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Lincoln County Commission faces opposition over proposed state penitentiary site

The Lincoln County Commission met Tuesday, Oct. 10 in the Lincoln County Boardroom to rule on items brought before them including

The first order of business was the second reading for an Ordinance of Lincoln County, SD, amending the Revised Zoning Ordinance for Lincoln County by rezoning Tract 2, Slack’s Addition, N1/2 NE1/4, Section 9-T99N- R49W, Dayton Township, from the A-1 Agricultural District to the RR Rural Residential District. The Planning Commission recommended denial. Planning Director, Toby Brown joined the meeting to answer any questions that residents may have.

“This is an application that changes zone of approximately 30.1 acre parcel from the A1 acre cultural district to the RR rural residential district. This property is located at the intersection of 274th and 4th 79th as noted this is in Dayton Township and both of those roads the Township roads subject property is approximately 1.7 miles east of the city of Harrisburg. A comprehensive plan, as you can see, shows this property as agricultural area so no proposed rezone to rural residential according to the future land use map subject property is currently used for agricultural purposes the property was recently purchased by the applicant and with that purchase is one building eligibility that was assigned to the subject parcel and as you can also see there is no adjoining or adjacent land that is like zone to the proposed rezone area,” Brown said.

The applicant, Kara Busch, joined the meeting to give testimony to try for approval.

“Thank you, Toby, for your help and all of this we greatly appreciate it. I am the K and TM my brother is Troy and his wife is Megan and they make up the remainders for the KTM property. I am here representing as a landowner, but I also have 10 years of experience working at a civil engineering firm in Sioux Falls. Troy, Megan and I bought this land with the intention of both of us being able to build our forever homes there. We are not big time developers nor are we trying to make a big profit off of this land. We’re simply trying to build the neighborhood that we are proud to call home,” Busch said.

Commissioner Jim Schmidt asked Commissioner Michael Poppens what the Zoning Board had against the proposed property and why they denied it.

“It doesn’t fall within the comprehensive plan and goals of what are objectives are in the rural areas. It’s not hard surface roads, the land that was purchased only had one eligibility, we’ve looked at many of these requests and we have denied them,” he said.

Motion to approve the rezone by Poppens, second by Joel Arends, motion failed.

Human Resources Director, Traci Humphrey and Lincoln County Benefits Consultant, Sean Arnett joined the meeting to get board action to select 2024 Employee Benefits.

“We received from health partners, a 3.11% increase and I say this every year but I always want to repeat it we’re taking a snapshot in time this will not remain consistent right so up top here we look at your enrollment in the copay plan by coverage tier we’re looking at enrollment. In the HDHP plan by enrollment here so we take that snapshot we say if everything stayed the same for the full 12 months and 2024 at a 3.11 per cent increase the overall cost is a $51,896 increase. We went back to health partners asked for a couple options we were able to negotiate the following two the first is a flat we can bring that to a flat renewal 0 per cent, so no plan design changes no cost changes. The other one which we are recommending is staying with that 3.1 per cent increase however what we were able to do is negotiate a second year rate cap so 2025 of not to exceed trend so 7 percent we’re going to pause which is actually less than trend but they’re going to set it at 7 percent their initial is 9 percent. The reason why that’s being recommended is if I go back to that slide I just talked about the claims although the first six months compared to all last year you’re currently per month is down every month has been trending higher this option here gives you a very favorable renewal at 3.1% but that second year knowing in 2025 it could exceed 7 which will be less than trend,” Arnett said.

The County budgeted at 12 percent for medical increases. Motion by Arends to approve the 3.11 percent increase plan, second by Schmidt. Motion approved.

Humphrey requested board action to approve and authorize the chair to execute the Wellness Service Agreement with Well365 LLC for the period of November 1, 2023, through December 31, 2024.

“This agreement is the same that we’ve seen in previous years. The reason why I’m coming to you rather than bringing it onto consent agenda was to note that we would like to change the contract from instead of from November to October to be January through December that way it runs more concurrent with our current county benefits. Additionally, there was a language change so like I say in the page four of the agreement it lays out the costs there’s the language change from Wellness or from health coaching to Wellness coaching. The reason for that is that Well365 is partnered with us to look at more like mental health coaching as part of our physical health we all know that we’re interconnected beings and one of the biggest feedbacks I’ve gotten from staff is they want more Wellness support and mental health support so Well365 changed their language so that gives us opportunities to help with staff whether they need physical health coaching or mental health coaching otherwise this contract is the same that you guys have approved previously,” Humphrey said.

The increased cost for the year will be $3,500. Currently around 80 staff members participate in biometrics screenings through the company. The annual budget for the Wellness program is $84,240 of that, $36,000 will be used for the Wellness agreement. Motion approved.

Auditor, Sheri Lund requested board action to approve the chair to execute the expenditure of $1,000 to the National Center for Public Land Counties.

“I’m requesting the funds to be taken out of the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LATCF) account and after further research I believe if we’re going to do this then the expenditure needs to come out of the general fund account due to not doing a lobbying with the LATCF funds,” she said.

Motion approved.

Kia Broeders joined the public comment portion of the meeting to address the Commission with concerns of the new proposed prison.

“As many of you are probably expecting this morning I’m bringing forth the issue and would very much appreciate the input of our county commissioners in regards to the newly determined Department of Corrections site. I, as a mother of two, have lived on my acreage for the last seven years. We will be approximately 1 mile from this facility. I am in the healthcare field, I’m actually a nurse. I have toured the current facilities, I’m aware of some of the inner workings and my first comments that I would like to bring forward to these commissioners are the facts of safety not only for those of my family and my neighbors but I also am concerned about the staff the prisoners that are within this facility. Twenty minutes from the edge of Sioux Falls is quite a long time when you consider some of the activities that happen within the prison,” said Broeders.

“My understanding is that the Jameson annex would also continue to operate current status right now within the prison would be if there is a riot that breaks out and one of the smaller areas or bunkhouses that they more trained staff from the Jameson annex would then come in to those areas and help provide support. I also am concerned about the impact that this will have on our critical access hospitals the fact that it’s Volunteer Fire departments and we have a more limited police presence in these areas I’d very much like to hear the county commissions you know take and thoughts on this especially with the land that was zoned as an AG1. Understanding that the Department of Corrections has put out there that they aren’t needing to go through the zoning process but I’m asking from a Commission standpoint that that from some aspect that we take a greater look at this and the economic development to Commissioner Arends point of even the corn production 360 acres of ground that does currently produce corn and soybean as well as the lack of emergency responsiveness that is needed for a facility of such. I don’t have the best solutions, however, I would like to look at a more suitable roadway such as Interstate to allow for a quicker response time of those Emergency Management pieces that will serve not only that inmates staff but then also those that are around my area and thank you, thank you,” Broeders concluded.

“To anybody that is wondering, these are things that we’re looking at and working on what our options are so we there’s no decisions have been made at this point as far as how as a county we’re going to move forward and whether we can honestly do anything at all so we are looking at those things so one everybody to be advised of that,” Commissioner Tiffani Landeen said.

Jill Paulson was next for the public comment portion.

“Our farm is on the northwest corner of the section of the proposed site of this new state penitentiary a week ago we had no idea about this and so my first question is why was this information kept from the public until right before? I’m a home school mom with my children, with animals and all three of my children are outside multiple times each day doing chores and playing around our yard and we have a number of outbuildings and a large grove. There are many times where I don’t know where they are for maybe even several hours because they’re just outside playing and if this is built I will be scared for my children to be outside without my being with them. With potentially 400 employees and families of inmates driving around our area I will not feel the safety but I do know there are many families in our area with kids and all the moms I’ve spoken to are very concerned for their children and their family and the last I want to say is with Harrisburg growth there are just many people living even within a two mile radius of this site please look at that thank you thank you,” she said.

Commission Landeen responded with “I’m going to tell you right now that we knew the same time that you knew of the new facility location.”

Clayton Hatley also approached with his concerns.

“I reside just couple miles north where this site is being talked about and a little bit of history real quick, I am a combat infantry that and I was employed 1996 to 1998 at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, so I do, as a correctional officer know the workings, and I was trying to change occupations after attempt on my life at the Penitentiary in the solitary housing unit, I decided to change. The prison has a lot of dark areas. I worked in Jamison, which is much safer for staff. I am for a new prison for the safety of the staff and the inmates, but at the same time, I didn’t appreciate the idea that this was kept from me, and I’m in direct line of transportation from Sioux Falls to the site, and I believe this should have been up for a vote,” he said.

Hatley questioned the Commission on if there is a way to find out what the other proposed sites there were for the facility.

“I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think we’re going to be looking at that, and want to know some of that information as well,” Landeen said.

Lauren VanderVeen, along with her child, took to the podium to voice her concerns.

“We live right where the proposed highway is going to be, our house is a fifth generation farm, my great grandparents established that farm site and it’s something that is very, very special to us, our family and the legacy we wish to carry on for our children. When we heard the news of the state penitentiary going in a mile from our place and farm ground around us, was a complete shock. We are not in favor of it, we wish the public would have been notified, and that it had gone to a vote. We are very concerned what this will look like for our future, our children’s futures, and for the City of Harrisburg. Lincoln County is the ninth fastest growing county in the nation, and what that would do to stifle that, I think it will have a really big impact on our county. Harrisburg is the number one growing city in the state too, I think that would be a really unwise choice for this penitentiary to be going in,” she said.

Scott Montgomery voiced his opinion on the matter.

“I think we need to take a good hard look at this and ask ourselves is there a single benefit for Lincoln County by having this prison? I don’t see one I think we ought to do everything I can to keep this out of Lincoln County. As I shared with Jim last night, I’ve traveled through Colorado a number of times their prisons are out in the middle of nowhere where it doesn’t affect the residents. They put him out where they’re not a danger to the public and I think we need to strongly ask ourselves why we want to put this closest to the biggest population center in the state. Lincoln County is the fastest growing county in the state and this is going to stifle our growth along with the pipeline stifling our growth we’re just cutting our own throats I hope you stand up and can do everything you can first thank you very much,” he said.

Betty Otten was next to voice her opinion.

“I’ve highlighted from the latest plat book and I just wanted to let you know for because I’ve had calls and I only want to clarify that the one of the commissioners here along with others were doing backroom dirty deals to make that land happen that has never happened. In fact the Commission here has had nothing to do with it and so what happened was is that the original landowner died with no the heirs and the state had to hold the property and trust for 10 years and then in 1994 a judge granted the property to school and public lands. This actually says that it’s owned by the state school and public lands. I just wanted to clarify to everybody that and maybe people don’t know this but in the past several years this Supreme Court has already heard stuff on this two South Dakota lawsuits were brought to the Supreme Court for Springfield and then one for the prison in Rapid City for the women’s jail the Supreme Court ruled in act in favor of the government the state the governor and the DOC so basically it’s like they pretty much are gonna be able to do what they wanna do so I just wanted to give you that heads up that the Commission had nothing to do with back door dirty deals thank you thank you,” she said.

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