Yankton County townships looking to become own county

Dawn Rye | Writer

During last week’s Turner County commissioners meeting, Simon Healy of Mayfield Township updated the board after the Yankton County Township discussed their other options.

Healy said the township didn’t stop pursuing the idea of four Yankton County townships possibly joining Turner County. However, the townships agree it would be easier for them to become their own county. He explained fewer signatures are involved in the process and a lot less hassle. Healy noted it would be harder for the townships to receive the 2100 signatures for the petition to join Turner County compared to 120 signatures to become a county.

He said after speaking with Sioux Falls attorney Brian Donahoe, the townships need to collect signatures from 15 percent of each township’s registered voters.

Chairman Lyle VanHove asked if it requires a special election?

Healy said that was the option the townships are leaning toward. He explained the answer the townships are looking for is not on the November election ballot. However, if the special election is held, the townships feel it would be beneficial and they would get more supports on the special election.

State’s Attorney Katelynn Hoffman said the way she understood in statute 7.3, the vote had to be placed at a general election. She explained the county commissioners of such county should submit a question of the division of such county to the voters  thereof at the next general election. Such petitions should be filed with the county auditor no later than the first Monday in July of the general election year.

Commissioner Jared Hybertson said he believes Healy is right about the election. People that don’t care about the issue will not show up for a special election and the residents that care will show up.

Healy asked if the townships became a county how long do they have to stand alone as a county?

Hoffman explained if the township intended to become a county the statute she read said it has to be done at a general election. She noted there is another statute about taking one county and transitioning into another county, which also has to be voted on at a general election.

Auditor Sheila Hagemann said general elections are hosted every two years.

Healy asked when they become a county and left Yankton County, could Turner County have the same question at the general election?

Hoffman explained that would be placing two questions on the same ballot.

Healy said he thought it would be easier if the townships became a county. He asked during the two years, if they succeeded in becoming a county, would Turner County be able to contract some of their employees to their county?

Hoffman explained legally yes because other counties share staff, however, she doesn’t know the ins and outs of how it is done. She said that is something she could look into.

Commissioner Mick Miller asked if the county would have to hire additional staff to handle four more townships?

Hoffman said that is a discussion talked about informally. She noted the county doesn’t truly know and some of the offices would be impacted in some way.

Hagemann explained the county mill levy is filed by the first of November and taxes are set.

Hoffman noted this a matter with it being an uncharted territory and to talk with the Department of Revenue to see if they have any guidance.

Hybertson said even though it would be easier to receive the signatures to become a county, the challenge lies in how the townships as a county are going to “float the boat” for the two years.

Turner County Sheriff Steven Luke noted at a minimum he would have to hire at least one deputy to help cover the 144 square miles. He explained the challenges with 12 miles of Highway 81 and 12 miles of Highway 46.

Healy said Jamesville Township is adamant about being a part of the process of being part of a new county or joining Turner County. He explained the Munkvold’s and the Mennonites own most of Jamesville Township.

He said the only citizens are that against this are the people who are influenced by the lake residents. Healy said the lake people are against the townships like “murder” because they believe they would smell the animal facilities more. He noted the Yankton Chamber of Commerce is supporting the townships wanting to leave Yankton County.

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