipping the oil down the pipeline has gone up over 92% in just the last 2 years and the oil companies are saying that they cannot make any money at those prices and want out of their contract. They also state that TransCanada was late in getting the contract back to them so there is in fact, no contract. This is all Oilspeak for saying this tar sands deal isn’t a money making deal after all and they want out. Now this doesn’t open the door for Hyperion, because if it is too costly for the big boys it is way, way out of the range of Hyperion. My first thought was “Oh My God”, Hyperion has a pipeline, but then I thought of costs, and said naw, not a problem. They can’t afford to buy the land that is optioned, so buying oil from TransCanada is out of the question. It seems as though just about the time things quiet down, up jumps a snake and we are right back in it again.
Final thought for the day. Julie Madden was talking to Mr. Dale Neeley about the Planning and Zoning plus the commissioners not following the directives in the zoning ordinance. Are you ready for his answer?? “We need to have some LEEWAY!” I think I’ve heard everything now.