Monday, June 21, 2010


When I was in the service many years ago, I used to have a plaque on the topof my desk in my office that one would see as soon as you walked into the room.( Master Sergeants are like that you know!) “There is always an excuse for stupidity, but never an excuse for incompetence.” I can’t remember if that was a quote from somebody or what, but it seemed to fit the situation at the time.
During the public input at the county commissioners meeting last week, I stood and asked the commission what it cost to build the parking lot across the street from the court house. I was immediately rebuked by the chairman that if I bothered to read the claims in the minutes I would have seen that they paid Campbell Grading $3700. Now since the claims don’t say what the expenditure is for, am I to automatically assume (you know what that is right) that it was for parking lot work and not for grading a county road or some other project? So I asked the chairman what it cost for labor for the county employees, equipment rental of county equipment, oil and gas etc. He said those figures weren’t available. I hate to be a pain in the ass, but what does it take to get answers from the commissioners about county business and the spending of our tax dollars? I think that as a public servant, the commissioners would be more than happy to satisfy my curiosity, not try to hide things from me. I’m going to find out anyway, so why not tell me up front and save everybody some grief. That would be too easy.
If they have done nothing wrong it shouldn’t be a problem should it? As taxpayers in this county, don’t you want to know how your tax dollars are being used? Don’t you want to know that someone is looking out for your best interest, and not “flitting” our money away? Is this why the county wants to opt out? They want to tax and spend.
Speaking of oopsing out, wouldn’t you think that the commissioners would have all their ducks lined up before they decide to do this? I mean how much money do they want or need? How many years are they going to opt out for? Are they deciding to oops out before all other options have been looked at?
One of the ideas I heard kicked around at the meeting was to oops out for $350,000 and put $100,000 away into savings or capital outlay in case matching funds become available from the state, then they will have more money to spend. Not only do I think that is totally stupid, I am not sure it is legal to say that the highway department doesn’t have any money so we are going to oops out and at the same time say they are going to stick some money in a sock somewhere “just in case.”
At the end of the meeting the commissioners voted to authorize the chairman to sign a purchase agreement for the property at the port of entry on the interstate. This will give them access to the property they bought a couple of years ago. I can’t remember exactly when they bought it, I think it was two years ago. They still haven’t decided what to do with that property. One of the options that I heard recently was to make it an extension of the treasurer’s office so people in the southern part of the county don’t have to drive all the way to Elk Point to get license plates and pay their taxes. That’s just a rumor I heard, but whatever the reason is, was, going to be, the property must have been a “blue light special”, and the county commissioners just couldn’t pass up a good deal. They took the money from the highway department to pay for the land. ($25,000) But wait a minute. The county is going to oops out because the highway department doesn’t have any money to fix the roads, but can buy a piece of property that they not only don’t want, they don’t need. What the heck is going on here? And you wonder why the county is getting into such a fix? DUH!
Now the frosting on the cake about this port of entry property is that the county purchased the property from the state. Did they purchase the property or did they just purchase the buildings? I’ve been told that everything inside the fence on the interstate is federal property, not state. I wonder if this is why it is taking so long to get clear title. Or should I say took so long to get title. I think they might have it by now, but according to what I know, the state cannot sell property that is landlocked. If that is the case somebody screwed up again because that is what the $25,000 was for; to gain access to the port of entry from old Hwy 77. Am I dreaming all of this or what?
Don’t we have the ability and a right to hold our public officials accountable for their actions? Don’t we have a right to expect to have our elected officials be open and above board in their actions? This isn’t right. Maybe a committee of watchdogs should be formed to keep tabs on what is happening in our county and stop all this tom foolery. Maybe then the commissioners wouldn’t be so free and easy with our money.
‘Till we meet again.’

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Status Quo"

“Status Quo”
If you look at the subtitle just below the banner for this article you will see a new addition to my articles. “Citizens for decency in government.” When I was talking to people about adding this to my column, they said it would make me look like a sore loser in the election. Of course it does, so what? Have you ever seen a good loser? I’m not sore about losing. However, I am truly disappointed by the fact that so many people were counting on me to win. I’m sorry I didn’t work harder to change people’s minds. I still think what I was doing was right. I had a plan for this county that would completely change the way they do business. Do you remember Senator Barry Goldwater? He said show me an honest politician and I’ll show you a loser. Nuff said.
One of the things that I thought was particularly interesting is the labels that were attached to me and the fact that I am so vocal about -
1) Hyperion, which I’m dead set against and am convince this will never happen, and
2) The county commissioners. What can I say here? They deserve it.
All I do according to Paul Buum of the Alcester-Hudson Union paper is complain about Hyperion and criticize the commissioners. That is exactly what this column is about. I might change your words though. I constantly point out the shortcomings of Hyperion and why they are lying and taking advantage of us. That isn’t complaining that is being responsible. It is nice to know that Paul reads my articles.
I have never made up a story or an article in this column. I’ve never lied about what I say; I just tell it like it is. Who could make up the stories I print about the commissioners? If I see something that is happening that is wrong should I just keep my mouth shut or should I let people know what is going on? I will tell you this much, because of this column, the people in Brule and Spink townships know what is going on. One does not make changes by keeping the status quo. The status quo is what got us into this mess in the first place. I want government to be given (taken) back to the people.
1) They raised the assessed value on all the acreages in Union county up as much as 20-25%.
2) They raised the valuation from 5% to 10% of all houses that are over 10 years old. Why?
3) They are going to opt out in July because they don’t have enough money to maintain the roads, and are falling behind in their master plan to maintain the infrastructure.
4) They spent $45,000 plus to build a parking lot across from the court house that I doubt seriously will get any use except for the folks that work at Thermo Bond. I’m sure the owners will thank the county for the new parking lot. Now they don’t have to build it. If you remember, the county commissioners sent the states attorney to the Elk Point city commissioners to complain about employees from Thermo Bond parking in the court house parking lot. So the county builds a parking lot for Thermo Bond? ? ?
Bear in mind folks, the county government does absolutely nothing to produce income. They spend what is raised from taxes and if they don’t have enough money they keep raising taxes until they do. That is why the State of South Dakota put a cap on the amount that taxes can be raised, hence the opt out. I hate to think what the taxes would be without the cap.
I think I reported last week that the highway department has a 20 year plan to redo 10 miles of road a year to maintain the paved roads so they don’t completely deteriorate. Last year they did 4 miles and the year before that was 5 miles. If we don’t do 15 miles we will keep falling behind on the master plan and never catch up. Are we just going to do a new master plan? This is like the Communist 5 year plan. They redo the 5 year plan every 5 years because they fall so far behind they can’t catch up so they just make a new plan.
At the budget meeting on the 10th, each department head came in to the commissioners with their proposed budget for 2011. My question is this – how in the hell can department heads do a budget when they don’t know the cost of supplies and especially don’t know what the salary for the employees is going to be? The salary base is going to change because they are doing away with the annual longevity bonus. It will be incorporated into the salary, but the commissioners haven’t figured out yet how they are going to do this. All they say is that it will be a step program but how much, they haven’t said. The commissioners did vote to raise the salary of the chairman $100 a month though.
You know it is probably a good thing for me that I didn’t get elected. I think someone was looking out for me and was saying to themselves that if Doug gets in there he is going to go stark raving mad because of the way the commissioners operate. They are a train wreck, and it is going to happen sooner than later.
Now you can see why I added the subtitle to this column. I am forming a coalition with the people who are tired of the “Status Quo” and to push for reform and put this government back in the hands of people who care, because I firmly believe the commissioners don’t care or they wouldn’t act like this. Don’t disrupt the “Status Quo” my foot!

Monday, June 7, 2010


If you are reading this and it upsets you because you think that all I do is complain about Hyperion and criticize the county commissioners, you can stop now, because I’m about to slam them again. Unless you want to stay informed, this column is not for you. STOP NOW!.. I’m warning you, all that follows is truth (under revision by the commissioners of course) and reasonable questions about judgment and unreasonable actions. That said, here we go.

The county commissioners are considering (actually going to ) an opt out from the property tax freeze on the 15th of July because the highway department has run out of money to keep the infrastructure in good repair. According to the 20 year plan by the highway superintendant, in order to keep the miles of asphalt roads in good repair the county must redo 10 miles of repairs each year in order to maintain all the roads. (This chart is not to actual scale, but just to present a visual representation of what has happened over the last 10 years.) The superintendant presented this power point presentation at the last commissioners meeting. The first sections of the bars represent 2001. The costs of materials were low. The budget was adequate and the number of roads rebuilt was 10 miles. In 2005 the costs of materials had risen the budget remained the same, and the number of miles had fallen by about 50%. In the 3rd section, the cost of materials had risen another 50%, the budget remained the same and the number of miles had fallen another 50%. Because of the rise in materials, the superintendant said he is no longer able to maintain the 20 year plan. Duh! The number of miles redone in 2009 was 4 miles. The superintendant has been trying to stretch it out by reducing the amount of chip seal etc. that is being used, but this won’t hold up to the 20 year cycle. So, what used to cost $7,500 a mile 5 years ago is now costing $20,000 per mile today. It costs $60,000 per mile for the county to do its own asphalt work, so $600,000 a year will do 10 miles. But – we have to do more than 10 miles, we have 9 years of underrepair to catch up on so – if this year we do $900,000 that would be 10 miles plus the 5 we were behind last year. If we only do a couple of miles a year, it is going to take a hell of a long time to catch up, so what is $250,000 going to do for us if we Opt Out? It is going to take $900,000 to just start to catch up. I do not understand.
I do know this much; somebody screwed up. If the superintendant saw that the county was falling behind, why didn’t he ask for money 9 years ago to keep on schedule? If the commissioners saw that the highway department was falling behind, why didn’t they question it and apply more money to that department so the roads would stay in good repair. Why did they wait until funds were exhausted before they decided to take action? Farmers have to get their product to market and if the roads are crappy, they have to take more trips with lighter loads or the roads will break up worse than they have been. My second question is who is accountable for the screw up, the superintendant or the commissioners? Will the commissioners acknowledge they are responsible? After all, they are the ones who approve the budget? But wait a minute. About a year ago when I complained about the incompetency of the land use administrator, the Chairman of the County Commissioners said and I quote. “It is not his position or that of the commissioners to “Micro manage” each department in the court house.” Well, is oversight considered micromanaging? Because we are talking maybe $ millions of dollars to fix this thing and I don’t think it can be covered up, but then again one never knows what the sitting body is liable to do. This could be ‘unforeseen’ circumstances or something like that. Although it is my understanding that in this 10 year period, the payroll did increase by $200,000. Hm-m-m-m-m. Trust me on this. Opt Out is not going to solve this problem. Opt Out without changes will not solve this problem. The old ‘tax and spend’ theory is what got us into this in the first place. Prudent management of personnel and making a budget work is the answer. British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher said that the problem with socialism is that you can only spend so much of other people’s money. I think this is a neat parody of our commissioners. You can only spend so much of our tax money before you are in deep kimchee.
Now for Hyperion!
EPA tightens sulfur dioxide limits
Good news for asthmatics, children, the elderly and those who have breathing disorders. For the first time in nearly 40 years, the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued standards that lower the acceptable levels of sulfur dioxide emissions and increase the intervals the gas is monitored. Under the new rules, sulfur dioxide levels will be cut nearly in half from the current 140 parts per billion averaged over 24 hours to 75 parts per billion measured hourly. The new rules, which go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, are designed to protect against short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide, produced when power plants or other industrial facilities burn coal as an energy source. The states will have to submit implementation plans by June 2011, and the first areas that won’t meet the standard identified the following year.
Those of us against Hyperion have been saying since day one that this was as problem. I wonder why we are so smart that we can figure this out three years before the EPA can. Damn we’re good!!