By Rob Nielsen
It was reorganization day for the Yankton County Commission Tuesday, and it resulted in a new face in the center chair.
This time, it was Commissioner Cheri Loest being elected as chairperson. She steps into the role that had been filled by Dan Klimisch for the past year.
Commissioner Joseph Healy was subsequently elected co-chair.
Following Tuesday night’s meeting, Loest told the press that she’s learned one major fact about local government over the past year.
“I have learned why government moves as slow as it does,” she said. “There are lots of rules and regulations that folks often don’t understand. There’s reasons the government moves so slow, hopefully forcing us to invest a little more time in the decisions that we make. You come in, you want to solve the world’s problems and then you quickly realize it’s a little slower process.”
She added that her experiences in the private sector have helped prepare her for the new role.
“My years working in industry has certainly helped me to understand you can’t let things fall through the cracks and working together with the other four commissioners is going to be key to that,” she said. “That’s the other challenge — most of us in the private sector are used to doing a job. Here, we have five commissioners doing the same job, so it is a challenge at times. Communication, for me, this year is going to be key for a successful year.”
Loest said that zoning ordinances will likely dominate county business again in 2020.
“I think, when we came in last year, we had high hopes to do some amendments to the ordinances,” she said. “We were certainly delayed in that attempt. Many of us recognize the accessory structures is a big area that needs to be addressed to minimize the workload that comes through the office. The folks in those areas are asking for some of those changes. I still say there’s an issue with Class F (permits) and that’s been brought up again with the four townships who are possibly looking to leave our county, so that certainly needs to be addressed.”
Just days after a number of representatives from the Turkey Valley, Mayfield, Walshtown and Marindahl townships met in Irene to discuss breaking away from the county, she said that the township secessionist movement is one thing she’ll be looking into in short order.
“I have not spoken with any of them directly about this,” she said. “(I’ll be) reaching out to those folks and understanding where they’re at with their process. It’s never good when part of your community wants to leave. Seeking to understand how we can better address their concerns before we get too far down this path is probably going to be a phone call I have to make fairly soon.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, the commission also addressed another ongoing issue — the state of the county’s bridges.
Yankton County Highway Superintendent Mike Sedlacek briefed the board on the next steps for repairs at the Jamesville Bridge.
“We’ll open up quotes on Jan. 16 at 10 a.m. and get that into the commission packets right away,” Sedlacek said. “That way, on Jan. 21, we can vote on who’s going to do the project.”
However, Commissioner Dan Klimisch would like the process to get underway a little more quickly after the bids are open.
“We’re down to the wire on this,” Klimisch said. “Is it possible we could open them and then approve them just to get that ball rolling?”
The county has 180 days from Sept. 10 to repair the flood damage to be fully compensated. Any work done after March 8 and the county must fund 20% of the work.
The option was floated to have a special meeting at noon Jan. 16 after the bids have been opened to consider them and get the project going as soon as possible.
In other business Tuesday, the commission:
• Discussed the possibility of preliminary engineering grants for the bridges crossing the James River.
• Discussed spring load limits and voted to adopt the same application process as last year.
• Approved a conditional-use permit.
• Clarified that Cheryl Slowey and not Tom Slowey is part of the Ambulance Task Force. Loest also updated the commission on the task force’s first meeting.
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