Two Yankton County townships say they are fed up with Yankton County commission

Dawn Rye | Writer

During last week’s Turner County commissioner’s meeting, two Yankton County Townships discussed their options in joining their townships with Turner County.

Mayfield Township resident Simon Healy said he farms in the area with his dad Kevin. Their farm consists of cows and livestock, which is their only source of income. He commented that Mike Swenson, John Olson and he were not there to build a hog barn or feedlots in Turner County. The residents want the opportunity to protect the family farms that have been around for decades. Healy said the Yankton County commission is slowly squeezing agriculture out of northern Yankton County. He explained about four weeks ago he attended a public meeting at Stockman’s Livestock facility in Yankton and Cheri Loest, a Yankton County commissioner, informed him that the rural community would lose bringing agriculture to Yankton. Healy said from his understanding the Yankton County commissioners board are obligated to vote the way Yankton town people want, not what is best for the county.

Commissioner Mick Miller asked Healy if it appears to him that the Chamber of Commerce is trying to promote ag?

Healy noted that there are a select few that understand agriculture but the majority of commissioners are blatantly against agriculture. Yankton County commissioner Don Kettering is the only one on the board that would fight for agriculture he said. 

Healy said it continues to be a losing battle when it comes to Yankton County agriculture. He explained in 2005 while he was attending SDSU, his swine production class had a weeklong discussion about the Yankton County commissioners. The class had a syllabus on Yankton County being the worst county to promote livestock.

Chairman Lyle VanHove commented that in Turner County the commissioners are assigned to represent so many townships.

Healy said he believes that’s how it should be, however, the Yankton County board has figured out a way to play the vote to how they see fit when it comes to denying agriculture in the county. He noted his concern with coming forward to the Turner County commissioners is if Yankton County get wind of the discussion, how they are going to spin the outcome in their favor.

“Something has to change drastically. I think this would be one thing that would help anybody involved,” exclaimed Healy.

Miller asked Healy, in a perfect world, what does he want to see happen?

“To come to Turner County,” said Healy.  

He explained it would square up Turner County by adding Mayfield Township and Turkey Valley Township since the townships border the county already.

State’s Attorney Katelynn Hoffman explained the process starts with a petition in both counties and the commission boards. If the petitions were signed by 15 percent of the registered voters in each county it would be placed on the general ballot election in November. She said the simple majority of the votes in both counties decide the outcome.

Miller asked Healy “Do you think if the townships get involved that there is enough support to win an election against the residents?”

Healy said that is a fight he is prepared to try.

Turkey Valley resident Mike Swenson said their tax base is $52.6 million and with Yankton County’s mill levy at $3.028 that brings in $160,000.00 from Turkey Valley Township alone. He explained in the townships there are 18 miles the county is supposed to take care of, three are gravel the remainder is asphalt.

Miller questioned Hoffman if they could be circulators for the Turner County petition as individuals?

Hoffman replied she didn’t see why not, but she would double-check.

Highway Superintendent Kent Austin said his first recommendation is he would like to see culvert and bridge inventories.

VanHove asked if the townships take care of their roads?

Swenson stated Mayfield and Turkey Valley are both organized and are self-sufficient. He said the organized townships would not be a burden on Turner County. He believes if voters allow the townships to be a part of Turner County, it would estimate $320,000.00 more revenue for Turner County annually.

After the meeting, Mayfield Township and Turkey Valley Township members would gather information from the Secretary of State website before filing the petition.

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