Sanitary District Study Update To Move Forward

Yankton County is taking a major step toward deciding the fate of development west of Yankton.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the County Commission voted 3-2 in favor of updating a study on building a sanitary sewer district west of Yankton. While it will look at the Highway 52 corridor, emphasis will also be placed on the Highway 314 corridor.

The study update will ultimately come at no additional cost to the county, with the James River Water Development District paying for half and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds paying for the other half.

Commissioner Joseph Healy was joined in his opposition by Chairperson Cheri Loest.

Commissioner Don Kettering argued that the time for moving forward is now.

“I think there’s going to be more funds coming down from the federal government, and if we have a shovel-ready project, we would then qualify for federal funds,” he said. “If we don’t do anything, we won’t be in the ballpark again. We’ll be too far behind.”

He added that potential septic issues and a greater emphasis on what may be draining into the Missouri River south of Highway 52 are reasons to move forward.

Kettering also pointed out that the residents will ultimately be in the driver’s seat, no matter what a study returns.

“Residents still have the option to vote it down,” he said. “At least we’ve done some pre-work to give them the option.”

However, Healy thinks moving ahead with the study now could have a negative connotation.

“I really feel that if we move forward, even with the study, I think we’re going to put a bad taste in people’s mouth,” he said. “You know there’s a very low chance that people out there are going to want to (build it).”

He said there needs to be more leg work ahead of updating the study.  

“I’d like to see a reasonable area identified and a survey go out to not just current landowners, but (also) business owners and the undeveloped land owners,” he said. “Say, ‘Hey, we want your participation in this. We’re not moving forward with anything yet. We want to see what the appetite is. Let’s do this together from the beginning.’”

Commissioner Dan Klimisch said that he’s often asked about the cost of building a district.

“Nobody is (saying), ‘I’m against a sanitary district in principle,’” he said. “The question is, ‘What’s it going to cost?’ We can’t tell them that.”

He added that the study will keep the people that would be affected by the construction of a potential sanitary district involved in the process.

“What this study is going to do is, there’s public input sessions with the city, there’s public input sessions included out there,” he said. “All of that is included. It’s a conversation about it, but the ball needs to get rolling.”

Klimisch said there will be one other component — including the people’s vote — that’s key to a sanitary district happening in the future.

“I don’t think it’s realistic unless we have the city with us,” he said. “We need to be serious and we need to find out some real numbers.”

In other business Tuesday, the commission:

• Approved a move to Blue Cross Blue Shield for employee health insurance;

• Approved two conditional-use permits;

• Approved bids for the Highway 52 bike path;

• Heard presentations on property and liability insurance quotes;

• Denied an appeal for a building permit fee.

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